Jennifer Lawrence Offers Crappy Non-Apology for Mocking Native Hawaiian Beliefs

December 12, 2016
Actress Jennifer Lawrence in a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show. (Photo credit: YouTube / Graham Norton Show)
Actress Jennifer Lawrence in a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show. (Photo credit: YouTube / Graham Norton Show)

Actress Jennifer Lawrence offered a tepid non-apology to “the internet” last Friday for an appearance on the Graham Norton Show earlier this month. In the appearance, Lawrence joked about defiling sacred Hawaiian stones during a film shoot, and then laughed about it while mocking Native Hawaiian beliefs (video after the jump).

In the story, Lawrence recounts how she was filming The Hunger Games on-location in Hawaii when she was warned not to sit on stones that were considered sacred by Native Hawaiians. Lawrence jokes that rather than to respect the request and belief system of the people indigenous to the land she was filming on, she chose instead to mock those beliefs by using the stones for “butt-scratching.” She says in her appearance on Graham Norton that when one stone was dislodged by her butt, she laughed at Native Hawaiians who suggested that the event was manifestation of a curse.

In the segment, she said:

“One rock that I was butt-scratching on ended up going loose. It was a giant boulder, and it rolled down the mountain and almost killed the sound guy. All the Hawaiians were like, ‘Oh my God, it’s the curse!’ And I’m in the corner like, ‘I’m your curse. I wedged it loose with my ass.’ “

Native Hawaiian faith and culture is deeply reverent of Hawaiian land and its natural features. Many sites and stones in the Hawaiian islands are considered sacred, yet those religious beliefs are rarely respected by non-indigenous people who mock Native Hawaiian spirituality while seeking to capitalize upon the resources of Hawaiian land. It took nearly a year of protest, for example, for Native Hawaiian activists to successfully halt plans to build a telescope upon Mauna Kea, a peak considered sacred to Native Hawaiian people that scientists thought were not important enough to protect from destructive construction plans.

This is the same disrespect that Jennifer Lawrence shows in her story about ‘butt-scratching’ on sacred Hawaiian stones. Native Hawaiians believe that sacred natural features should be treated with reverence; yet, when asked to respect these beliefs while visiting as a guest on Native Hawaiian land, Lawrence chose instead to do the most deeply irreverent thing she could think off — scratching her ass on a sacred object — and then to smugly laugh about it in later television appearances. This would be akin to someone walking into a church to rub the crucifix on their crotch, and then going on The Today Show to jokingly dismiss all those offended Christians and their silly religious beliefs.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that since Lawrence’s misguided appearance on Graham Norton, she’s been subjected to a wide range of online criticism.  In a Facebook post published last Friday, Jennifer Lawrence responded to those critiques — sort of.

A post published by Jennifer Lawrence to her public Facebook page on December 9, 2016, "apologizing" for mocking Native Hawaiians.
A post published by Jennifer Lawrence to her public Facebook page on December 9, 2016, apologizing for mocking Native Hawaiians.

On Facebook, Lawrence wrote a terse apology that read in its entirety:

From Jen, to the internet:

I meant absolutely no disrespect to the Hawaiian people. I really thought that I was being self deprecating about the fact that I was “the curse”, but I understand the way it was perceived was not funny and I apologize if I offended anyone.

Of course, this is your classic non-apology. First of all, Lawrence doesn’t address her apology to Native Hawaiians — the people whose beliefs she direspected — but to “the internet.” Lawrence then offers the typical pivot away from her actions and towards her intentions: she didn’t “mean” to be offensive, she says. This is meant to justify her actions and to shield her from accusations of racism; after all, goes her thinking, only “bad” people can be racist. Lawrence then goes on to apologize not for her own actions, but for actions being perceived as disrespectful and offensive by some on the internet.

This is the kind of apology that deflects the blame away from the offensive person, and onto those who “were offended.” Lawrence isn’t saying, “I’m sorry for being a racist asshole.” Rather, she says, “I’m sorry you — amorphous internet people — are too sensitive to understand that I’m not really the racist asshole my actions would make out to be.” Meanwhile, once again, Jennifer Lawrence chooses not to talk to Native Hawaiians about an act of disrespect against Native Hawaiian people.

From Jenn, to Jen: Do better.

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