Why the Community creator’s apology for sexually harassing writer Megan Ganz led to her forgiveness.
When sexual harassment and abuse has been swept under the metaphorical rug for so long, the sincerity of perpetrators who apologize once they’re caught tends to ring hollow. It feels like a cop-out, a road taken only because every other road has become a dead end.
As more and more accusations have piled up, the men accused — from Louis C.K. to Matt Lauer to Charlie Rose — have issued stuttering apologies and acknowledged varying degrees of culpability, to varying degrees of success. And one thing that just about all of these “apologies” have had in common is that they seem more interested in protecting the people making them than the people they’re ostensibly for.
But when he was forced to publicly address sexual harassment allegations against him, Dan Harmon — creator of Community and executive producer of Rick and Morty — did something different.
On the most recent episode of his Harmontown podcast, Harmon didn’t just apologize to Megan Ganz, the Community writer who recently confronted him on Twitter about her traumatic experience working for him. He also took full responsibility for his actions, detailing exactly how often he had failed her, how he justified it to himself, and why his behavior was so unacceptable.
He also admitted that he likely would not have thought about the situation ever again if she hadn’t forced him to, and that this self-preservation instinct was yet another mistake on his part.
“I did it by not thinking about it,” Harmon said. “And I got away with it by not thinking about it.”
Straight away, Harmon was upfront about failing to deal with his attraction to one of his employees, admitting that he was aware of how it affected everyone around him for the worse.
“I knew that I wasn’t doing anybody any favors by feeling these things, and so I did the cowardly, easiest, laziest thing you could do with feelings like that, and I didn’t deal with them,” Harmon said. “And in not dealing with them, I made everybody else deal with them. Especially her.”
Eventually, he continued, Harmon told Ganz that he loved her — “because that’s what I thought it was, when you target somebody for two years” — at which point she reminded him he held power over her, making it impossible for her to outright reject him as she wanted to, let alone have faith in her own work. This response, Harmon confessed, sparked a retaliatory resentment that led him to make her job and life even more difficult.
Harmon’s seven-minute monologue on how he “target[ed]” a talented employee and “damaged her internal compass” is worth listening to or reading in full. Harmon’s apology stands out among so many of the others that’ve been issued in recent months. Ganz, for her part, called it “a master class in how to apologize,” and decided to publicly forgive him.
Harmon emphasized that his behavior made Ganz — his “target” — doubt herself and her abilities
For Ganz, whose first television writing job was on Community, her boss’s inappropriate fixation on her made her question why she had been hired in the first place. “It took me years to believe in my talents again, to trust a boss when he complimented me and not cringe when he asked for my number,” Ganz told Harmon when she recalled the experience on Twitter on January 3. “I was afraid to be enthusiastic, knowing it might be turned against me later.”
This sense of self-doubt, as Jia Tolentino explained beautifully in the New Yorker after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein first broke in October, is one of the more horrifying aspects of targeted harassment and abuse:
This is a basic and familiar pattern. A powerful man sees you, a woman who is young and who thinks she might be talented, a person who conveniently exists in a female body, and he understands that he can tie your potential to your female body, and threaten the latter, and you will never be quite as sure of the former again.
Harmon, now that Ganz told him as much, seems to have absorbed that lesson. He said on Harmontown that he realized that his aggressive behavior could undercut “her faith in her talent,” and lo, it did. He acknowledged that, by singling her out and centering their professional interactions with one another on his attraction to her, he made her question her own skills, not to mention her ability to understand the harassment for what it was.
“I destroyed everything,” he said, “and I damaged her internal compass.”
Hearing Harmon say this seems to have alleviated some of the hurt Ganz says she has been nursing for six years. “What I didn’t expect was the relief I’d feel just hearing him say these things actually happened,” Ganz wrote on Twitter after listening to Harmon’s podcast. “I didn’t dream it. I’m not crazy. Ironic that the only person who could give me that comfort is the one person I’d never ask.”
He also acknowledged the way he used his liberal guy bonafides to deflect attention from the harm he was causing
In one of his more revealing statements, he talked about how he used his progressive politics to insulate himself from criticism, and to deflect attention away from how badly he was handling his attraction to an employee.
“[I told] myself and anybody that threatened to confront me with it that if you thought what I was doing was creepy or flirty or unprofessional, then it’s because you were the sexist, you were jealous,” Harmon said. “‘I was supporting this person, I’m a mentor. I’m a feminist. It’s your problem, not mine, that you’re the one who’s seeing things through that lens.’ And so I let myself keep doing it.”
Responding to accusations of shitty behavior toward women with some version …read more