Robin Thicke’s Odd Public Apology to His Estranged Wife

Robin Thicke and his estranged wife (usmagazine.com)

Robin Thicke and his estranged wife (usmagazine.com)

Apologizing isn’t easy. Apologizing publicly is even harder. So what inspired singer Robin Thicke to publicly attempt reconciliation with his estranged wife, actress Paula Patton?

According to Us Weekly, the couple’s February split was Patton’s call alone. So while it’s true that Patton told Vanity Fair in May that “’there’s a deep love there—always was, and always will be,’” the split seems to disprove the notion that Patton embraced an open marriage.

Thicke has since campaigned for his broken relationship during his concerts and now on his new album, Paula. However, if even some of the reports of Thicke’s cheating are to be believed, does he really want to be married? Is this album his idea of a grand gesture, or is it simply a publicity stunt?

Thicke is undoubtedly earning significant media attention for the album’s first single, “Get Her Back.” Though the feedback, especially from female writers, is overwhelmingly negative.

New York magazine’s Kat Stoeffel is turned off by what she views as Thicke’s manipulation. Both Slate’s Amanda Hess and the Washington Post’s Bethonie Butler find Thicke creepy, and The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti sees a stalker-esque message.

The video’s imagery is indeed odd, but it’s also inconclusive. For example, we don’t know why Thicke has a bloodied face or points a finger-gun at his own head. Valenti finds it all decidedly threatening. Yet, perhaps it is meant to illustrate that Thicke has metaphorically beaten himself up for destroying his marriage.

The Scarlet Letter’s Reverend Dimmesdale, who lacerated himself privately as penance for his own adultery, comes to mind. Of course, the gap between the Puritan’s silent suffering and Thicke’s own need to live his mistakes aloud demonstrates the stark difference between Dimmesdale’s era and our own.

Further, is the drowning woman, who resembles Patton, meant to signify that Patton felt like she was drowning in unhappiness within their marriage? Interestingly, not much has been made of the masks the woman wears throughout the video, nor that we see a crying Thicke touching and possibly preparing to remove his wedding band near the song’s end. Does that gesture mean that Thicke recognizes his marriage is in serious jeopardy? It seems unlikely that he’s signaling he’s ready to stop fighting for it.

The text messages that punctuate the video are also a source of some confusion. Valenti writes that they are “real SMS messages sent between Thicke and Patton,” while Amanda Hess describes them “as text messages—implied to have been sent between Thicke and Patton.” If the messages are real, we’re watching an invasion of privacy that that should make even the NSA blush. If they’re fictional though, they’re still close enough to the presumed truth that they lend the video a voyeuristic overtone.

Most couples make mistakes and attempt reconciliation out of the limelight, but Thicke has made a private marital dispute a very public matter of discussion. Perhaps he hopes that the budding controversy will stir interest in the video, as well as spur album sales. That may be smart business, but it’s not how you woo a woman. Even if Thicke is truly troubled by his marriage’s potential dissolution, apologizing to the woman he’s hurt via viral video is neither romantic, nor proof of reform.

Given that Thicke and Patton have a three-year-old son together, it would be nice if they could find a way to work through their problems. But before that, Patton also has a right to demand more from Thicke, like a sincere, private apology.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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