A public exchange between TV showrunner Dan Harmon and a former employee, writer Megan Ganz, led to an uncommon outcome of the #MeToo era — an effective apology. The online conversation began two weeks ago with an ambiguous tweet and ended last night in forgiveness, but noteworthy is what occurred in between.
Harmon, co-creator of Cartoon Network’s “Rick and Morty,” took to Twitter on New Year’s Eve to share a resolution for all of humanity to partake in. “We don’t have to make 2018 the Year of the Mensch but I hope it can be the Year of the Not as Much of an A——.”
The tweet only alluded to Harmon’s own misdeeds, but the truth became clearer when Ganz quote-tweeted the resolution a few days later. “Care to be more specific? Redemption follow allocution,” she wrote.
A back-and-forth ensued between the two, who worked together on NBC’s “Community,” a series that was critically acclaimed but doubled as one of NBC’s lowest-rated shows. Harmon expressed that he was “deeply sorry” for repeatedly crossing the line with Ganz, stating that he was “an awful boss and selfish baby” for abusing his position of power. Ganz responded that his harassment led her to question her talent, though she was glad to see him recognize the tricky power dynamic.
The conversation went viral, and many condemned Harmon for burdening Ganz with telling him how to amend the situation. (He had stated in one of his tweets, “I would feel a lot of relief if you told me there was a way to fix it. I’ll let you call the shots.”) But the buzz died down after a while — that is, until Harmon made a seven-minute apology on Wednesday’s episode of his live podcast, “Harmontown.” He began with a disclaimer:
The most important advice I’ve gotten is from women that I respect, that do what I do, that are respected and that spoke to me privately and said, “You know, if you’re true to your word and you are sincere about how you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, please talk about how you’ve been part of the problem. That’s truly the most helpful thing you can do.”
Then, in an unusual move, Harmon gave a full account of how and when he harassed Ganz. He was attracted to Ganz from the beginning, he said, and acted “flirty, creepy, everything other than overt enough to constitute betraying your live-in girlfriend to whom you’re going home every night, who is actually smart enough and respectful enough to ask you, ‘Do you have feelings for that young writer that you’re talking about?’ ”
While they worked together, Ganz expressed to him that his actions made her uncomfortable, he said, but he didn’t take it to heart. Instead, he broke up with his girlfriend and confessed his love to Ganz, who responded along the lines of her tweet: Being treated differently meant she was unable to evaluate her actual talent. Harmon didn’t react well to this and “treated her cruelly, pointedly, things I would never, ever have done if she had been male.”
Sony Television soon fired Harmon in 2012 — the reasons for which are not quite clear — which he also mentioned:
And I lied to myself the entire time about it. And I lost my job. I ruined my show. I betrayed the audience. I destroyed everything. And I damaged her internal compass. And I moved on. I’ve never done it before and I will never do it again, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had any respect for women.
Harmon ended the apology by imploring listeners to think about their own actions, “no matter who you are at work.” He would’ve swept it all under the rug had Ganz not called him out, he said.
The night after he posted the podcast, Ganz somewhat surprisingly asked her Twitter followers to listen to it. “I find myself in the odd position of having requested an apology publicly, and then having received one — a good one — also publicly,” she wrote in a thread. “I waited 6 years for it, but you can find it 18:38 in.”
Ganz eventually accepted Harmon’s apology — on social media, she wrote, because “if any part of the process should be done in the light, it’s the forgiveness part.” And, scene.
The entire exchange played out amid what many have referred to as a reckoning. Since the New York Times published its initial Harvey Weinstein exposé in October, many powerful men in Hollywood who abused their privileges have been brought down by accusations of sexual harassment or assault. A new story seems to break every few days and, as Seth Meyers joked about at the Golden Globes, seeing a male celebrity’s name trending on Twitter raises immediate suspicions of misconduct.
But what hasn’t been seen as often throughout these past few months is such a thorough apology. Writer Margaret Wappler referred to Ganz’s acceptance of Harmon’s apology as an “evolution of #metoo.”
Ganz only listened to the podcast because she’d been expecting an apology, she wrote, but she hadn’t anticipated the sense of relief that would wash over her.
“I didn’t dream it,” she wrote. “I’m not crazy. Ironic that the only person who could give me that comfort is the one person I’d never ask.”