Interview: Lauren Maul, Creator of “Apologies from Men”

2017 was a year in which sexual harassers got exposed in every corner of the media and elsewhere, and the movement has continued on into this year. Every day there seems to be a male celebrity being outed as a perv, predator, or monster. These men feign shock, maybe lose their cooking show or book deal, then publicly apologize and the media moves on. It can be an exhausting daily routine for anyone who has been harassed or assaulted. But one woman is finding humor and catharsis in this parade of abusers.

“I was pissed off and a little sad… but also had a little sliver of happiness that all this stuff was coming out,” Lauren Maul explained, “because it’s painful when stuff comes out, but at least we all know about it, [so it doesn’t] keep happening in secret.”
Maul is the woman behind the album and series of videos named Apologies from Men, where she sets apologies from famous men in the wake of the Me Too movement to music she composes herself. While the songs only use the words of the public apology, the musical cues and repeated choruses make their words laugh out loud ridiculous. Combine this with paper doll videos Maul makes to go with the song, and you get an extremely unique musical experience.

Even though the subject is hard, she approaches the songs with care. 
“I got to turn this into comedy because that’s just how I process things. My favorite tool is satire… so I really exaggerate everything that I hated in those apologies and did it though song,” Maul said. She made sure that the person who got hurt wasn’t the butt of the joke. She explained, “comedy is the tool of the underdog and it should be used to bring down the powerful.” Maul makes sure to craft the songs and videos so the “survivor is the champion.” She mused that we get “tone deaf” rape jokes because a lot of people can’t come at them from the perspective of championing the victim. She noted “the funny jokes are usually from women.”

Maul first started playing music in college, after she had a dream about a guitar. As a self-taught musician like her idol Woody Guthrie, she makes catchy music with a political message.
With so many apologies to choose from, she looked for “ridiculous statements.” “They are all terrible,” but she looked for ones with deeply flawed logic. “When you pick them apart, they fall apart,” she said. Some she simply could not do, like the US Olympic doctor, Larry Nassar. She explained, “I was just like, Nope, not going to do this. Can’t make this funny right now.”

One of the most impressive things is the speed at which this project was completed. It is so timely that you imagine Maul running around stressed, but she is extremely zen when she speaks about it. “I deal with chronic pain issues, so I have a sign in my office: “Work when you feel good, rest when you don’t.” She continued, “If I push when I don’t feel good, I will just get a big migraine and then end up in bed… I have to listen to my body but also get all this shit done.”
“It was a time crunch,” she noted, but she also acknowledged that while stop motion animation takes a long time, it doesn’t take as long as scheduling actors. Not only is the stop motion funny and charming, it also allowed Maul to keep a production schedule and keep the budget low. “The cast is paper dolls and you don’t have to feed them.”
Using these men’s likenesses to make these dolls was and is an important component for Maul. “These men– they hurt all these people because they were in positions of great power, so it felt good for me to have great power over these men,” she said. “Even though it is just paper dolls of them, it still feels powerful.”

The videos are fun, but they get to something deeper in the apologies itself. Something about the men themselves. “I hope they see what they have done, because all of their apologies were so unempathetic,” she explains, “I hope that this process of coming out teaches them empathy because from their apologies, they don’t have empathy. Some even blame the victim… I hope these men will look back on this time like, “Wow, I fucked up.'”
Learn more about the album here.
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