Here’s a brief glimpse at a thought process that went through a lot of people’s minds this week, a one-two punch of vague annoyance curdling into mild horror that encapsulates so much of the online experience: “Hey, why are people talking about Moby in 2019? Oh…” That “Oh…” presumably being the sound of a human brain immersing itself in the Modern Moby Discourse, kicked off by the publication of his new memoir, Then It Fell Apart, which has swiftly revealed itself as less of a “tell-all,” and more of a “Jesus Christ, please stop telling us.”
Much of the criticism of Moby’s book has centered on a section in which he talks about his “relationship” with actress Natalie Portman, who, in Moby’s telling, went backstage at one of his shows when she was 20 (and he was 34, but way less famous, so that’s okay) and whisked him away on a brief, totally consensual romantic relationship, complete with tender kisses beneath an ancient oak tree. After hearing about her minor starring role in the grand Moby saga, Portman was quick to offer her own window into their deep-seated, truly spiritual emotional connection: She was 18, actually, and she just liked his music, and she stopped hanging out with him when she realized “this was an older man who was interested in me in a way that felt inappropriate.”
Moby’s reaction to Portman’s statement took on aspects of many of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, albeit one that had a hell of a time letting the “D” in DABDA go. Rather than acknowledge the possibility that he might have fundamentally failed to perceive how differently another person—and especially another person who was an 18-year-old woman interacting with a much older man whose work she admired—might have understood their interactions, he basically fell back on accusing Portman of lying about the fact that they had “dated.” Throughout the week—as the pace of the online dunkings on his stance increased—this denial blossomed into a field of sullen self-pity, as Moby made multiple Instagram posts about “trolls” who waste their “one, short life” making fun of a guy just because he thought a photo of him, shirtless, with his arm around an uncomfortable-looking woman somehow constituted “proof.”
Now, at last, we’ve reached the “acceptance” phase of the process, or at least the “Here is an apology, but not for the part where I called you a liar” phase. Moby went on Instagram today to issue an apology to Portman for… not telling her he was writing about her in his book. (He also applied this to everybody he wrote about without asking, including, presumably, a story about André 3000 in which he tells Moby that he’s too disliked to collaborate with, because if you want a book full of stories where Moby comes off looking like a schmuck, boy, has Moby got a book for you.) He also acknowledged that “given the dynamic of our almost 14 year age difference I absolutely should’ve acted more responsibly and respectfully when Natalie and I first met almost 20 years ago.” (Note: “Almost 14” in the above sentence translates to “15 years and nine months,” according to their publicly available birthdays.) He doesn’t go so far as to admit that “awkward hang-outs with a woman 16 years your junior who has just graduated from high school” do not actually count as “dates,” but hey, baby steps.
Anyway, our own personal takeaway from all this is that the old maxim that says a word loses all its meaning the more times you repeat it holds doubly true when the word in question represents Moby.