Reese Witherspoon on her 2013 arrest: ‘Turns out I breathe air, I bleed the same way’

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

In this week’s Gossip with Celebitchy podcast, CB and I went off a minor tangent about Reese Witherspoon and her successful rebrand following her April 2013 arrest for drunk & disorderly. Reese was in Georgia with her husband Jim Toth, and he was drunk driver. While the Georgia cop was trying to handcuff Toth and inform him of his rights, Reese – who was a passenger in the car and drunk as hell – left the car to drunkenly badger the cop. She ended up arrested and screaming out of the back of a police car. Here’s the video:

How does a celebrity come back from something so messy and privileged? How does someone act like Peak Drunk Karen, including dual “do you know who I am” and “I’m an American citizen” rants, and somehow come back? Not only did Reese come back, her reputation right now is much better than it was pre-arrest. She’s a respected producer of women-centric projects and her branding these days is “tough Southern lady with a successful lifestyle brand and feminist credentials.”

I’ve long believed that Reese’s 2013 post-arrest rebrand is actually one of the best ones in the past two decades. It was so thorough that few people even remember the 2013 arrest, nor does anyone mention it. It’s been years (it feels like) since anyone even asked her about it in an interview. Well, Reese took part in Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast, and Reese *did* talk about the arrest. And it’s a case study in how to talk about your own mess.

It has been nearly seven years since Reese Witherspoon and husband Jim Toth, 50, were arrested in Atlanta, Georgia under suspicion of driving while intoxicated. And the 44-year-old actress opened up about the moment she deemed as ‘embarrassing and dumb’ during her appearance on Thursday’s episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil.

“You apologised and shamed yourself in a way that was so f***ing refreshing to me,” Jamil told Witherspoon, to which the Hollywood actress replied: “But I did something really stupid… It was so embarrassing and dumb. But, you know what… turns out I breathe air. I bleed the same way. I make dumb decisions. I make great decisions. I’m just a human being. We’re all just the same as each other and we’re all trying to find what our special skills are. My special skill is storytelling but that doesn’t mean I’m a special person. Talent doesn’t make you a good person. But a big value in my family was, ‘Are you a good person?”

[From Harper’s Bazaar & The Daily Mail]

It’s brilliant… the admission of “I did something really stupid” and the immediate self-forgiveness of “I’m just a human being.” By owning it – lightly – and then folding in her “I’m only human” excuse, she takes the air out of her haters and makes them look nitpicky if they point out how f–king awful it really was.

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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32 Responses to “Reese Witherspoon on her 2013 arrest: ‘Turns out I breathe air, I bleed the same way’”

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  1. S says:

    I am also a human being…Who has never driven drunk or been arrested and, when I have been pulled over (for speeding), did not attempt to start an argument with the cops because I, like most people, am not the kind of disgusting garbage person who would even think of such a thing.

    I’m not holier than thou here, but the idea that she’s spinning it as, Who among us hasn’t used their wealth and white privilege to evade criminal consequences, amirite? As if this is a relatable, everyday occurrence…Says a lot about her worldview. Also you can’t not watch that video and imagine she hasn’t done the exact thing before, in many circumstances.

    I can’t say I haven’t watched a Witherspoon joint since that arrest—I have. But every time I do, I wonder how she came back from that, and suspect she shouldn’t have.

    • AnnaKist says:

      I’d say fairly easy a task for famous, rich, white, popular, pretty, American sweetheart… She had all it took to rebrand.

    • Dali says:

      @S, the same way Jennifer Aniston always came back with her many failed movies. Rupertt Everett once explained it very correctly:

      “If you look and analyze the careers of many, many stars, you’ll find that they’re mostly sustained by the business,” he said. “I’m not going to start naming names of people whose films have not succeeded at the box office, but you’ll find there’s lots of women and lots of men in the business that the powers that be decide are right for their business, and they’ll stand with them for quite a long time.”

      “OK, something will go wrong, like Jennifer Aniston will have one too many total flops, but she’s still a member of that club, and she will still manage to…like a star forming in the universe, things will swirl around her and it will suddenly solidify into another vital tasteless romcom, you know, a little glitter next to the Crab Nebula.”

      • Gigi says:

        Aniston does NOT deserve to be a star! She has nothing going, no solid talent, looks, fashion sense, glamour. I dont understand why she is a star. P.S. Am not a hater just an observation

    • LoLoInTheSky says:

      Right, this is whack. Did she really just say, “turns out I’m just like all of you!” Because that’s how it comes across.

  2. Amy says:

    The arrest and her behavior at the time was horrible but maybe she did learn from it and it humbled her. I mean we can never know but seems she has gotten a lot more positive rumors about her behavior on set etc then she use to. So maybe she learned from the arrest. Maybe the video gave her a window into who she had become and she didn’t like it.

    Maybe she is good at PR who knows but seems like she grew. And she is creating interesting projects for actors over 40, I do wish she would cast non movie stars though.

  3. Jem says:

    I liked her up until this happened, and then I realized what an unbelievably entitled a-hole she was/is. I do respect her producing work and I love her book club choices, which pains me because I find her truly awful, but if I see another pap walk in a gingham dress I will be ill.

    • Züri says:

      Oh, your comment so beautifully sums up my feelings on RW. There are other videos of her and what was (is?) a pretty serious drinking problem, though not nearly as bad as this one. I like her producing work and book club, but she is nothing but a walking PR stunt/ performance at this stage. Not one of her photos feels genuine and her interviews are surprisingly terse and, for lack of better term, curated.

  4. Astrid says:

    I didn’t forget but at the same time, I can’t keep bringing it up every time there is a blog post about her.

  5. Rachel says:

    Look at Wiona Ryder. I just read an article about her shop lifting arrest years ago. Why do people have to bring up past events that are obviously embarrassing and degrading. They made a mistake, they dont have to be identified by that mistake years later.

    • Amy says:

      I feel bad for Ryder- that really ruined her career and you are right we have to let people move on. Not just celebrities but a lot of people who have been in the system (not rapist, child abusers or murders they should stay in prison) but people who get arrested for drug possession or shop lifting we have to let them move forward.

    • S says:

      Winona Ryder didn’t try to get out of her crime by claiming, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ on camera, or pretending she was pregnant. She took the consequences of her actions—a lengthy probation—apologized, repeatedly, her career suffered (she barely worked for almost a decade) and has said she focused on her mental health.

      Reese Witherspoon hired a PR specialist, launched a clothing line, won a bunch of awards, started a book club and laughed off her grossness as, “being human.” She didn’t even have to undergo a for-show rehab stint. (In fact, she continues to drink proudly and publicly; see the recent Jay-Z, Beyonce champagne meme from the Golden Globes.)

      Do women in Hollywood suffer infinitely more for these indiscretions than men in similar circumstances? I think there’s an argument to be made that they do. But, Ryder to Witherspoon is hardly an apples to apples comparison.

      Oh and, try being a minority with a 20-year-old felony arrest record for a dime bag, trying to get a job at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart, and then get back to me about how unfair it is that Witherspoon’s arrest is still being mentioned in interviews.

      • Amy says:

        S- I agree with you about the young 20 something and obviously it is much worse for them than any celebrity my point is we as a society need to be more forgiving of people’s mistakes. Especially those 20 somethings we shouldn’t let one error (assuming it wasn’t rape, murder, child abuse) destroy a life. We just shouldn’t and we truly need to look at our justice system and why we imprison people.

    • Redgrl says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think Winona Ryder took responsibility until she was convicted after trial and didn’t have a choice PR-wise. She tried to say it was “research” for a movie and then during the trial tried to coat tail surf on her friendship with a murdered girls’ parents (Polly Klaas?) for sympathy. I also remember all kinds of eye rolling histrionics and feigned indignation from her during the proceedings. It was very off-putting. She hired that idiot Mark Geragos as a lawyer which also wasn’t a smart move. Don’t get me wrong – obviously she was presumed innocent until proven guilty and entitled to exercise that right. But the way that was done – whoever was advising her was not very good at their job either. I stopped paying attention at that point – has she taken a different position since?
      I will say, though, that rich and powerful men in Hollywood consistently do way worse and continue to be celebrated- which is repulsive.

      • Granger says:

        I remember that too. Also, we have no idea if Winona Ryder pulled the “Don’t you know who I am?” card when she was arrested because there was no social media at the time, no camera filming the incident.

    • manda says:

      And I don’t think that winona pitched a fit like Reese did, but I could be wrong.

    • Bowtie says:

      I think the difference is Winona had a mental health issue whereas Reese’s case seemed to be one about an obnoxious personality magnified by alcohol.

      I don’t find her interesting as a celeb and her acting is ALWAYS the same. She was so miscast in Vanity Fair; some other actress could have done that film justice.

  6. OriginalLala says:

    As a rich, white celebrity whose privilege was on full display during the arrest (how many black or brown people would have been subdued with physical force in her place? how many would have been beaten? shot?) I have little patience for people like her who excuse their shitty behavior with such holier-than-thou nonsense. These days, I have such little patience for celeb nonsense….

  7. Seraphina says:

    I get what she is trying to say but she needs to close her mouth. Reese, if you bleed like us then put your money where your mouth is right now and do good works. Stop crying you are human.

  8. JRenee says:

    So basically sorry not sorry??

  9. lucy2 says:

    Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I think she’s owned up to it from the start? If not, my mistake.
    Her behavior that night was terrible, and her white lady privilege certainly got her different treatment than others would have received, but this has been rehashed so many times. To my knowledge neither she or her husband did it again. It’s weird that it’s brought up every single time there’s press about her, but that doesn’t happen to other celebs who actually did drink and drive, and I bet her husband isn’t asked about it in every meeting he takes.

  10. Gigi says:

    I have no opinion about her arrest but I find Reese really beautiful these days, Glamourous! I was watching interviews of her and Aniston for their show and their is a huge difference. Reese look like a movie star Aniston looks basic

  11. Aims says:

    I have two problems with this. Driving drunk is 100% avoidable. There are ways to get home that are safe for everyone. When getting pulled over she should’ve kept her mouth shut and be humble. There wasn’t anything that the police officer did that was inappropriate. He was getting someone drunk and dangerous off the road. What should had been said was,” We could’ve killed someone that night. I appreciate the officer that stepped in to prevent something serious from happening, and I apologize for my behavior and drunkenness.” That would had been the right thing to say.

  12. Katie says:

    What’s interesting is that she’s just past her 7 year recidivism date of the offense (the idea being that once 7 years pass with no other offenses of that type, you will be extremely unlikely to commit the same crime again in your lifetime). I wonder if that’s why she chose now to talk about it.

  13. Hyrule Castle says:

    Nah.

    Only reason she is still breathing air after that fiasco is because she’s white.

    She’d be dead if she was Black, they’d have murdered her and her husband, on the spot.

    She learned nothing, and Jameela just let her wave her white privilege in our faces, again.

  14. Otaku fairy says:

    I definitely think her image played a big role in why her crazy display of entitlement hasn’t left misogynists having a field day too. The privilege that comes with a palatable, classy Purity Princess image can work almost as well as male privilege, ESPECIALLY when combined with white privilege. It gives her some room to fuck up spectacularly despite her age/expected maturity level, and makes people less desperate to weaponize her bad behavior for their own misogynistic purposes.

  15. Murphy says:

    It helps that it happened in 2013 not 2018 or 2019.

  16. Chickaletta says:

    I think it actually did her career good in the long run. It helped her change her image from talented but wronged ex-wife of a POS into someone interesting in their own right and not just a pity party for who they were married to. Jennifer Garner might need to get arrested, is what I’m saying here.

  17. Mumbles says:

    Somehow it’s perfect that she said this on Jameela Jamil’s podcast, who is a master herself of purportedly owning a mistake (but not really) but blaming people for making a big deal out of it.

  18. Marigold says:

    I still think she’s horrible. I’ve met people like her, and the “I just made a mistake” doesn’t work on me. She’s not like everyone else, and “everyone else” who did what she and her husband did would be in prison for resisting arrest. There are people in America who went to prison for a long time for disobeying cops and resisting that thoroughly.

    Also, theres the horrible part of what she did and what she said. She felt entitled to special treatment, and she felt entitled to get into a car driven by a drunkard while she herself was drunk. Both of those make her–much deeper down than a stupid, dumb, or embarrassing “mistake”– a not very good human being.

    I have never driven drunk. I have never yelled at a civil employee out of entitlement to special treatment. Normal people who “breathe normal air” make mistakes–but they’re not total douche bags like Reese was that day. That kind of meanness doesn’t pop out “because I was drunk.” It has to come from somewhere, and most of us don’t have “don’t you know who I am” living inside of us. We could drink all the wine in Napa, and we wouldn’t say those things or think to say them. She did. So. It came from somewhere.

    I haven’t forgotten. Nobody who’s lost someone to drunk drivers or drunk driving has forgotten. Nobody who’s been the victim of an entitled A-personality control freak shrew has forgotten. She can call it misogyny all she wants. I don’t dislike her because of her gender. I dislike her because she doesn’t strike me as a good person. She has never sounded sorry for what she did and what she said. She only sounds embarrassed, and that is NOT the same thing.

  19. LoonaticCap says:

    I love to see people here pretending they’ve never done something truly awful/embarrassing in their lifetime.
    I’ve unfortunately driven drunk before. Luckily wasn’t caught and no I probably wouldn’t say such terrible things. But maybe I’d undress myself or pretend I was pregnant or sick rushing to the hospital who knows??
    A. I’m black
    2. Not American

    I’m not saying I would have done the same but alcohol is something really terrible and and sometimes taps into our subconscious and we do some really dumb stuff. That’s all.

    I don’t love her but like in 2013 i just shrugged it off and called it a dumb moment. Despised her a little too. But I strongly believe in redemption,even from a white blonde famous and rich lady.