It’s possible that even a few years ago the gesture would have come across as sweet or romantic: a man begging his wife’s forgiveness in a public display of affection. But in 2018, when Offset interrupted Cardi B’s headlining set at a music festival to attempt a reconciliation, it came across as a move from an outdated playbook.
On Monday, Blavity’s daily newsletter opened with “Cardi B put on a historic performance over the weekend but her ex waddled to the stage to put the spotlight on his shortcomings.” A Teen Vogue article on the topic took off on social media. “A person’s decision to end a relationship should be respected — and not seen as a challenge,” the writer, De Elizabeth, asserted.
Cardi’s fans on Twitter called Offset selfish and manipulative, and wondered how he could be so audacious. Tarana Burke, an activist and the founder of the original “Me Too” movement, wrote that her Twitter timeline was full of women sharing “‘crazy ex’ stories that were ‘a little scary’ but ended up ok — kinda.”
In a thread, Ms. Burke relayed her own tale: When she was 16, an ex asked her to talk on the roof of his building. When she got there, he pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot her if she did not agree to get back together. “Few things are more scary than a rejected man with a bruised ego,” Ms. Burke wrote. “We are literally watching this slow moving train and regardless of how Cardi responds moving forward we can’t let this kind of behavior go unchecked.”
Offset’s apology tour began after Cardi B announced their split about two weeks ago, in an Instagram video.
“I guess we grew out of love,” she told her 37.5 million followers, “but we’re not together anymore. I don’t know, it might take time to get a divorce. And I’m going to always have a lot of love for him because he is my daughter’s father.”
After her post, some of Offset’s friends campaigned for Cardi to take him back.
The rapper 50 Cent left a comment on one of her videos, saying that she should go home to her husband. “No Divorce, ok chill out,” he wrote. Then he posted a video of Cardi rapping about the divorce on his Instagram with a caption encouraging Offset to “go get” Cardi, despite her insistence that their relationship had ended.
Another rapper, the Game, chimed in too, posting a since-deleted video. “Cardi B, forget it,” he said, emphasizing that it was “the holiday season” and thus a time for reunions and resolutions.
Their cheers seemed to motivate the Migos rapper. Offset made a public bid for his wife’s forgiveness on Friday in a video on Instagram in which he apologized, saying he had acted like “a selfish, messed-up husband.”
Hours later, he joined the rapper 21 Savage onstage at Rolling Loud, a music festival in Los Angeles, where 21 Savage told fans to scream “Cardi, take Offset back.”
At the same festival, during Cardi B’s headlining set, Offset walked onto the stage, accompanied by floral arrangements that spelled out “Take Me Back Cardi.” The move was straight out of a romantic comedy, and perhaps on the big screen it might have worked. But the couple spoke off-mic, and after about a minute, Offset left the stage and the flowers were wheeled off. Then Cardi returned to her performance.
Cardi was the first woman to headline the festival, making Offset’s actions appear not only calculating and coercive to observers but also dismissive of a notable achievement.
Frederick Joseph, the founder of a nonprofit creative marketing agency, posted a popular video to his Twitter calling out Offset. “This is extremely toxic and blatantly abusive,” he said in a phone call. “You’re in front of hundreds of thousands of people, just to have your moment taken away and taken in a direction you had no intention on.”
On Instagram, the actress Amanda Seales posted a series of videos in response to a friend who had asked why she found Offset’s behavior objectionable. “It’s toxic because it is somebody who has created the negativity in the situation trying to control the situation,” Ms. Seales said.
Julia Lippman, a research fellow at the University of Michigan who has studied media, was unsure how genuine or performative Offset and Cardi B’s interaction onstage was — there has been suspicion that the breakup and the attempts at reconciliation were a publicity stunt tied to Offset’s upcoming solo album — but she said noting the reaction to it is worthwhile anyway.
“The fact that people are calling it out and this is part of the public discourse, that maybe this isn’t all that romantic and all that desirable, I don’t want to say it’s new in feminist spaces, but it’s new in the mainstream,” Dr. Lippman said.