(Updated) The Onion Should Know Better than to Call a 9-Year-Old Girl a ‘Cunt’
I typically love The Onion‘s satirical take on, well, everything. But tonight during the Acadamy Awards the person in charge of The Onion‘s twitter feed said something so offensive, it has been deleted. I figured it wouldn’t be up for long so I took a screen shot:
The Onion is referring to Oscar Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, nominated for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
I get it. Seth MacFarlane hosted the Oscars and pissed everyone and their mother off as he proved to be a bigger douche than we could have ever imagined. Each time he opened his mouth viewers were treated to a lazy joke laced with sexism, racism, homophobia or all three. Still, what on earth made The Onion think it would ever under any circumstances be funny to call a 9-year-old child such a nasty, sexual term in response? Not to mention the racial context, which is impossible to ignore given how the media already inappropriately sexualizes young girls of color, stripping away their innocence in the eyes of the general public. The Onion, whether they meant to or not, perpetuated that sexualization.
I don’t care who they were trying to mock, The Onion leapt way over the line.
UPDATE: The Onion has apologized for the tweet in a Facebook post:
On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.
No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.
The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.
In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.
Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.
Good on them for acknowledging that they were wrong. Now that that’s over with, I’d like to address some of the arguments being made in defense of The Onion’s tweet.
First off, stop mansplaining to us the purpose of The Onion‘s tweet. We get it! It was an attempt at satire given the sexist, racist, homophobic comedy on display at the Oscars. We are fully aware that The Onion doesn’t actually think Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt” but was mocking the Awards. We’re not idiots. We’re pissed that a 9-year-old, regardless of the intention, was exploited in such a sick way for laughs.
Second of all, certain people are making this about free speech. Yes, The Onion is free to say whatever the fuck they want no matter how inappropriate and I support their right to do so. I also support the publics right to freely express their disgust with said comment. So, concern trolls, stop acting like people are demanding a law be passed banning usage of the word “cunt” in reference to children. How ironic that some people are invoking free speech to try and shut down the public expression.
Lastly, others are upset that I’ve made this about race as if making an issue about the comment being used against a black girl is equivalent to saying it’s acceptable to call a 9-year-old white girl a “cunt”. I didn’t think I had to announce this but apparently I do: No child, no matter the race, deserves to be called a “cunt”. But let’s be honest, it’s difficult to imagine the media treating a white girl actress the same way.
My friend Arturo Garcia detailed at Racialicious all the crap Quvenzhané Wallis had to deal with last night Read this and then tell me race isn’t an issue:
First, there was an Associated Press — Associated Press! — reporter on the red carpet before the show allegedly telling Wallis, “I’m gonna call you Annie,” instead of by her given name, for which the reporter was quickly and rightfully corrected. In another bizarre outburst, model Chrissy Teigen saw fit to call her “a brat.”
Then Oscars host Seth McFarlane chose to involve her in a joke about George Clooney’s supposed preference for younger women, saying, “To give you an idea of how young she is, it’ll be about 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney.” Of course, there were more “jokes” where that came from throughout the evening.
And then came The Onion to steal the spotlight from him. Again: This is a nine-year-old girl. And these people think they have license to be “edgy” with her. Forget that it was an awards show.
It’s encouraging to note that not only were progressives and media critics up in arms over The Onion’s colossal misfire, but actors like Wendell Pierce, LeVar Burton and Marlee Matlin also publicly called the site out over it. Our own Kendra James had these thoughts late Sunday night:
When I saw The Onion’s tweet, I immediately shook my head in disgust, trying to think back to the time when they’d showered the same type of “satire” on Dakota Fanning after her breakout performance in I Am Sam. Failing at that, I attempted to lament over the incident when her sister, Elle, was referred to as a future date for George Clooney. No? How about the time when Anna Paquin walked the red carpet for The Piano and media reduced her to nothing but a sex object on legs? Well, what about when an E! reporter told Abigail Breslin that she was just going to call her Olive, because Abigail was too much to remember?
You’re struggling, and it’s cool, because we all know those moments don’t exist. And for young, white ingenues they never will. White children have a value, a cache in our society that Quvenzhane Wallis wouldn’t have even if her name were Sarah Jane Smith. It goes so, far beyond the fork in the road her name puts a white tongue through. Yes, she can be Annie but on any given day in White America, Oscar Nominated or not, Quvenzhane isn’t seen as having any more societal worth and importance than a Minny. Calling a nine year old that word for over 4 million followers, and being dismissive of her given name, all while hypersexualising her is just further proof of that.