When Humor Goes Wrong
(Or why the folks at the Onion should be really, really glad that Quvenzhane’ Wallis isn’t my niece...)
By Denise Clay
Because I admit that I’m (a) An unrepentant movie buff and (b) A bit of a glutton for punishment, I watched almost all of Sunday’s broadcast of the Academy Awards.
I wanted to see how many awards Lincoln would grab. (Daniel Day-Lewis deserved his Best Actor award. That man could read a phone book and make it compelling...) I wanted to see if Argo could withstand the whole “The Directors Guild decided to screw the director of this film out of a nomination because he doesn’t look like an unmade bed” thing and win Best Picture. (Now I have to see it...and can we talk about how almost every good political film that’s come out in the last 10 years either has George Clooney acting in it, producing it, or directing it?!)
And last but not least, I wanted to see just how badly they were going to screw up the following name: Quvenzhane’, as in 9-year-old Quvenzhane’ Wallis, the star of another film that I now have to check out, the Indie pic Beasts of the Southern Wild.
(She tried out for that film when she was 5.)
But what I ended up getting was an Oscar night that made me want to bodyslam somebody, the appearance of Dame Shirley Bassey to sing the theme from Goldfinger as part of the Fifty Years of James Bond tribute notwithstanding.
(For those of you who were a little confused about why everyone lost their mind when they saw Dame Bassey because you don’t know who she is, get a copy of Kanye West’s “Diamonds”. She’s the person singing “Diamonds are Forever”. That’s from a James Bond film by the way. Do as I usually suggest and hit Google for more information...)
Seth McFarlane, otherwise known as the guy that gave us “Family Guy”, Ted, and a whole host of other things that should have immediately disqualified him from hosting the Oscars or any other award show for that matter, was the host this year...and managed to piss just about everyone off.
From jokes about presidential assassinations, to starting the evening out with a song and dance number entitled “We Saw Your Boobs”, to an off-color joke about domestic violence using Chris Brown and Rihanna as part of the punchline, McFarlane managed to make Hollywood’s annual night of lameness just that much more lame...something that I didn’t think possible. There are places where sexist, unfunny potty humor might be able to pass unnoticed, but the Academy Awards isn’t one of them.
But the real fun started shortly after the Awards were over. And it involved the little girl with the puppy purse who should have been able to remember the biggest night of her life without this in it.
Throughout the evening, the young Miss Wallis pumped her arms when she saw a clip of herself or the movie she starred in, which was also nominated for Best Picture.
For some reason, some jackass at the usually funny as hell Twitter feed from The Onion felt the burning need to send out the following sentence:
“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c**t, right?”
Now, everyone who knows me knows that I’m a big First Amendment person. But nothing is going to get me out of my chair and off to her laptop faster than calling a 9-year-old kid a c**t. I don’t care if you were exercising your First Amendment right. I’ve got to call Shenanigans! on you.
And that’s for a couple of reasons.
1-If you ask a 9-year-old kid what a c**t is, they’re going to think it’s short for something else. They’re not going to know that it is a derogatory term for a woman who is much more sexually free than some of the men in her presence are comfortable with. A term that Black women have thrown at them far too often by the way.
2-I know that there was no Twitter when a young Drew Barrymore was nominated for ET: The Extraterrestrial or Tatum O’Neal was nominated for Paper Moon, but if there were, would this particular “C” word have come out so easily?
And 3-I love satire. I know good satire when I see it. I often use it to great advantage. Some of the best satire I’ve ever seen was on The Onion’s website following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
But there is no universe that I can put my finger on at the moment where it’s considered funny to call a 9-year-old girl a c**t. And if such a place exists, it’s not somewhere I ever need to visit.
That’s because kids, particularly female kids, are sexualized enough without your adding stuff. They can’t go to Wal-Mart and get something to wear that’s age appropriate. They can’t turn on the television without seeing the kinds of images that their parents have to explain. In some cases, they have to play “Dodge the Chicken Hawk” to do little stuff like play on the playground, go to school, or in the most extreme cases, go to their rooms to go to sleep.
So when I saw a petition that Sabrina Lamb, the woman who managed to keep the Shawty-Lo saga “All My Babies Mamas” from hitting the small screens at the Oxygen network, put together to take The Onion to the woodshed, I was kinda happy.
The Onion has since apologized, and that’s good. Getting comedians to apologize for jokes that sink like a stone generally doesn’t happen.
But they need to understand that there’s certain things that just isn’t allowed to happen because I can tell you right now that if Miss Wallis was one of my nieces, or better yet, my kid, no apology would have been necessary. An ambulance, a really good defense attorney, and enough money for medical bills (the creator of this Tweet) and bail (mine) would have been.
That’s because I’m sure that there’s a lot of surgery that goes into removing both a black-and-white Doc Maarten brogue from your behind and a broken wooden bat from the back of your head...which is what you could expect if you called my kid that.
I will never tell anyone that they don’t have the right to be funny. While I’m not a big Lisa Lampanelli fan, if she wants to call some adult her ni**a and they don’t punch her in the face, that’s their friendship.
But just in case anyone is wondering, calling a pretty 9-year-old Browngirl with a puppy purse, or any other 9-year-old girl for that matter, a c**t isn’t funny.