2013 Oscars: The Onion’s High-Tech Lynching of Beasts of the Southern Wild Star Quvenzhané Wallis
- Eric Shapiro
- On February 25, 2013
During the 2013 Academy Awards ceremony (sorry, the Oscars), satirical publication The Onion set Twitter ablaze with an outrageous – and, many claim, racially-charged – tweet about 9-year-old Beasts of the Southern star Quvenzhané Wallis. And just what were those 17 inflammatory words that sparked such an uproar on the night of the Oscars?
While it is natural to react to such reprehensible comments with outrage and revulsion, the online response to The Onion’s tweet underscores a phenomenon pervasive in our culture. Namely, rather than addressing controversial societal issues, we target the people, publications or events that bring said issues to our attention. To be sure, the intentions of these entities are often far from commendable.
The Onion is a publication that thrives on controversy and attention. It is tabloid journalism taken to the extreme, its very purpose being to shock us. Last night, whoever was responsible for manning the publication’s Twitter feed stepped over the line, cynically targeting an innocent child and also begging the question of whether race – the talented and adorable Quvenzhané Wallis is black – played a part.
Furthermore, the tweeter did not cast his over-the-top aspersion in the service of any larger point. One can make the case that we go too far in placing children on a pedestal, perhaps to the point of worship. Novelist Ron Currie, Jr. makes this point in a chapter of his literary debut, God is Dead. Comedian Louis CK makes it in his stand-up comedy and on his TV show, Louis.
But in both cases, the point is not to single out specific children for insult, but to illuminate our cultural attitudes towards children and/or highlight the absurdity of the parent-child relationship. Calling a 9-year-old actress a cunt is not comedy, satire, or legitimate cultural criticism (hell, it’s not the least bit funny). It is simply revolting.
That being said, we should think very carefully before we go about drafting online petitions and venting our outrage in an endless barrage of tweets and Facebook posts. Setting aside the fact that the very object of our outrage, The Onion, is likely to benefit from the publicity engendered by such attention, we should consider whether our efforts might not be better spent on other endeavors.
Children suffer far worse travesties than online insults. They are victimized daily in numerous ways, some widely discussed and others neglected in part because they are so horrible to think about. Yet, how often do you see “childsexslaves” trending on Twitter? It is easy to go online and vent our outrage at the debasement of a relatively famous actress.
It is much harder to confront the reality that even as you’re (hopefully) reading this article, children are being molested, beaten, used as soldiers, and murdered. Against the backdrop of this sobering and horrific reality, the words of an Onion employee on Twitter seem rather insignificant.
The reaction to the online smearing of Quvenzhané Wallis is not only a product of her age. Many people also claim, quite plausibly, that her race was a factor. Would Dakota Fanning, or the Olsen twins, or any other white child star have been singled out in this way? Would Don Imus have called an all-white girl’s volleyball team a bunch of straight-haired hoes?
Or, as many suspect, is it considered more acceptable in the media to insult a young girl who happens to be African American? This is a legitimate question that deserves serious consideration. Insofar as Quvenzhané Wallis’ experience sheds light on this phenomenon, it is useful to discuss.
However, it is crucial that we do not lose sight of the larger issues at play, namely the discrimination, insults, and inequality that black women endure in the U.S., even at the hands of their fellow African Americans. African-American women, many of them the mothers of young children, have suffered disproportionately before and during the recession.
Yet, the government is on the verge of permitting a “sequester” that would cut funding from programs that these women rely on to feed and educate themselves and/or their families.
None of these societal problems justify The Onion’s reprehensible tweet. But they should go some way towards placing it in its proper context.
- Metropolitan Property Group is looking for agents! Make 150k per year! (Flatiron) June 22, 2017Metropolitan Property Group is a team of over 180 agents working with clients to rent, sell and buy the city's best apartments, co-ops and condos. We are one of the most aggressive brokerage houses in the city and are breaking company records. Curre […]
- Barback (Flatiron) June 21, 2017Society Billiards + Bar is looking for a full time barback to join our team. Society Billiards + Bar is an upscale billiards club located in the heart of the Flatiron where we specialize in providing our valued guests with a unique social experience […]
- Restaurant Franchise Operations Intern (Flatiron) June 21, 2017Aurify Brands At Aurify Brands, our goal is to develop and retain a best-in-class team that encourages personal and professional growth, entrepreneurship, and team loyalty. We offer a highly competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits plan. […]
- Line Cook - Made Nice (Flatiron) June 21, 2017Made Nice , the new counter service restaurant from Chef Daniel Humm and Will Guidara offers a menu that focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients and incorporates the same flavors and techniques that we use at our sister restaurants, Eleven Madison Par […]
- Interior Design Job Captain (Flatiron) June 21, 2017Ware Malcomb is hiring an Interior Design Job Captain in our New York City office. The Interior Design Job Captain assists the Project Manager or Architect in the management of multiple interior architecture projects. Candidate must have: […]
- Interior Design Project Manager - Retail (Flatiron) June 21, 2017Ware Malcomb is hiring an Interior Design Project Manager, Retail in our New York City office! Project Managers manage the successful completion of multiple Interior Design projects while providing excellent client service and leadership and guidanc […]
- Kitchen Helpers/ Prep Cooks - Sushi Restaurant - NIGHT SHIFT ONLY (Flatiron) June 21, 2017New sushi restaurant in flatiron area is hiring for prep chefs and helper positions. We are looking for energetic, and articulate individuals who are seeking a career in the restaurant business. Sushi experience is not necessary but 1 year or more in […]
- JOIN OUR COMMUNITY! THE ASSEMBLAGE NOMAD - OPEN HOUSE (Flatiron) June 21, 2017The Assemblage open house Join our community! We are building great things here. YOUR career should be one of them! The Assemblage is home for a community of individuals who believe the world is on the verge of a collective conscious evolution; t […]