Apparently, People Have Beef With Quvenzhané Wallis

By Arturo R. García

We are not running The Onion’s tweet involving the misogynist slur about Quvenzhané Wallis here. Because she’s a nine-year-old girl and we’re not reprinting that language. (A screencap of the tweet can be found here.)

But for many fans and supporters of the Best Actress nominee, Sunday’s Academy Awards turned into a horror show.

Update: The Onion has posted an apology for its actions Sunday night. A transcript is available under the cut.

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 Quvenzhané 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.

The Onion can be reached on Twitter at @TheOnion, via regular mail at The Onion 212 E Superior St; Chicago, IL 60611, and by phone at 312-751-0503 until they formally apologize, after which we should all unsubscribe and ignore the hell out of them.

On a more positive note, Moya at the Crunk Feminists Collective penned this awesome letter of support for Wallis, which reads in part:

I planned to watch the Oscars and even started watching but I really hated to the jokes host Seth MacFarlane was making at your expense. You had the Oscar before the show even started in my mind.

He wasn’t nice. Some of the people who have interviewed you and are talking about you have been really disrespectful. You’ve done such a great job telling people how to say your name. It makes me mad that people still can’t get it.

We’ll have a lot more to come on this and the rest of the Oscar’s descent for the rest of the week. But, one more good bit, for anyone wondering how Wallis’ acceptance speech — she lost the award to Jennifer Lawrence — might have gone, here’s a Hollywood Reporter interview with Wallis and Matlin.

Update: The original video running at the top of this piece was taken down due to coding issues.

Update: Here is the transcript of the Onion’s apology, via Univision News:

Dear Readers,

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.


Steve Hannah
The Onion

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  • Michelle Kirkwood

    I forget the say the Onion has earned a prop or two from me by stepping up to the plate, acknowledging that the name-calling was out of line, and delivering an honest apology that addressed the issue,without just trying to cover their backs/make themselves look good.

  • Samantha

    I did say it was arguably over-the-line. Or did you stop reading after the first sentence?

  • kaydenpat

    I hope Ms. Wallis continues to hold her head up high and to appear in good roles. Would love to see her eventually win an Oscar.

    I recall when Limbaugh referred to Chelsea Clinton as a dog. I also heard sexual jokes directed at the then underage Olsen twins Sad that people can’t let children be children and refrain from directing derogatory comments at them.

  • Samantha

    The Onion was doing what it always does: satire. It was calling attention to the very point that the author of this article was making: Wallis was being unfairly characterized as a brat, called insufferable etc. etc. Which of course is absurd and extremely insulting and offensive for anyone to say about a nine-year-old.

    The Onion was simply, through shock value that was arguably over the line, shining a light on those idiots and holding a mirror to just how idiotic and ediculous they were being in their criticisms.

  • Morgan Sheridan

    I was ashamed of the whole mess. Quvenzhane is a lovely child and she didn’t deserve the treatment she got.

  • Craig_Ranapia

    I know it’s been a long time, but I don’t remember Anna Paquin being called a “brat”, “precocious”, “affected”, “arrogant or “vile” for well… being a pretty ordinary eleven year old in a pretty extraordinary situation most kids will never even imagine. And she managed to (pretty endearingly) simultaneously grin and hiccup through her acceptance speech. I hate to imagine what the reaction would have been like if Quvenzhané had won.

  • Emmeaki

    Jaden and Willow Smith have also been called “cocky” and “arrogant”. It’s funny how black children are perceived so negatively when they are confident while young white actors are given praise and complimented on their maturity. I could get deeper, but I am just so pissed off at this right now.

  • LSM

    Quvenzhané with an accent, if you are going to call out others for failing to respect her name at least spell it right. Otherwise great work on the article.

  • Neville Ross

    I’m not-this was just plain dumb, stupid, and racist, and as I said before, would never have been done with the young actress I mentioned or the other young actresses mentioned. It was just that certain white Americans couldn’t stand a young black actress who ‘didn’t know her place’ and was ‘uppity’ (much like these same white Americans had a problem with Jaden Smith being in the remake of The Karate Kid). That’s the real truth of the matter.

    If said adults can’t stand younger people (especially younger people of color) being good or great at a younger age, then it’s they who have problems, and they who should get professional help-or maybe, they should consider finding a time machine to transport them to the past where they can exist in a era that suits them (assuming that they can survive in said past era without all of the amenities of this present one.)

  • Daisy MJ

    All of this was done is poor taste. I feel bad for this little girl.

  • Susan Donovan

    I’m not. I’m done with them for a long time for this.

  • disqus_vcp3OaTonm

    Kathy Griffin made a joke when Dakota Fanning was a kid that she would be in rehab soon, just saying.

    • Keith

      Just saying what? Where’s the sexualization of Dakota Fanning in the joke? Thanks for adding nothing to the conversation.

    • Tusconian

      Well, every young star, particularly young female star, in recent years has gotten that. Mainly because the majority of young actresses who stay in the limelight past their teens do have some sort of “crash and burn” moment. Of course, that’s due to pushy stage parents and the stress of the media and the fact that Hollywood is just not a nurturing place for adolescents, not any inherent fault within these young women. That isn’t a particularly tasteful joke, but it also isn’t the same as completely tearing down and/or sexualizing a 9 year old child while she’s still 9. The point isn’t that all young white actresses are coddled and never get any jokes of any kind thrown at them, but that the ones thrown at young black actresses (the few there are) are particularly vicious, and tend to ignore that black children are CHILDREN in the same way white children are.

    • Neville Ross

      So what? And how the frack does she know what Dakota Fanning (as well as Elle Fanning) would even be doing in the future? She’s just a bitter Z-lister who can’t get that she wasn’t able to be as successful as others, so she takes perverse delight in making unfunny remarks about them on her show. Too bad for her-maybe she should find another career to be in where she won’t have to put up with people she thinks are too successful for her.

    • Shazza

      Yeah, Kathie Griffin made a joke about Dakota Fanning being in rehab, she didn’t call her any rude names and she had to apologize for it. She also didn’t host any more awards shows afterwards.

    • Anita

      Not even close!!

  • brownmichelle

    I think that may be the best apology I’ve ever seen an organization like the Onion put out. None of that “sorry that you were offended” BS.

  • Luna

    Actually, I do recall some white girls getting this kind of treatment. There were “jokes” about the Olson Twins when they were as young as six that sexualized them and treated them as meat. Remember Drew Barrymore in the 80s? She was about 9 when the jokes about her started.

    That said, I do recognise that black children are targeted more often and more easily, because of the colour of their skin. There was definitely an intersection of racism and sexism there.

    • Keith

      Actually the sexual jokes about the Olsen Twins started in their mid to late teens, not 9 years old. Don’t remember Drew Barrymore getting sexualized as a preteen, but I know she was sexualized as a teen.

    • MissRealuminatti

      Drew Barrymore was a target for obvious reasons: She was at the clubs snorting cocaine and drinking alcohol at 10 years old and went to rehab by 14. She gave an interview to People magazine about it when she 15. Like someone else said, guys starting making sex jokes about the Olsen twins when they were 17 about to be 18. There was even a countdown waiting for the girls to be legal. Not the same as making disrespectful sex jokes about a 9-year-old.

    • xtphr

      “Dakota Fanning getting hit on by Rob Lowe after screening of Hounddog”, The Onion, Jan 31, 2007

      • Keith

        What part of sexualizing 9 year old girl do you people not understand? A joke at the expense of Rob Lowe possibly hitting on a thirteen year old girl isn’t even in the same league as that. Not to mention I don’t remember Dakota being referred to as a cunt in that Onion news article. But keep trying please. I would have given you half credit if you would have mentioned Brooke Shields, but that’s just laziness on your part I guess.

      • Tamani Green

        Maybe so, but The Onion never called Dakota Fanning a c–t. Which is a whole other level. Stop deflecting.

  • nevilleross

    Good to hear that the Onion apologized for said comments, but I want to know why she was insulted so in the first place? They would indeed never do this to a white actress her age-in fact,they didn’t do this to Hailee Steinfeld, so why Miss Wallis, and why last night?

  • Foxessa

    All of this was disgraceful. The entire night was filled with misogyny, and the younger you are, the more ‘different,’ the worse it was. That’s Hollywood. Not a good place for women, children and young growing things of any sort.

  • Shari’ Wright

    I absolutely love this. so glad to see so many stand up for Quvenzhane.

  • Flobi-Wan Kenobi

    And let’s not forget, Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane ending the night by singing a whole verse, calling her a loser to her face. All in fun. :-/

  • Eat.Style.Play

    Good Piece!

  • lkt

    I don’t recall these types of shots being taken against Dakota Fanning when she was about this age. Hmmm. I wonder why.