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:
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.