Conflict & Tragedy
Onion CEO apologizes for C-word tweet: When does satire go too far?
The satirical website The Onion posted a tweet to Twitter on Oscar night that can only be described as stunningly offensive. One of their writers thought it was OK to call 9-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhane’ Wallis the C-word on Twitter - and no, it wasn’t the word “cute,” it was that other c-word that rhymes with “hunt.”
“Everybody else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c**t, right?” Read the tweet which was quickly taken down an hour after it ignited a firestorm of criticism.
I am a grown woman and far from a prude or anal retentive, but that particular C-word always offend me. It’s base, vile, and offensive and to use it referring to a child is abusive. What is wrong with that writer? Weren’t there enough adults at the Oscar to poke fun at?
Which brings up these important questions: When does satire go too far, or is any and everything fair game? Do some comedians hide being satire to be offensive, racist, prejudice, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic? Comedians like Bill Maher, Tracy Morgan, Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence, Gilbert Gottfried and others have caused quite a bit of controversy with their brand of humor, and some had to backpedal profusely and apologize for stuff they said while performing. Lawrence’s "Saturday Night Live" jokes were so sexually explicit, they got him a lifetime ban from the show, and Gottfried’s 2011 joke on Japan's earthquake-tsunami got him fired by Aflac.
I am all for free speech and am very leery of censorship, so there is a delicate balance to maintain here. Artists must be given creative reign to create, but a certain responsibility comes with those mighty swords - the tongue and the pen. In the age of social media, where everyone fancies themselves a critic, a comedian, a writer, a commentator or a pundit, the balance can go askew real fast. Lines are now blurred and in some cases, completed erased.
Though CEO of The Onion Steve Hannah has since apologized for his staffer’s abusive tweet and promised swift disciplinary actions, they have erased my humor. On Sunday night, The Onion did stink to high heaven. I have found much of their work hilarious before, but this time they stepped way over the line. You see, an apology is nice, but in the age of the Internet, once it’s out there in cyberspace, it cannot be erased with an “I’m so sorry.” The tweet has been taken down but every media outlet, blog and social network has it. It is here to stay. How do her parents explain what it means and why she was called that?
I hope her family is able to keep this Twitter abuse from sullying the memory of Quvenzhane being the youngest Oscar nominee.
Below is the apology delivered by Hannah via Facebook on Monday.
“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.