If you watch the Oscars with your computer open to Twitter, it’s much like sitting in the gallery with a bunch of drunken sailors at a burlesque show. Or maybe a huddle of hooligans watching a soccer match. Whatever the analogy, it involves, presumably, copious amounts of alcohol, lots of shouting in colorful language, the throwing of things at the field (um, screen), with occasional flashes of wit and true comedy. Often of the most snarky kind.
With Seth MacFarlane hosting, there was a good dollop of very un-pc humor about gays, heavy women, shooting Lincoln, Jews, etc.; you know, all the usual suspects. Tweets that followed each tasteless joke registered offense from some, annoyance from others, a laugh or two, but, in general, the good-natured tone of MacFarlane’s delivery saved him from virtual tar-and-feathering. That was ultimately reserved for The Onion.
The Onion, which hyperbolically (and, hopefully, satirically,) describes itself as “America’s Finest News Source,” typically covers politics and current events, and is known for its tongue-in-cheek and obvious parodical take on pretty much everything they cover. But there are things that are off-limits, people who should be spared the worst of their tart tongue. One of those people would be a 9-year-old actress who was at the Oscar’s as the youngest nominee in film history, Quvenzhané Wallis, who starred in the indie film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was nominated as Best Picture. For some inane reason, after a night of tweeting a non-stop dose of snarky commentary on everything-Oscar, The Onion decided, just as the show was concluding, to tweet the following:
As you can imagine, the response was instant and incensed. Below are just a few of the tweets that immediately bombarded the Twitter feed.
So far The Onion has made no comment, offered no response, or, as of this writing, responded to any of the angry tweets. Clearly they struck a chord – and not a melodic one – that steps outside their usual “ribbing” and parody. As many people wrote, a 9-year-old girl is off-limits in terms of sleazy denigration. For some, the fact that she’s an African-American child set off a blast of outrage that the comment wasn’t just sleazy, it was racist; one tweeter positing that such a repulsive statement would not have been made had the actress been white.
Whether or not that’s true, what is undeniable is that the tweet was an inexcusable display of ignorance and bad taste. If The Onion comes out and makes any attempt to dismiss it as humor, satire, parody, or just “a little good-natured snark,” they should expect to see more of the backlash that’s brewing on social media. The only statement, truly the ONLY one, they should offer is a loud, public and very humble apology, to Quvenzhané Wallis, to their readers, and to every single person on Twitter who was a reluctant audience to their bottom-feeding.
And if a random staffer was on the Oscar beat and took it upon themselves to post that tweet, I’d suggest they either show that person the door or get them, quickly, into some hardcore sensitivity training.
UPDATE: 8:40 AM PST: It took them about 12 hours to do it, but The Onion ultimately appears to agree with those who took issue with this offensive tweet. They’ve posted an unequivocal apology on their Facebook page. The right move, Onion.