Last night, during the 2013 Academy Awards, The Onion published a tweet calling Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, a cunt. End of joke! About an hour later, the tweet was deleted, but not before a bunch of people got mad about it, and this morning Steve Hannah, The Onion‘s CEO, drafted a formal apology. OK! Good! A lot of people have knee-jerk reactions to use of the word “cunt,” which I think is silly, considering that it’s just a word, and it’s not even a word with that much historical baggage (unlike certain racial epithets for example). That doesn’t mean that women (or men!) aren’t allowed to have as violent of a reaction as they want. We all have to make our way through the day somehow, and if that word strikes some kind of traumatic chord within you, speak up! I am not suggesting otherwise! But it’s not a word that I, as a white, middle class man find particularly problematic especially in the context of a joke. In this case it has a lot more to do with making fun of a CHILD and also with using a sexually aggressive word that is, even after everything I said about the word not being that big of a deal, about as violent of a word that you can use especially to describe a (young) (very young) woman. Here’s a thought: how about we just not make fun of little children? There are no lines in the sand, like you can make fun of your own children if you want. But if you aren’t related to the child or have any personal knowledge of what they did that was so ridiculous, maybe just make a joke about something else? There are literally one billion other things to make fun of*. Exactly one billion. I counted. OK, but so The Onion wrote a dumb non-joke calling a little girl a bad word, and then they apologized for the joke, and that’s basically the end of the story. Except I just saw this tweet from the New York Times‘s David Carr and it really bugged me:

First of all, I don’t really think The Onion threw any writers under the bus. Unless the dude (I’m assuming it was a dude, and I feel comfortable doing so) who wrote the tweet has been fired. To which I would say that does seem unnecessary, but also people get fired all the time, and for far less egregious mistakes. But also: every time there is one of these cultural flare ups where a comedian does/says something that is deemed inappropriate and are then forced to respond to said offense, we always get into the same argument about what is and is not OK to joke about and what is or is not the job of a comedian to push society’s buttons and whatnot, and not only is this argument very exhausting, the bigger problem is that IT IS THE WRONG ARGUMENT.

No one is even remotely suggesting that The Onion have its Twitter account taken away, or even really do much of anything different. Like, if the one new rule is “don’t call children cunts anymore” that’s not a huge hinderance on their ability to make biting satire. You can still rip our collective culture a new one, guys, you’re going to do great. And apologizing when you are wrong is literally WHAT YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO DO! Look, I understand as well as anyone that comedians are going to try and make jokes and sometimes those jokes are not going to work, and that when your mission statement is to make particularly “edgy” (oof for lack of a better word but there has got to be a better word) jokes then you’re more likely to fall on the wrong side of the line. OK! Who cares?! It’s not like this has ever stopped anyone from trying! But please someone explain to me under what circumstances it is even remotely inappropriate to APOLOGIZE when this happens? Do you know who does not apologize ever? Sociopaths. (This may or may not be true because even sociopaths at least engage in social mirroring and would probably apologize just because they understood this to be one of the rules of being a human being.)

If you are allowed to offend people, which you are, we all are, and we do, almost constantly, at the very least you should also be allowed to apologize sometimes if the WAY in which you offended them was the wrong way. This is where the expression “my bad” comes from.

Now that they are chastised and apologetic, will The Onion be “less funny” out of fear of some kind of vague, non-existent comedy policing entity? Maybe. For awhile. Oh well? Sorry? That’s the cost of doing business on a large scale with a national audience? When Daniel Tosh says that rape is always funny, or Tracy Morgan says that he would murder his gay child, or when Michael Richards you know whats all over the place, we all can understand that this is the flailing public failure of a comedian who reached for the great brass ring of “honesty” and fell on his face. Are people too sensitive sometimes? Absolutely 100% they are! Is it completely within their rights to just leave the comedy club or stop reading The Onion instead of shouting something from the audience or writing an angry letter? Oh of course, and in general this is the more appropriate course of action. You have a tiny bit of power as a consumer, and you should use that power by making choices!

I’m starting to get the impression that there is a fear in the comedy community (that David Carr shares for some reason, perhaps because of his love for journalistic freedom–I mean that in all seriousness, even though somehow that sounded a little snarky–I think that is the link, a journalist’s appreciation for the unvarnished truth is not dissimilar to a comedian’s appreciation for the unvarnished truth) that somehow to apologize for making a mistake is to show some devastating and irredeemable weakness. NEVER APOLOGIZE! Well, why not? If this is the community that is supposed to be so open and honest that it can make fun of its own flaws and weaknesses, those flaws and weaknesses can’t stop at Irritable Bowel Syndrome and being BAD AT FLIRTING. Come the FUCK on. If you are able to admit on stage (or in an article) that life is a short-term nightmare from which the only escape is our inevitable death, then surely you can also admit that sometimes you hurt someone else’s feelings and that wasn’t your intention. Big whoop.

In the world of comedy, apparently, the only thing more offensive than calling a 9-year-old child a cunt is apologizing for anything ever.

Do we all need to walk around on egg shells now? No! None of us do, and none of us will. Should people only listen to that tiny, exciting voice in their heads right before they say the big thing that tells them maybe they shouldn’t say it? That maybe this time they are going too far? No! Ignoring that voice is half of the fun. But that’s the whole thing about that voice: sometimes it is right. And when it turns out overwhelmingly that OK, this time the voice had a really good point, then just say you were sorry. LIKE A MAN. It is not the end of the world. Even after all of that, you will almost certainly call someone else a cunt tomorrow. Hopefully they will just, you know, even remotely deserve it. Or at least be someone your own size.

*Or, if there are not other things to make fun of, there are other ways to make fun of them. Case in point: The New York Times‘s Joel Stein defended The Onion‘s Quvenzhané joke saying that it was a commentary about the sad state of affairs in how we in celebrity-obsessed America talk about celebrities and it’s like, well, OK, sure, but also I BET YOU COULD MAKE THAT POINT BETTER EVEN WITHOUT THE PART ABOUT CALLING A NINE YEAR OLD GIRL A CUNT.
Comments (126)
  1. This was terribly unfunny but it just occurred to me to be thankful that they (he?) didn’t use a certain racial epithet as well. Like maybe the writer had some small semblance of a filter and knew not to cross all the lines.

  2. This is a good post. Gabe, you should give yourself a high five. I want to take this post to prom and introduce it to my parents and become each other’s emergency contacts.

  3. I immediately imagined a careworn, adjunct professor of New Media at a state college joyously sitting down to write a new case study.

  4. Oh man, I guess that means my dream of becoming a comedy writer is now DASHED because I am literally always apologizing for something. I’ve never not regretted anything I’ve ever said or written pretty much immediately. But I’m always just apologizing for not being funny, because I am WAY too scared to talk about race or rape or gender or any other controversial issue to ever have to apologize for stepping over those lines.

    • haha i like that all these qualities seemed very much in line w becoming a comedy writer before. but now that you’ve read the article, you’ve reconsidered.

      anyway, i think the trick is to first think of what needs to be pointed out in a jokey manner, then work backwards to word it in a funny way. starting from cunt and working backwards is not the best approach.

  5. Well said, though I do think cunt is a word with plenty of historical baggage. I mean at least in the sense that it is an easy, clipped, four-letter way to remind a woman of her place in the world, a place that has been defined through a couple milleniums of disgusting history.

    • Let’s not forget though that “cunt” is getting re-claimed by the queer community in a really interesting way?

      Not that that was what is happening here, but, ya know, I think it’s important to remember that.

    • You will get no argument from me that the history of WOMEN themselves is laden with unhappy baggage, but I don’t agree that “cunt” is so widely understood and accepted to single-wordedly encapsulate that history the way that say, “nigger” or “faggot” does. If anything, I think “bitch” holds most of that water, and yet “bitch” is not nearly considered as fundamentally offensive for some weird reason, perhaps because it is jus so widely used in multiple contexts. “Bitch” is basically the “Kleenex” of misogyny.

      • Yea no I was going to say something to that effect but decided to just say “I mean at least in the sense that” and hope that I got that across. The word itself does not have the same history.

        I think “cunt” is more harmful than “bitch” because it’s even more reductive? Like hey woman, here’s your function, just live it and shut the fuck up.

        • I should have refreshed! Reductive! That’s the word I wanted.

        • By that logic though you can say the same about the word “dick.” Now, before this sets off any alarm bells there are some very obvious differences that I obviously recognize: for one thing, calling a dude a “dick” does not in and of itself dredge up the legacy of when men didn’t have the right to vote, or hold jobs, or leave Downton to write editorials for the newspaper, or any of the things that were only recently amended and are still obviously very problematic. Moreover, the word “dick” does not have the same violence or eye-twitchy reflex-hammer of the word “cunt.” Agreed! My point is just that there are reductive words all over the place on both sides of the aisle, and unless someone can show me that the word “cunt” was systematically used to encapsulate the genuine legal and social issues of women, then it is going to continue to be a word that I think can be funny or at the very least fine if used in a thoughtfully constructed joke context. (If we’re talking about the world outside of jokes then no one should call anyone anything other than Sir or Ma’am.)

          • I get what you’re saying insofar as the two words are epithets that center around the anatomy of their respective genders, but I don’t think they can be considered analogs of one another for the same reason that there is not derogatory term for “white person” that is on the same level as the n-word. And I am pretty deeply uncomfortable with a man saying “cunt” even in the context of a joke in the same way that I am uncomfortable with a white person saying the n-word.

          • I don’t have any real back-up documentation here except for my emotions in 2013 about this word, and the knowledge that it could be argued that in the not-so-distant past women were, in general, undervalued as people because they were women, because they had cunts. However, men in general have never had to feel like less of a person because they had dicks. No man in Victorian times was ever summarily disregarded just because he had a penis. So to me the word cunt takes away a lot of the progress that had been made in making the male world see women as actual thinking human beings equal to them, whereas physically having a dick has generally always been a good thing.

            I know I’ve super generalized here and super white-washed this, but I’m just trying to explain why I find this word more offensive than other words.

        • I have so many feelings about this conversation but I have no words to express them and it is so so frustrating. ‘Bitch’ is more commonly used and IMO watered down which may be more problematic, but I can’t help hating ‘cunt’ so so much more. That is a word that in my experience has only been used to hurt, and its so reductive and also kind of reminds me that there are some parts of society that only cares about that part of me. I hope this makes sense. It would be so much easier if you all could read my mind.

          • This this this.

            I think in general cunt is still, as Gabe put it above, a sexually aggressive word. It just has a lot of violence behind it that I think in many ways bitch has lost. Which isn’t to say that cunt won’t lose that aggressiveness, but I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet.

            (also Gabe- as a middle-class white woman I find the word problematic even as a joke)

          • but if you were british it would be okay.

          • Maybe?

            Language evolves, words gain and lose meaning with every generation. Some words keep their super offensive meaning, some do not. I honestly don’t know the cultural context of the word in England (except that it seems to be more prominent?), so I don’t know how I’d see it if I were from there.

          • i just meant that it is used rather frequently in the u.k. as a noun in colloquial speak.

      • I think part of it might be that being a “bitch” is a personality thing. You can have a bitchy personality but maybe you’ll grow as a person and become nicer, and maybe some day you’ll stop being so bitchy. But cunt is part of your body, it’s reducing you down to one specific part of you that you cannot change and which, somehow, is the source of everything that’s awful about you.

        • Although, people do use cunty in much the same way that bitchy gets used. Bitch may refer to dogs, but it refers to female dogs specifically. I would argue It carries a similar heft.

          BUT, in the context of saying people need to not be so ‘bitchy,’ ‘cunty,’ ‘dickish,’ etc., in order to become nicer people– in that particular context, DESPITE the slurring of gender– what we’re really saying is everyone needs to stop being various types of assholes. Everyone has a butt, making it THE truly universal identifier. correct me if I’m wrong

  6. I agree with 90% of what you are saying here, and the backlash to the backlash is just as bad, if not worse, than the original tweet, but I think what bothers me about The Onion apologizing is that they had to break the fourth wall to do it. Not saying they shouldn’t have apologized, but would it have killed them to keep it in character?

  7. Pardon if I seem over-reacty, but I can’t help but have a problem with the diminishing of “Cunt” vs. other epithets. It sort of lessens the exact struggles of the women who are being called this word. I’m not suggesting that Gabe feels that women’s epithets are causes are not as dire, hateful, or important than other disenfranchised groups, but that strikes a tone in me that did not sit right. I felt it was worth saying.

    • I felt the same way, maybe because I’ve seen legions of neckbearded internet MRA’s wield the word “cunt” so gleefully over the years?

      • I feel weird that it doesn’t bother me more. It is a slang term for female genitalia but I don’t think my genitals are a bad thing, so it doesn’t strike me as inherently negative. Perhaps reading Tropic of Cancer in my formative years is to blame. Are men as offended by the way people throw around the term dick?

        • personally i don’t have a problem with the word cunt. i tend to use it more frequently than anyone i know. but i know friends of mine have a problem with it so i try to refrain from using it around them.

          in this case though, it’s just fucking wrong. she is a child and the ish is just not funny.

        • That’s the thing though, in it’s worst usage the word cunt is not just slang for vagina, but rather for a woman in her entirety. It reduces the entire human being to a sex object in the most effective way possible. I come from Australia and, like the UK, the word cunt is thrown around quite a lot, usually to refer to innanimate objects or men – often even in a endearing way for the latter, eg. “John’s a mad cunt aye?” Personally, I encourage this usage as it takes that power away from the word. Using the word for its traditional/historic meaning is still considered very offensive and is not often done.

          The only time I’ve heard it used this way was by this sceevy guy at a Hungry Jacks (Burger King). He looked like an ex-con with prison tattoos and when one young woman complained to the staff that he was cutting in line, the man turned to the woman’s boyfriend and barked something like “tell your cunt to shut up” or “control your cunt.” Obviously the man was not telling the other man to control the imaginary vagina between his legs, he was completely degrading the woman to a sexual object under the ownership of her man. Anyway, point is: the level of offense caused from words is dependant on the meaning behind them. As long as the word is not used in this way, then I don’t have any problem with it.

    • I address this a little bit in a comment up above.

      If nothing else, I probably need to do some more research on the history of the word “cunt’ and its place in the oppression and degradation of women, but the tone of those couple of sentences aside, I will tell you right off the bat that I definitely feel I have earned a little more from you than to simply take my mild defense of the word as a blanket disregard of women.

      • I hate it when Coach Taylor is disappointed in us, you guys. :(

      • I mean, I agree you have. The benefit of the doubt is certainly with you here. That’s very true. But even as someone who’s admitted, as you have, qualifying your statements coming from “a white, middle class man” who is aware of the privilege that you have, it’s still worth mentioning that along with that privilege there’s an unknowable pain and burden that others must carry. I believe in your heart of hearts that you know this to be true, and I don’t think I’m telling you anything that you don’t know, nor am I suggesting you walk on eggshells. Just as someone who doesn’t hold this privilege, when others’ plights, are even slightly made to seem lesser than, it cuts a bit. Look, you’re a smart man who has been very kind, to me personally even, who obviously crafted this with great passion and the right message, and ultimately what I object to was a footnote, but it just seems counter to what you’re trying to say. I’m just speaking to where I’m coming from.

        • Oh! Everything you say about privilege is dead on, and taking the position that my ARGUMENT perpetuates some kind of dangerous patriarchal world view is totally fine and within reason and possibly accurate. I just took issue with the part where you said “Gabe feels that women’s epithets are causes are not as dire, hateful, or important than other disenfranchised groups” because I do not think anything I have ever said or done suggests that I feel that way. I do. I hate women and I hate when they WHINE about everything, but nothing I have said or done would let you know that. It was a leap.

          • I figured you were helping Seth MacFarlane write his material. I felt no Hugh Jackman pee jokes was a rare miss for you. Les Piz. It’s right there in front of you.

      • I’m going to sound like an asshole for this and I apologize ahead of time, but I’m still going to say it:

        It bothers me that we’ve had whole threads about racism in a car commercial and in the appropriation of a dance but apparently using the word cunt isn’t really problematic. Yeah, that doesn’t sit well with me.

        • Well, hold on a second! You don’t sound like an asshole and there is no need to apologize, but you are actually conflating a few things here.

          When I write a post about how a car commercial is racist, that’s because that car commercial is racist. It is NOT about how “racism can never be used in a joke.” The same goes with calling something out for being homophobic, or misogynistic. What you seem to be interpreting from this post is that I think that it is OK to make fun of women, and that is because I do think that. But you are also incorrectly interpreting my past statements to suggest that I DON’T think it’s OK to make fun of black people or gay people. You are wrong. I think you can make fun of whoever and whatever the hell you want. It just happens that when you start making fun of these groups, especially as a white person or as an institution (The Onion), sometimes (most of the times, really) you’re going to do it wrong, and in these cases you should apologize.

          The argument being had right now about whether or not the word “cunt” is as bad as racial slurs or homophobic slurs is a very valid one, and I would not be surprised if I end up coming away from it with a different opinion about the word than when I came in (although for now I am still weighing all of my options!). But you are absolutely WRONG, not an asshole but WRONG, to suggest that because I have complained about racism in the recent past that I have therefore not written about misogyny, because I have, and I believe the record will reflect that I have spoken out against it just as vehemently. (Although I also have to admit that for as thoughtful and considerate as your comment proves that you are, it’s weird that you are somehow making this into an EITHER/OR issue, as if somehow even if I was saying that women’s issues are not important, that somehow makes my distaste for racism invalid. Huh?)

          But, frankly, I have always found “bad words” to be a distracting semantical straw man that diverts attention away from the much more serious issues of genuine oppression. So yeah, I guess in that sense you are right. I definitely think the word “cunt” is in and of itself less problematic than, say, black face. Words are definitely important and we should all take our time in choosing them, but they are not the root of the problem, no.

          • Well, the thing about “cunt” is in the same vicinity as the thing about the n-word or gay slurs – it’s someone wanting to demean you as viciously, ruthlessly, and cruelly as possible. That’s why people say it. That’s the thought process: what will hurt and dehumanize this person I am angry at most, what will most effectively make them lesser than I am?

            So it’s not the word itself so much as the intent, the desire to diminish that it comes with. It’s an attempt to keep you in your place, your place being – naturally – below the person saying it.

          • Yeah, it turned into an either/or when it definitely is a “both are super problematic.”

            I think it was more the throw-away nature of the few sentences in the article that address cunt. Like, I feel you could’ve made the argument you made about comedy and apologizing without offhand mentioning that cunt doesn’t seem that bad. Pointing out that you think (thought?) cunt isn’t so bad just kind of threw a focus onto it.

            In summation, thank you for writing a very long reply. I know you are not a misogynist, I just wanted to point out something that bothered me in the context of the last few weeks discussions.

          • “i have always found ‘bad words’ to be a distracting semantical straw man that diverts attention away from the much more serious issues of genuine oppression.”

            truth to speak, this is what the majority of banality comes down to on the internet nowadays.

            it’s interesting that this has gotten so much press attention after the oscars. (obviously it’s an awful thing and obviously people should not call nine year old children cunts unless they are nine year old children who do not know any better.) why did quvenzhané wallis receive so much negative attention in the media prior to this? that should be the actual question. there were articles claiming that she didn’t deserve the nomination because she wasn’t really acting, articles condemning her because of her name, articles condemning her because she chose to wear a dog purse at the various events she had to attend, etc… she was then sexualized in front of her mother by the host of the event and then disparaged on the internet for flexing when they called her name as a nominee. what the fuck. she is a child. this experience should have been positive in all aspects and instead it was marred by negativity and racism from all around. and most of the racism was condoned as “jokes.”

            these are all symptoms of a much greater problem (obviously). the fact that so many white people won awards last night at a ceremony in which the winners are decided by ninety percent white people is just something that is indicative of the problems in american society. certain people do not have power and will continue not to have power because the system is stacked against certain people. and rather than acknowledge that, the american public would rather listen to racist, misogynist, classist jokes that are stupid dumb.

          • Ugh, entirely agreed, ashleigh. It’s honestly revolting.

          • also, let’s not forget that they completely whitewashed argo so that it was a white man saved the day yet again. it’s like no matter how much light we shine on these systemic racist issues people will continue to not give a shit.

          • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I rank Affleck’s directorial efforts by how little he is in front of the camera, which is why I like the film with him squarely behind the camera the most, then Argo then The Town.

            And if he had cast Michael Peña as Mendez and then stayed behind the camera, they MOIGHT have nominated him for Best Director. WHO KNOWS? Not me

          • Not the root, but they are instrumental in reinforcing the mindset!

  8. I completely misread that tweet. I thought they called her a “Coat.”

  9. Like, I see what they were trying to do, in that it’s supposed to be inherently absurd that we would call an adorable, sweet 9 year old girl a “cunt” but at the same time I saw people on Jezebel (ugh) complaining about this 9 year old’s “lack of humility” and it rubbed me the wrong way, and now I can envision a scenario where reporters want this 9 year old girl’s “reaction” to being called a word that she shouldn’t have to hear for a good long while. The joke was a flop, and reactions to it on both sides are exhausting.

    • Hahahaha. That’s what you get for reading Jezebel.

    • I honestly think if it had been in an article on the Onion maybe it wouldn’t have had such a huge reaction. It can be really hard to be satirical in a 140 character message with no context. And I know the onion is itself a satirical entity, but this just didn’t work at all. It’s kind of just a terrible, unfunny joke even when you get the “edginess.”

    • Yes, that’s what the joke was, and I thought it was fucking fantastic. It’s a satire of snarky celebrity gossip culture. It has nothing to do with Hushpuppy. It’s an exaggeration of how awful that garbage really is, and while I fully understand why it rubbed some people the wrong way, it was a really solid point.

      In twenty years, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw actual, sincere, for-real no-joke comments that are that mean-spirited from actual, sincere, for-real no-joke celebrity horseshit “news” outlets.

      Also, since I reacted to this just now, I apologize for being exhausting. 4realz <3

  10. yes, it’s an inevitable risk of being in comedy that sometimes you cross a line. and it’s totally ok and forgivable and forgettable as long as you apologize – just like normal people resolve conflict between themselves.

    BUT! if you’re going to make an offensive joke, please make sure to include the joke part!
    daniel tosh casually referring to the possibility of a woman being gang-raped is NOT a joke. the fact that he said it is bad, the fact that anyone misinterpreted it as a joke is EVEN WORSE. same with this cunt thing. when louis ck calls his daughters cunts, it’s funny b/c it’s part of a joke.

  11. I can’t wait for Shia LaBoeuf to use the Onion’s apology part and parcel for when he needs to apologize to the producers of Holes: More Holes for dropping out of the project.

  12. Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for finding the word cunt to be offensive, sexist, reductive, and demeaning. I just can’t find it funny, earthy, edgy or “just a word.” Sorry I’m a killjoy, comedians!

    • try spending some time in the uk, they use it interchangeably w all other nouns.

      • But it’s not said with the same kind of vitriol that it is here.

        • maybe you’re right? it’s very hard for me to say b/c in my experience, it’s the “tone”*, not the word itself. like, in the two cases i’ve been called a “kike” it has seemed less vitriolic than the handful of times i was called a “jew” in a hateful snarl.

          *i have fully become my mother

      • I just finished re-watching Misfits, and holy cow, yeah I have that thing where the word is starting to sound funny beacuse you’ve heard it too many times in a row. That being said, location, location, location. One’s man’s sparsely used, and thus still contextually powerful word is another man’s watered down casual dress.

      • Exposure therapy via overseas travel, great plan!

      • I know no one’s going to see this comment, because I always view these discussions late. However, the “joke” happened in the context of the USA, not in the UK, which makes all the difference. Hence, in the American context: ‘cunt’ is the most degrading, violent, and hateful word to say to a woman.

        A few years ago, I was dating a dude who ended up being the most abusive and dishonest dude I ever dated. I remember that he’d call me a ‘cunt’ when intending to hurt me the most – and it most certainly did hurt like hell that someone who was supposed to love and respect me repeatedly did otherwise by the cheap use of this word during our arguments – which were usually about his lies. It was like calling me ‘cunt’ was not only the most sexist insult, but a convenient and manipulative distraction from his lie(s) I would be trying to approach him about – of which for he could never be wrong, nor ever apologize. Sorry for sharing this anecdote.

        Gabe mentioned that someone who never apologizes is a sociopath. I respect that The Onion apologized, and did so in a timely manner.

    • high fives. I’ll be a killjoy right there with you. I think it’s just the fact that most of the time the word is used in negative, aggressive, awful ways and so that’s all I can associate it with.

  13. This is all true, but I do think in this instance Carr wasn’t complaining that the Onion was apologizing for the joke. I think the issue was more that the joke was very in keeping with the general satiric tone of everything The Onion says and does, but this one upset people, so now the higher-ups at the Onion are trying to distance themselves from the person who wrote it. (Saying it’s not in line with what they usually do and saying that the individuals responsible will be punished.) I’m guessing Carr’s point is that if the Onion is going to be apologetic it should be an actual “WE apologize for OUR mistake” and not “WE apologize for THAT GUY’S mistake.” I know the CEO said the tweet was inconsisent with their nornal satire standards or whatever, but in all honesty it wasn’t. It’s The Onion! I love it, but they put out semi-offensive to offensive stuff all the time.
    So this one’s tough, because I think what Carr wants is either for them to not apologize at all, or apologize for everything and anything they have ever done as a group. Which is impossible.
    COMEDY! Everyone loses!

  14. I just can’t wait for Family Guy to make fun of the Onion’s apology! LOL!!!!

  15. Yeah, The Onion handled it pretty well. Maybe they could have left out the “we disciplined the person who wrote that tweet” part because it makes you assume the worst, but it seems like the clear reaction whenever this happens is for the offending comedian(ne) to go “Yeah I got carried away in the moment and crossed a line. Sorry about that, I’ll try not to do it again,” and everyone would go home happy. Don’t go on some high-minded rant about the nature of comedy and censorship and whatever. Just say you made a mistake and move on with your life.

    • It’s entirely possible that they said that and literally nothing happened. It’s just a way to stop getting flamed. Hell, the CEO could have written it. Honestly, considering the amount of traffic and buzz this is generating, it’s possible the guy got a bonus.

      • Yeah, I’m guessing the writer probably got a slap on the wrist at worst, but the phrasing in the letter does kind of make it sound like they had him/her taken out back and shot.

  16. Here’s a thought. The Onion fucked up — but now so’s everyone who is spending even one tweet to say so. I mean unless I’m mistaken: the offense here is that she’s a 9-year-old girl who’s having a big, happy day and The Onion risked marring that. That’s what bugs me, anyway: the picture of her Googling her name tonight all excited, bouncing in her chair about the idea that people all over the world liked her movie and are writing about her. Now the top 10 results mention what?

    David Carr and everyone on Jezebel and everyone else and probably our whole language-policing culture in this case, you are self-defeating. You can’t even win without so much grief. Jesus. Twitter protested immediately, The Onion deleted it immediately, end of story… UNLESS YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT WHICH WILL MAKE SURE IT STAYS IN THE TOP GOOGLE RESULTS IN FRONT OF THAT GIRL’S EYES. Great, now she’ll grow up knowing the main thing that happened outside the Dolby Theater that night as far as her name was concerned was people arguing about the C-word. Ugh. Shut up, anti-cunters. I know you want to vent/make a point but in this case your actual point is that people should shut up about a little girl and you won so please model that behavior/too late/ugh.

    • Words actually do have power, jackass. That’s why some are okay and some are not.

      • Is jackass one of the ones you think is okay? I never said words had no power, so I’m not sure this reply is even intended for me.

        • No, it’s to you. Word police and PC exists for a reason. You bring up a valid point, but my guess is that her parents censor stuff. Speaking out against something offensive is literally the only thing you can do to stop it from happening again.

          • Also this all stems from the EXACT SAME PATRIARCHAL BULLSHIT that allowed Jim Sensenbrenner to comment on Michelle Obama’s ass in December of 2011. Exactly the same shit.

          • My whole point was that words have power and therefore let’s play this one closer to the vest, because she’s a child. The good guys/gals won, and fast. Whew. Way to go team. Maybe her parents do censor; not 100% and not forever. Who wants to turn 16 and escape censorship only to find out when they were 9 they were associated with this? Let it get buried. That’s the classy move here. Let’s be classy.

            (Fight Sensennbrenner all day — dude’s like school in summertime (no class) and taking him down is a fair use of our limited time on the Earth. But it doesn’t benefit and may even hurt a 9-yr-old to get dragged into that fight.)

          • Honestly, if she finds a thread that leads to why this word is so hurtful and puts it in context that’s not the worst thing that could happen. Kids learn and are called terrible things all the time. Teaching them why it’s bad the second they can understand it makes them responsible people.

          • It is a complicated issue to teach a girl about the C-word who should be playing with stuffed animals or whatever. I’d rather help her parents with the censorship you earlier suggested might be a good thing. But it’s their problem now, they’ll figure it out. No doubt.

            I’ll just treasure the name-calling you resorted to in our discussion of how name-calling is bad, and how my low-key reaction to that got a downvote. Fun. Socialjusticegum.

          • IMO this isn’t about namecalling so much as it is specific words and the loaded, hurtful, damaging content behind them. Jackass is not the same as ‘cunt’. At all. In any, way, shape, and form. And while I would have been grossed out by the Onion calling her a jackass, this is a different level with different meanings. I want to point out all the women in this thread talking about why ‘cunt’ is so damaging, at least in the USA, as evidence.

          • So. My attempt to end my contribution to this discussion on a fairly lighthearted or at least wry note did not work.

          • I did it to make a point. Also have you spent time with 9-year-olds? Smart ones? They don’t really play with stuffed animals.

          • Here’s the thing: little girls are already sexualized, whether you choose to believe it or not — by adults, by children, by TV, by a million things. Childhood innocence is a manufactured product used to sell faux nostalgia. It’s a gross fact and totally awful but it is a reality. And it only gets worse as they get older. When garbage like this happens (and it does ALL THE TIME to young females of all sorts of races and levels of fame) and a backlash occurs because a famous child has being given this treatment in a very public environment, that’s actually a very good thing. She’s going to deal with it her whole life. I know this because every woman I know has had to deal with it her whole damn life. The idea of protecting your daughters from harm is meant to be good, but is often very condescending and reductive in a more subtle way. Shielding her from this is not the way to address it. It’s not a Hollywood thing. It’s not a fame thing. If any little girl finds this thread and learns from it and gets a better understanding of why she deserves to be angry… that’s actually great. 9-year-olds don’t have a Norman Rockwell bubble life. Ironically the movie she was nominated for addressed this quite succinctly.

            What happened and why I disagree with your initial post entirely is that this really is a great opportunity to speak to the girl or fans of the girl about how to handle future gross things either head-on or through deflection or even self-defense. It’s also a good way to help any girl gain self-esteem from overcoming a creepy situation herself so if something worse than name calling happens, she knows that she is valued and more than an object.

            Literally ALL OF THIS — The Onion, the sexism of McFarlane’s jokes, Michelle Obama, Daniel Tosh, my personal assault in December, a million other things… are 100 percent related. And I am so tired of repeating this over and over and over.

          • Really, really, well-said, badideajeans.

          • And to add to what badideajeans said, calling out this kind of shitty behavior for what it is isn’t entirely for Quvenzhane Wallis – it’s for any other girl out there who witnesses or is subject to this sort of thing. It’s letting them know that it’s wrong, that they are not wrong if they feel lousy about it, they don’t have to just keep their mouths closed and put up with it. It’s for all the people who see no one say a word and think, “well, I guess it’s okay to say that sort of thing, then.” Ignoring something like this is a way of fostering an environment that allows it to happen. It’s a way of silencing the people it happens to, because they think if no one says anything it must not be so bad and they shouldn’t be upset. It’s a way of controlling the discourse by putting the burden of people to react in “polite” ways to impolite behavior.

            Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, complete and utter horseshit.

  17. I was intrigued by the Joel Stein argument so I clicked the link. Which lead me to this gem:

    @peacebang @thejoelstein @TheOnion When did a little white girl get called a cunt and adults scrambled to defend it?

    Guys, I think we’re all missing the REAL controversy here!!

  18. I wonder just what is so threatening about this girl that caused the Onion and MacFarlane to make such obviously tasteless jokes about her. I can’t imagine anyone would think, “oh haha, here’s an idea, this is great!” I can’t help but feel like both parties felt that, since they knew at a human-decency level that making gross sexual jokes about a 9 year old girl was wrong, they were somehow being repressed themselves, which is so messed up that I can’t even deal with it. Something like: “Who are you to tell me that making sexual jokes about her is wrong??!?! You can’t tell me what to do!!!”

    Anyway, what’s so wrong with growing up, even in comedy?

  19. Not to pull a @HelloPoodle on everyone, but wasn’t there some internet trend not all that long ago of people ripping Suri Cruise? I don’t think there was much backlash to that…

    I agree that The Onion was way out of line, but then so aren’t the Suri Cruise rippers/jokesters? We can agree that it’s a lot easier to be angry when the affected child is the cutest thing ever, right?

  20. The original joke was, no, no-one thinks she’s a c-word. Wasn’t it? The joke was that the tweeter was an asshole. The ‘problem’ with these twit-storms (everyone in Damascus will tell you) is that you end up having to defend stuff you don’t really give a shit about, and I would never have seen this joke if it hadn’t outraged all the not-easily-upset denizens of twitter. The joke was kind of weak, like almost everything (on twitter). But this is the first time I’ve seen The Onion apologize for something, and I’m pretty sure they’ve said worse.

    • Yep, not feeling this backlash. A 9-year old up for an Oscar is so imminently impossible to hate that someone calling her a horrible swear word and expecting to be voicing the opinion of the quiet majority is a fairly decent idea for a humorous throw-away tweet.

  21. I really kind of hate posts like these because of how they compromise my positive opinions of people because of what they’re commenting with.

    • Having different opinions is part of what makes people interesting. (And infuriating — but after the initial fury I try to focus on the interesting; and then, generally I find that what I disagree with is just 25% of what someone has said, even in extreme cases. And if I’m on the same page as someone else for 75% of stuff, heck, that’s pretty easy to live with, as long as the discussion stays respectful, which it does around here.)

      • That’s all well and good, but when people show repeated disregard for the well-being and personhood and experiences of others (primarily others who get a whole lot of shit heaped on them already by society at large), that’s not so easy to bygones away as those different opinions that spice life up.

        • Fair enough, but seems to me everyone here shows up hoping for a laugh, and when it turns into something serious, monsters take the time to be articulate and reasonable, and to consider what others are saying. There’s not 100% agreement, but everyone here is pretty far from repeatedly disregarding other peoples’ well-being or personhood. I AM TRYING TO TALK YOU DOWN FROM THE LEDGE. IT IS NOT SO BAD. WE HAVE BLANKETS AND HOT COCOA.

          • To YOU it seems like everyone here is pretty far from repeatedly disregarding other peoples’ well-being or personhood. Because frankly, no one’s doing it to you. It is honestly exhausting to explain for literally the five-hundredth time why something upsets you, how yes, this is sexist, or yes, that is racist, no I am not being too sensitive, yes I have a sense of humor but no that was not funny. And then you get the devil’s advocates, the “rational” people who want to have a “reasoned exchange of ideas” from their place of privilege, the “no, he was really criticizing Chris Brown!” people, the people who only have to click the little red X on their browser window to exit the discussion and never need to think about it again because it doesn’t HAPPEN to them, the people who insist that you have to prove to them your own lived experiences.

            Yes, we all show up here hoping for a laugh. So when comments in a post like this turn into the same shit people of marginalized groups have to deal with every single day, it’s even more disheartening than if it happens in youtube comments or wherever else. We are tired. Very very tired.

          • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

          • Uh, not really.

          • Look at it this way: if I’m exhausted, that means I’m taking the discussion seriously. I still think about it after I close the window; ugh, how many times do I come back to keep posting? It’s torture! So if I have no regard for your well-being or thoughts, why would I do that? Why keep talking to you — and talking even amidst all the searing, invalidating downvotes I’m getting today for saying stuff like “I’m tired” and “maybe don’t call me names”… Possibly, I am not the thoughtless person you categorize I am.

            That’s all, I guess it helps or it doesn’t. I had a longer version of this post but I’ll rest my case here.

          • Except you don’t address any of the things people are bringing up – the real life damages they suffer, the fucked up shit they put up with all because of their gender, or race, or identity. Instead your response is about you and how you feel and how you should be treated or thought of. That’s not really helping your “I’m not thoughtless” case. I mean, why do I have to look at it YOUR way? Why does the conversation have to happen on your terms? The answer is: it doesn’t. That’s what those downvotes are telling you. And they really aren’t a hardship, so maybe you should not make a mockery of the things people have said in this post by acting like they are.

            I don’t think you’re an evil jerk, but you really need to take a second and actually absorb what people are telling you instead of asking for cookies for not name-calling. If someone calls you a jackass for what you’re saying in this post, it’s because what you said HURT her, in a way that reinforces all the hurtful shit the world already dishes out to her. That’s shitty of you. Stop doing it. And the fact that anyone has to say this to you isn’t really a mark in your favor.

          • Unless I’m totally misreading you — and I don’t see how that’s possible — I think what would definitely defuse this situation… and make us best friends for life… is a genuinely funny cunt joke.

  22. I understand the idea is that it’s a parody of the kind of ruthless tearing-down of celebrities that we do, but it seems like that wasn’t properly set up with the right context? It reads more like a shock value joke, something where the one trick is to purely say something that is naughty and awful, and when it’s at the expense of a 9 year old girl, that’s a pretty shitty joke.

    Even assuming that it’s supposed to be a rad takedown aimed at the TMZ-types, it still seems off-target to use a little girls as collateral damage. Suppose they wanted to make a point about oversexualization of celebrities, what if they had made a joke that was more aggressively hypersexual than anything Seth McFarlane even hinted at, aimed at a 9 year old girl? Would that have been a Cool Edgy Worthwhile Satire Joke?

  23. I don’t even know what people are arguing about any more. :(

  24. I assumed they were using the British definition of the word, meaning “character in a Guy Ritchie film.”

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  26. There’s such a huge divide between Britain and the US when it comes to the word ‘cunt’.

    I can’t really comment whether its usage denotes deep seated societal misogyny in the US. From the reactions here I can see that for Americans the word is still deeply intwined with demeaning women by reducing them to their genitalia. It also seems to be a word which is directed at women in order to demean them.

    “Cock” and “cunt” are probably the two most regularly used swear-words here in Britain. Both are used as insults but neither have retained their sexualised meaning within the framework of the insult. ‘Cock’ and ‘Cunt’, gendered bodily connotations aside, are not gendered in their usage, men are frequently referred to as cunts and women as cocks. Both are insulting. “Cock” does not invoke some kind of talismanic phallic power any more than referring to someone as “cunt” invokes a reduction-to-sexual-function or ‘demeaning’ demasculinisation.

    They’re both just insults. Which we use a lot. A LOT.

    • Yeah where I am those 2 words are never spoken, except to really, truly insult someone on a base level.

      • Oh I’ve learned about your ways. It’s John Hannah’s every other line in Spartacus, which is pretty much the only time the word cock sounds hilarious. “Jupiter’s cock!”

  27. To be honest, I thought the whole joke was that the kid was an image of innocence and so obviously not a cunt, and the actual “punchline” was the bitter character of the writer. I actually thought it was funny. It reminds me of this scene in Cabin in the Woods. The whole joke is that the kids are being a ridiculous caricature of both modern and classic portrayals of purity, and it gets to the point where it causes someone to flip their shit.

  28. The best take on this situation I’ve seen is Bob Chipman’s over at the Escapist:

  29. Thank you. It is only in North America that the word cunt is a female centric insult, us Australians use the word constantly, “Hows it going cunt?” Is how we address our friends. “What a cunts act” refers to doing a bad thing etc etc I was and still am shocked at how Americans/ Canadians have turned this word into something entirely different. Roseanne Barr even berated me on Twitter because in her opinion the word cunt belongs to men and is used solely to degrade women. No. No. No. That’s a purely north American thing!

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