We are two days into the great Onion Oscar Tweet Controversy.
This is all over something tweeted - not spoken, not published. But it has had the same impact as if it had been spoken, broadcast, published, or circulated by other physical means. The distinctions don’t matter anymore.
In their place, new distinctions: if someone who had no media presence had tweeted the remark, it would have joined the quadrillion other jots of inanity that pepper the never-ending gush from the twitter gullet. I’ve seen worse. But if you are connected to a legitimate media outlet - i.e., something that’s been around a while, has a brand, a reputation, backers, ads, and of course an app - then you are held to a different standard. You’re expected to behave, and in case there was any question about what qualifies as acceptable behavior, using the C word in reference to a nine-year-old girl is not good.
Apparently we needed clarification on that.
The remark wasn’t funny, which doesn’t matter. And it usually doesn’t matter if someone uses the Joke Defense, as if you get shielded from blowback if your intention was simply lulz generation. But it does matter here, because the joke was not about the child, but Oscar snark and backbiting chatter, empty celeb culture, and so on.
Step back for a second. This critic, weighing in to defend the Onion on meta grounds, notes an earlier tweet:
Oscars Fashion Report: Kathryn Bigelow Stuns On Red Carpet Wearing Blood-Soaked Rags Osama Bin Laden Was Killed In
If “Kathryn Bigelow Stuns On Red Carpet Wearing Blood-Soaked Rags Osama Bin Laden Was Killed In” offends you, it’s worth thinking about why that offends you.
It didn’t and it doesn’t and I won’t. But:
Is the concept of even Osama Bin Laden’s blood-soaked rags being paraded about like a trophy offensive... and if it is, what does that say about the actions of the American government after 9/11 and Hollywood’s followup (in making a movie about it)?
Note the shift from parading around the bloody jumpsuit of Bin Laden to “the actions after 9/11,” conveniently missing mention of a certain someone who, I believe, took a few victory laps about bin Laden’s death, and whose campaign incorporated the event into a campaign rally slogan reminding us bin Laden was dead and GM was alive. As for Hollywood making a movie about the matter, I guess that’s bad.
Or are you offended by the idea that you’re supposed to be offended by the idea that the likes of Bin Laden deserves any respect in death?
There are probably people like that and they are horrible bores.
There aren’t any easy responses to this. There aren’t supposed to be.
On the contrary. Laughter.
I freely confess to being stunned by that tweet from the Onion,
A sentence that sums up 2013 perfectly.
partly because it’s provocative in a way that we hardly see in American pop culture. Very few individuals or entities have the nerve to be so challenging to our preconceived notions and to what we accept without even thinking about it.
Well, there’s the Onion, which has been doing this for many years, and seen its particular sensibility go mainstream. And I suspect that if Seth McFarlane had used his MC position to issue a series of jokes about drone strikes, interrupting the First Lady's Jumbotron appearance, this would not have been seen as challenging our preconceived notions.
It would have been disrespectful. And it would have been. But since when is that bad?
Anyway. The author then goes on to defend the tweet as a particularly brutal reminder of what women in Hollywood go through, and as such, it is theoretically defensible as a lesson, but individually regrettable inasmuch as the object was a nine-year-old girl. That’s more or less what I thought, except I have no interest in defending it even in theory, because:
I am so tired of these people’s love of naughty, naughty words. Their delight in using them in all situations about all people in all places at all times.
Another critic took to the internet to denounce the Onion, but took pains to tell us what a free-spirited pro-expression artist she is:
I find it appalling to police comedy. I find it appalling to list one's resumé credits to make a point. But I also find it appalling to hide behind the Great Wall of Satire in half-assed defense of the denigration of a child, so I say all bets are off. Let's get appalling up in this bitch.
As Condoleezza Rice in "You're Welcome, America: A Final Night with George W. Bush," I simulated sex on top of a desk and rubbed my ass on Will Ferrell's leg 8 times a week on a Broadway stage. Don't tell me about satire.
No, I don’t think I will.
Personally, I can't believe I'm here again. Typing out words to appear on this page to dissect humor. I'd rather yank out my own eyeball and get f***ed in the eye socket by a syphilitic d*ck.
This is what I love the most: all of a sudden, there’s a boundary! A useful and important one, at that. You spend your whole life erasing boundaries in the name of Satire, pride yourself on your untrammeled tongue, and shazam it turns out that your work and the work of so many others has coarsened the culture in a way that was just so brave and absolutely delightful riiiight up until the moment when you were appalled.
It may be a kid who’s injured now, but you’ll get used to it.
If not, and you complain, please tell all the people laughing at your old outmoded values how you used to be edgy too. It’ll mean so much. There’s nothing, after all, they’ll respect more than your traditions.