How far is too far when picking on little girls? Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony and the aftermath have presented an interesting dilemma in the case of Quvenzhané Wallis, the 9-year-old dynamo nominated for her performance in 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
In what can only be described as a satire on the Oscars proceedings gone horribly wrong, farcical newspaper The Onion dropped the “c-bomb” in a tweet mid-ceremony:
“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013”
The backlash that followed and led to a hasty deletion was unanimously against the use of such a strong, sexualized slur directed at a young girl for the purpose of a stupid joke. Onion CEO Steve Hannah has since released a statement apologizing for the tweet, saying it was a mistake that didn’t fit with the brand of humor typical of the paper.
Speaking of stupid jokes, Wallis was the belle of the Oscars ball despite being repeatedly insulted by host Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane’s performance, which was off-color at best, included a joke postulating about Wallis’s chances at a sexual relationship with George Clooney.
So the context of The Onion’s tweet was not the best. Rather than looking as though it was a jab at the Oscars host’s poor taste in humor, it came off as an attack on Wallis herself. It doesn’t help that there was this pervasive condescending undertone on the red carpet in regard to Wallis insisting to be called Quvenzhané instead of “Little Q.”
More than one news outlet commented on her “sassy attitude,” treating the incident like the antics of a silly child, rather than a justified reaction by Wallis to be treated like a person and not a convenient headline.
Isn’t it more than a little rude and condescending to not only refuse to use someone’s real name when interviewing her, but to accuse her of being “sassy” for defending herself against this treatment? Well, it is one of the E! Channel’s resident fashionistas, Kelly Osbourne, who committed the offense.
But if you are, say, an Associated Press reporter looking to interview an Oscar-nominated actress, no matter how young – and, in your eyes, inconsequential and not worthy of respect – you need to do your research, learn how to pronounce her name and do not reduce her to a character she will play for your own convenience.
If you don’t believe this is an issue, look at all of the comments supporting those who resort to nicknames. They are overwhelmingly dismissive of black women for giving their children names too ridiculous to pronounce.
Let’s say it together: “kwuh-VEN-zhuh-nay.”
Meanwhile, critiques of The Onion’s role in the night are still rolling in. Fans seem to be split into two camps, condemning either the tweet or the apology. Twitter user @Luvvie said, “If they called Suri Cruise a cunt, best believe that by MORNING, the entire staff of @TheOnionwould be at the unemployment office.”
American journalist Joel Stein (@thejoelstein) weighed in as well: “We got that @TheOnion was making fun of our celeb-obsessed, celeb-jealous, celeb-dissing culture and not Quevenzhane Wallis, [sic] right?” Other fans agree with Stein that the newspaper was merely doing what it always had.
No matter the spirit in which the tweet was made, let us all hope that Wallis will not one day look back on her first Oscar nomination and see this controversy overshadowing her success.
Samantha Bares is a 19-year-old English sophomore from Erath, La.