An Open Letter to The Onion, Regarding Their C-Word Tweet About 9-Year-Old Quvenzhane Wallis

Warning: contains strong language.
Publish date:
February 25, 2013
sexism, racism, outrage, the onion

Dear @TheOnion:

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. Check my YouTube channel and get back to me on rough humor and hypersensitivity. Peruse my own time in the tabloids and rethink explaining having to take some jabs being "in the public eye." I wish you would tell me to calm down.

I love comedy and I practice satire daily and I need you to hear why that stupid fucking "joke" you tweeted about Quvenzhané Wallis last night has me and many in my community furious. Not a little pissed, not miffed, mind you, but coming for blood.

As one who chooses my battles, allow me to inform you that we are circulating your direct contact info and that of your advertisers. I know better than to whine in the wind and call that an attack. This is but a Dear John letter in case you're wondering why I'm leaving you.

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 fucked in the eye socket by a syphilitic dick. But, as in the case of comedian Lisa Lampanelli's tweet last week, I like to go to the source, and in this case, I don't know who the fuck you are. Some nameless, faceless tool put some words together, I'm guessing that at least one other person had to lay eyes on it in approval (?), and with one keystroke Oscar night was shat upon.

And about that Oscar night: it was already hanging by a bloody fingertip over the precipice of tastelessness, but I'll not hold you responsible for the sins of others, only your own egregious one.

Twitter happens in real time, yes? You and your team of Hallowed Satirists must have been too busy fine-tuning the Craft to notice that young Miss Wallis had already had to sit through vulgar "comedy" about the possibility of George Clooney screwing her soon. And yes, I know that if you break it down, that is a joke about George Clooney that mentioned her, as opposed to one where she is the only punchline and do you know how I know this? Because I know humor and I get satire. I am certainly not the arbiter of Funny, but I have been fortunate to work with and know personally some of the greats in the game and I often get personal texts and e-mails from them asking my opinion on whether something goes "too far". Do you know why? Because it turns out there actually are limits.

I defended Daniel Tosh, for pity's sake! Of course I say "yes" to free speech. It is what allows me to presently point out that I am so disgusted. I'm fine with coarse language and I am an adult so call me a cunt all day. Go for it. But also be prepared for the spectrum of possible responses. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence.

I wish Quvenzhané Wallis' family did not have to have been even remotely concerned with metaphorically covering that child's eyes and ears during her trip to the Academy Awards as a motherfucking nominee. Your "public figure" argument? She's 9 years old. Her own Twitter bio says "Since she is 9, account is run by her parents." Does that not speak to the inappropriateness of tweeting such a "joke" about her with her name when she herself can't even respond?

That's your cue to tell me how little it matters because, due to the very youth that I keep pointing out, the jokes probably go right over her head anyway. Because that opens the door for me to say that I bet I could string some words together in the service of my humor that might not be fully comprehended by someone with cognitive disabilities and still make fun of them and then you'd feel like a soggy, flaccid dick, because you are.

And anyone saying it "could've" happened to Dakota Fanning or any other child star, well isn't that adorable and convenient! Martin Luther King, Jr. "could've" survived being shot. Also, there "could've" been more people of color and females represented at the Oscars to begin with. Perhaps then this wouldn't have seemed like such a targeted sniper shot.

Hey, I know a hilarious game about "could've"! What if the tweet stayed the same but was about Suri Cruise? Her father has sued entire publishing firms for what I would call Ordinary Libel Against a Public Figure, how many ways do you think he and his team would have shut down your entire operation by now? You "could've" been licking toilets clean at Suri's daycare center this morning! Isn't it fun to hypothesize about what "could've" happened if a different power hierarchy were in place?

Oh, hey pal, did you just try and stifle that eyeroll when I mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? It's OK, unlike Quvenzhané, I'm a big girl and I can clock your bullshit and give it right back. Because now we're really getting to the nitty-gritty.

Quvenzhané is a child, yes, but still a female of color. You can see that my big black ass is one too. I'm a minority, but I'm also a firm believer that life may not be fair, but we must simply roll up our sleeves and do the work required to progress. Perhaps consider that I, as a black woman, watched this precious little girl get invited to the Big Show with just a bit more pride and hope. So before you say that I, or any other black woman, is unjustifiably "angry" or eye-rollingly "outraged again," think about the root of positivity that you so gracelessly took a runny shit in the mouth of.

For such is the sad state of affairs that my energies as a black woman and an actress and a goddamned human being are spent responding not only to your bullshit, but in having to choose the top two or three offenses to address and which to let go. So my choices, when denigrated, are to speak out in outrage and prepare to be laughed off or to remain silent and grit my teeth.

I've gritted my teeth for too long and they are now fangs. How about we ask ourselves why there are not protest lines outside of "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" every day? Why hasn't Louis CK been crucified yet over his use of the word "nigger" or over calling his own child an "asshole" for a solid ten minutes?

Because CONTEXT matters, you dumb motherfuckers. Louis CK says those things in his act, on stage, in a brilliantly written piece of legendary comedy. "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are written and executed by the highest level of skilled professionals. In fact, one of the most impressive statements on your mishigas was tweeted by "The Daily Show" Co-Creator Lizz Winstead: "9-year olds are always so into irony. #AndAlwaysAppreciateIt #Edgy #Fail @TheOnion". That's how you do it. Louis CK does not call his daughter an asshole when he puts her to bed or when calling her down to breakfast.

This little girl, in real life, was at the Oscars as a nominee for best actress! For fuck's sake, salute! And even though I said I wouldn't hold you responsible for the host's jokes, lemme mention one anyway 'cause, you know, life's not fair and sometimes people say stuff that pisses on your rights just because they can: About that joke about George Clooney banging younger chicks or whatever that mentioned Quvenzhané... anyone who doesn't get what sexualization of children is, listen up: To mention such a thing, "even in jest," we have to acknowledge that she has a vagina that can be used for sex. There. Now you're thinking about a tiny child's vagina. Hilarious, right?

She had to endure and enact enough of that imagery to make the film for which she was nominated in the first place, and that was in service of a story. What was your tweet in service of? Just "doing your job"? Fine. You did it really poorly. It's like you, a stranger in a mask, kicked open the door at her birthday party and picked up her cake and smashed it in her face because you thought it was a fun prank. Even if your job is Head Prankster, do you practice no cost-benefit analysis? You saw such value in your mediocrity that you said "Fuck yo' feelings, fuck yo' special event, look at me and how funny I am!"

But you weren't. And yes, to continue with the birthday party example, her face can be washed and another cake can be ordered and with enough effort the celebration could continue, as hers did last night. As Anonymous Prankster, you get to run off into the night and giggle with the one other person who finds that low humor humorous while the partygoers would have to repair their good time. Which is totally possible! Yay! Personally, I've developed a fantastic array of divine lemonade recipes from all the lemons lobbed at my head over the years.

But why do we have to crawl uphill in a shitstorm to enjoy what is rightfully ours?

The eventual outpouring of affection aimed at Quvenzhané after your fuckery would have been welcome to begin with, as congratulations and not the frantic consolation and attempts to shield her that followed. I'm certain that many involved with the Oscars stepped onto that red carpet with emotional armor and media attack shields in place. Methinks her little body is too small for all that extra stuff just yet. I looked at this girl and saw a her darling smile and her enthusiasm and her fluffy dress and her spiral curls, because that's how the fuck little kids roll.

The fact that you saw fair game for your brand of humor is reprehensible and diminishes the brand.

Of course comedy is subjective. But c'mon. Do you think black women meet up to have mandatory funny-bone-removal surgery, put cocoa butter on our elbows so the the scar doesn't get ashy, and arbitrarily choose which media outlets to attack for imaginary slights? I wish I could point to the legions of successful black women in comedy to reassure myself that we'll be OK and that we are taken seriously.

Alas, I cannot. Instead we are dismissed or tolerated and placated with minimizing words like "outrage".

And then it took what, an hour for the tweet to come down, and with no apology? You cannot simultaneously claim being a large Institution of Comedy and Satire and behave in a way that suggests a 14-year old runs it from a youth hostel in Amsterdam with shitty wi-fi. If that crap tweet had somehow still happened but had been removed IMMEDIATELY and followed by a basic "We fucked up and we're sorry. #OurBad" type of tweet, that wouldn't have been peachy but it would have been preferable to your conduct.

And please delete any forthcoming lampshading efforts at an apology like an Onion article called "Area Woman Outraged to Learn That the Word 'Cunt' Exists". See how unfunny that was? That's you right now. Off to the drafts folder with that mess.

Speaking of conduct, a word on my choice of words: if you or anyone else thinks my use of profanity here deflates my argument, please know I am perfectly capable of verbally dressing you down utilizing the most elevated language we have at our disposal. But as much as I can keep it classy, you dragged us unto this mud pit of verbal disdain and I can sling some of that too.

Because, unlike you, I've thought about context and I know exactly where the fuck I'm submitting this. And because, unlike Quvenzhané Wallis, I'm a grown-ass woman. People don't shield me from entertainment industry slights and I can speak for myself, however I please. See the difference?

Xoxo,Pia Glenn, proud cunty bitch.