Nine year old Quvenzhané Wallis walked the red carpet of the Oscars on Sunday night dressed in a sparkly blue dress and carrying a stuffed animal purse. She was all little girl, in the best sense of the word. Her youthful smile and complete inability to answer Ryan Seacrest’s “Who are you wearing?” question only enhanced her unyielding strength and wisdom that is far beyond her years.
But Quvenzhané is in Hollywood now.
So this morning, after she eats her Cheerios and takes her dog for a walk, she will, like all Hollywood actors, Google her name to see what Joan Rivers thinks of her.
Sadly Miss Wallis will find her moniker intermingled with words I’m certain no mother would want to define for their nine year old. Thanks to The Onion for putting the George Carlin spin on Quvenzhané Wallis’ name and jumping on the bandwagon of reducing a woman down to a single body part.
Hey, it’s all in good fun, right?
I love good satire and I am a fan of The Onion but there is no question they crossed the line on this one. Even the worst of us try to avoid the c-word and children are automatically off limits for this kind of misogyny. The Onion has deleted the tweet but an apology is nowhere to be found. And really, would an apology be an acceptable substitute for this kind of really bad judgment?
[UPDATE: late Monday morning The Onion FINALLY issued an apology. Read it here.]
I can’t point the finger of blame at The Onion alone. Seth MacFarlane and the producers of the Oscars set the tone right from the beginning. With the singing of “We Saw Your Boobs” we kind of knew what we were in for. Women were target number one before the first advertiser even had a chance to regret paying for a commercial during the big show (at least they didn’t have to pay Super Bowl prices for the airtime).
Why are we surprised? MacFarlane did exactly what he was hired to do: be an (almost) equal opportunity hit man. To expect anything else would have been naïve. MacFarlane has built his entire career on leaving no person, place, ethnicity, faith, or taboo subject untouched. Sometimes he is even funny, but it’s usually that squirm in your chair, I can’t believe he said that, I hate myself for laughing kind of funny. It’s a lazy kind of funny.
At the end the night, as I sat in my puddle of amused guilt, I wondered would the evening had been as bad, would we be as upset, if the show had started with The Penis Song (or this Penis Song…or this Penis Song) instead of a pointed attack on women? Would we be as angry if The Onion had called someone a dick? Is our indignation biased?
Sure it is.
This is why Anne Hathaway will get raked over the coals for the ill placed darts in her dress but Jack Nicholson will get applauded for wearing a mismatched, and clearly tailored for someone else, tuxedo.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Seth MacFarlane filled the night with clichés and passed them off as humor—he did his job. The Onion was stupid—they did their job. We will spend the day ranting about the sexism and rampant Hollywood misogyny—we will do our job.
Quvenzhané Wallis, if there is any hope and if we get out of her way, will also do her job of being a little girl with big dreams who won’t for one minute let herself be reduced to a single word. She’s, ironically, the man.