The Onion Controversy: Is The C-Word Ever Funny?

An exceptionally rude joke at the expense of a little girl should be bad news for every grown woman.

There used to be an amusing website called The Onion, chock-full of parody and satire about current headlines and pop culture. Used to be.

On the Sunday evening of Oscars 2013, someone at The Onion decided to send out a disgusting tweet about the youngest-ever Best Actress nominee, Quvenzhane Wallis (left), star of Beasts of the Southern Wild. You can read it for yourself here.

The Internet, especially the Twitterverse, quickly exploded in outrage, posting more than a dozen tweets per second.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of its posting, but the action was too late. (Note to self: Nothing dies on the Internet.) People were urged to unfollow @TheOnion on Twitter, send emails, contact media, and demand a public apology. By Monday morning, they got the apology they were seeking. The Onion CEO Steve Hannah issued a statement, saying in part:

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive — not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting. No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”

The controversy didn’t stop there, in part because of reactions by former Onion staffers. In addition to issuing a parody of the apology itself, they declared that  Mr. Hannah’s remarks showed a loss of “editorial freedom” and the first-ever retracted tweet. One ex-Onion writer said, “It wasn’t a great joke, but big deal.”

Again, seriously?

Anyone with a sense of humor understood there was an intention to make fun of an adorable child star and Hollywood’s treatment of its starlets. But, it was a joke gone horribly wrong. Some complainers even wondered if race played a role, noting that The Onion had never issued such an attack against Dakota Fanning, for example.

If you’re wondering why this story appeals to TheNotMom.com, it’s not because 9-year-old Quvenzhane doesn’t have children of her own. It’s because if people think it’s funny to call a little girl a c–-t, is it hilarious to call you one?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! February 28, 2013 at 11:30 PM
“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” ― Jodi Picoult
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! February 28, 2013 at 11:33 PM
'Cunt' is a synonym for 'vagina', though this is only its most familiar meaning. As a noun, 'cunt' has numerous other senses: a woman (viewed as a sexual object), sexual intercourse, a (foolish) person, an infuriating device, an ironically affectionate term of address, the mouth as a sexual organ, the anus as a sexual organ, the buttocks, prostitution, a vein used for drug-injection, a synonym for 'damn', an attractive woman, an object or place, the essence of someone, and a difficult task. It can also be used as an adjective (to describe a foolish person), a verb (meaning both to physically abuse someone and to call a woman a cunt), and an exclamation (to signify frustration). Despite its semantic flexibility, however, 'cunt' remains our highest linguistic taboo: "It has yet, if ever, to return to grace" (Jonathon Green, 2010).
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! February 28, 2013 at 11:35 PM
trend towards repetitive usage of 'cunt' seeks to undermine the taboo through desensitisation. If 'cunt' is repeated ad infinitum, our sense of shock at initially encountering the word is rapidly dispelled. With other swear words (notably 'fuck') gradually losing their potency, 'cunt' is left as the last linguistic taboo, though even the c-word can now be found adorning badges, t-shirts, and book covers. Its normalisation is now only a matter of time.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! February 28, 2013 at 11:36 PM
What 'cunt' has in common with most other contemporary swear words is its connection to bodily functions. Genital, scatological, and sexual terms (such as, respectively, 'cunt', 'shit', and 'fuck') are our most powerful taboos, though this was not always the case. In Totem Und Tabu, Sigmund Freud's classic two-fold definition of 'taboo' encompasses both the sacred and the profane, both religion and defilement: "The meaning of 'taboo', as we see it, diverges in two contrary directions. To us it means, on the one hand, 'sacred', 'consecrated', and on the other 'uncanny', 'dangerous', 'forbidden', 'unclean'" (1912).
Kim L March 01, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Eric I tend to agree, now the world is full of roving bands of "do- gooders" with no sense for bad humor trying to create a happy happy joy joy world


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