I missed the Oscars last night, and so I missed the live tweeting, and so I missed The Onion’s tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis (just use google if you don’t know what i’m talking about). I’ve been flooded with questions about what they were thinking and why didn’t I stop it, and “SERIOUSLY BARATUNDE YOU ARE BLACK HOLLA AT YOUR BOYS WTF!!??”
First, I haven’t worked there since May so don’t KNOW anything about this incident from an insider perspective. I’m not a spokesperson. I’m not an advocate or defender. I’m not their official black friend. I’m just writing this as ME though I’m clearly in a position to have some perspective since I tweet hard and used to do so with/at The Onion and do/love comedy and satire and also amazing child actors.
Second, I think I understand the underlying target of the joke: The Onion largely satirizes media and the general public. Everyone fawning over a clearly lovely and innocent little girl presents an opportunity to go the opposite direction with something contrasting and clearly false. It was also a take on tabloid media extremism. (I’m remembering the headline about the media’s struggles in covering Obama’s double homicide) but it was an extremely high risk move and missed that target by WIDE margin. Limited upside. HORRIBLE downside.
It wasn’t necessary and was loaded with horrible language. In the context of what I’ve read about Seth McFarlane’s jokes, I feel especially bad for Wallis and her family who won’t “get” or care what the comedic idea was and only know that some comedy news organization called their little girl a disgusting, sexist name. It just comes across as mean. Intention does matter, and based on my time there, I’m sure the intent was not, “Hey let’s call this little girl a cunt. Ha. Ha.” However, RECEPTION and context matter as well, and this utterly failed in that regard.
I’m glad The Onion removed the tweet (which BTW for that outlet is a massive massive decision).
Also FYI, this is not some new practice of “Baratunde Tries To Explain Place He No Longer Works At,” and due to time constraints and other priorities, I’m unlikely to get into back and forth commentary beyond this post for now. I don’t like explaining jokes. I don’t like overly deconstructing art in general or The Onion in particular, but this was an extraordinary situation, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and try to address the scores of questions people have been asking me.
Also, I believe the children are the future.
The thing about being a little black girl in the world is that even when you are the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, many people will use the occasion not to hold you up for all of the amazing things you obviously are, but to tear you down for the ways you don’t look like them, the ways your name isn’t their kind of right, the ways you don’t remind them of themselves, the ways you are not blonde or blue-eyed, as if those things could possibly matter when set against the otherwordly talent and beauty and brilliance you possess.
The thing about being a little black girl in the world is that you come into it already expected to be less than you almost certainly are, the genius and radiant darkness you possess already set up to be overlooked, dismissed or erased by almost everyone you will ever meet.
The thing about being a little black girl in the world is that even when you are everything, some people will want you to be nothing. They will look at you through the nothing-colored glasses they will put on every time you enter a room. And the bigness of you, the outstandingness, the giftedness, will be invisible to them.
The thing about being a little black girl in the world who is already, at nine years old, confident enough to demand that lazy, disrespectful reporters call you by your name, is that most people will not understand the amount of comfort in one’s own skin it takes to do that, will not be able to grasp the sheer fierceness of it, the boldness, the certainty, the love for yourself, and will not be blown away at seeing you do it, though they should be.
The thing about being a little black girl in the world is that your right to be a child, to be small and innocent and protected, will be ignored and you will be seen as a tiny adult, a tiny black adult, and as such will be susceptible to all the offenses that people two and three and four times your age are expected to endure.
But take heart.
Mia McKenzie, “The Thing About Being A Little Black Girl In The World: For Quvenzhane Wallis,” Black Girl Dangerous 2/25/13
Simply put, I love this post!
With apologies to fans of Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, et al., by far the most pleasant surprise of this week’s Academy Awards nominee announcements was seeing Demián Bichir get nominated for Best Actor–alongside “conventional” choices like George Clooney and Brad Pitt–for his role as an undocumented single father in A Better Life.
As Colorlines noted, Bichir’s nomination was one of several nods for Latinos in this year’s Oscar race: cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, also from Mexico, was nominated for Best Cinematography for Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life; Bérénice Bejo, a native of Argentina, earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her turn in the The Artist; Brazilian Sérgio Mendes was nominated for Best Song for “Real in Rio,” his collaboration with Siedah Garrett, of “Man In The Mirror” fame, from the animated film Rio.
But a look at some relevant figures further illustrates how painfully rare Bichir’s accomplishment is.