Comedian, satirist and author (“How To be Black”) Baratunde Thurston has just publicly come out with a statement responding to The Onion’s stupid and offensive tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis during last night’s Oscar boroadcast.
His response was anticipated since Thurston, until last year, worked at The Onion as a writer and as their Director of Digital.
The question is, do you buy what he says, or is he, pardon my French, trying to cover his ass?
Here’s his statement completely unedited:
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.
h/t to Candace Allen