I didn’t watch the Oscar’s, because personally, I was busy having a life/dinner/sex/sleep. Who’s got time to wait up all night just for the joy of seeing Jennifer Lawrence finally flip the camera off? But the following morning, I did dig into the post-show news while slamming back my Red Bull breakfast. Mmmm, mmm good! I was really expecting something more exciting, but instead, I awoke to outrage over an “offensive” tweet from The Onion. Turns out America has a BIG problem with this little bitty tweet.
Now just to be clear, you do get the joke, right America? The joke is that the real media is reporting how Quvenzhane Wallis is adorable, sweet, talented, and all around fan-freaking-tastic. I’m on board with that (side note: If you haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild you don’t have a soul), but guess what, that’s not funny. So, The Onion flipped the script – all the way to the c-word – for a quick joke. And sure it wasn’t the best joke, but I give them a “C for effort!” Don’t get me wrong, calling a 9-year-old a c-word is pretty uncool, but there are more serious things I can get upset about (like all the people we kill with drone warfare, constant violence in the middle east, and the fact that The Bachelor sent AshLee home – are you kidding me?).
People lost their shit when they saw this, with reactions like, “How could The Onion say such a thing?” To these people I want to ask, have you ever read The Onion before? This is what they do (not specifically call 9-year-old’s c***s, but push the envelope). And usually they do it well (ie: their ability to nail a funny rape joke), but they consistently push the envelope and being offensive is an on-the-job risk, the same way construction workers get injured and republicans get caught having closeted homosexual affairs. It’s going to happen.
Another person insisted, “Why doesn’t this person come forward and stop hiding behind the company?” As someone who knows many past and some current Onion employees, these people are working like crazy. The are pushed to produce more and more content all day long. The pay is okay, but the hours are brutal. They use interns, young kids out of college, and a couple family men who hardly get to go home to see their families enough because they labor endlessly over jokes that we read for free on the internet. And they don’t get “by lines.” No matter how hard they work, how great they do, all the content the produce doesn’t have their name on it. All the credit goes to The Onion. So, it would be pretty hypocritical if when they do mess up, they have to come forward and take the lashings, but whenever they do a great job, they get to sit in their cubicle and eat their mushy tuna sandwich like any other day.
What amazed me most was the fact that much of the criticism didn’t come from the rare idiots who tune into Colbert Report and think it is a serious news show (yes, such people exist). The criticism came from the same comedians who have defended people like Daniel Tosh (who caused controversy when he suggested it would be funny if a woman in the audience was raped – yikes!), cause hey, he’s working stuff out. It’s true, we can’t attack a stand-up every time he/she makes a mistake, because we know their working it out to get to the good stuff (God knows I’ve said terrible disgusting things!) Not everything will be polished and perfect, and many things will offend, but no matter what they are working toward comedy and we stand by them for that. And in the same way we can’t doubt The Onion over every little tweet, because we know that it is worth it for them to even occasionally come out with amazing headlines and stories that provide real comedy, deep laughs, much needed relief, even healing. For example, the headline after the Newtown School Shooting, that read ” Fuck Everything, Nation Reports. Just Fuck It All To Hell” or the memorable, impactful issue released after 9-11, some of my favorite Onion work. When it comes down to it, it was a shitty joke, but I’ll stand by The Onion, a hundred times more than I’ll stand by Daniel-look-at-this-You-Tube-clip-Tosh. Fo realz.
But here’s the thing, no matter what people say, The Onion comes out of this on top. What did the offensive joke do? People went crazy! People debated the joke! People talked about The Onion! I’d like to see the spike in page views on their website, the uptick in Google trends, the increase in ad revenue. For a newspaper that tells no real news, anytime you can get real headlines is a WIN… that is until the CEO of The Onion went and apologized for the tweet on the front page of the website. What a c***!