The Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis C-Word Tweet: We’re Not Laughing

Quvenzhané Wallis at Sunday night's Oscar ceremony. (Photo: Getty Images)Criticism of Seth MacFarlane’s performance as Oscar host on Sunday night has overshadowed an especially inappropriate joke about nine-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis.

On Sunday evening during the Academy Awards telecast, satirical newspaper The Onion tweeted, “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c--t, right? #Oscars2013.”

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The offending joke appeared on The Onion’s Twitter feed at 8:42 p.m. and was deleted approximately an hour later. But the damage was done.

Several people, including actors like The Wire’s Wendell Pierce, made public statements indicating that the tweet had gone too far. 

David Leonard of Pullman, Washington took action and posted a petition to demand The Onion’s apology on Change.org. He wrote:  “What should have been a night to celebrate the accomplishments of Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest nominee for a best actress award in the history of the Academy Awards, became yet another reminder of the racism, sexism, and otherwise dehumanizing nature of media culture.”

The petition received 914 supporters.

On Monday, The Onion published a formal apology from their CEO, Steve Hannah. “[The tweet] 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 . . . Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.”

The debate over what's taboo in comedy has been a hot topic for centuries, and social media only makes it easier for offensive jokes to circulate. But to use a nine-year-old as the butt of your joke? Definitely taboo.

Quvenzhané Wallis is just starting out in this cutthroat industry. To whoever wrote that Tweet, we say: pick on someone your own size.

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