Among satire site The Onion's Oscars-related tweets last night was one that seems to have missed its target. Somewhat ironically, the intended target inferred a different intent of the joke, resulting in a frenzy of online outrage.
I think it's reasonable to find a tweet about a nine year old being considered a cunt unnecessarily offensive. Most people would agree that it was, minimally, crude and in poor taste.
Still, based on people's reactions, I'm getting the impression that a majority of those vilifying The Onion don't understand the joke or even understand that it was a joke.
More to the point, The Onion was not calling a nine year old (or anyone) a cunt.
Personally, I think it was a meh joke made with a poor choice of words and poorer choice of “target” (using quotes because the actual target(s) were those not mentioned in the tweet).
The Onion's target is not Quvenzhané Wallis. We are the intended target. The target is those responsible all the catty tweets and snarky comments aimed towards actresses.
If The Onion had used a less-loaded word than “cunt” and/or had named a celebrity who is not a child who happens to also be a person of color, or a celebrity with household name recognition who is known for their unfailing geniality, it probably would have gone relatively unnoticed.
The way I read it, the intent was something akin to saying: “Betty White is a slutty bitch”.
Since we all know Betty White is The Best and a national treasure, and not at all a slutty bitch, it would be obvious that was meant as a joke.
Since Quvenzhané Wallis is not only a nine year old, but also a newcomer to the whole Hollywood/celebrity universe, there's not as strong a frame of reference to realize exactly how ludicrous the description is, making it a somewhat less obvious joke.
Then again, I also love Seth MacFarlane's humor and think anyone taking it seriously just validates the point of his jokes. I'm not looking at the tweet through the same lens as those who considered his George Clooney joke to be “sexualizing” a nine year old. (I also thought his Lincoln joke was pretty funny.)
I don't consider myself a feminist (the only statement my hairy legs and armpits are making is that I keep forgetting to buy new razor blades). Even so, in the context of all the complaints about last night's rampant overt misogyny, The Onion's statement strikes me as a satirical message that actually leans towards a feminist point of view.
MaryAnn Johanson, whose self-described hairy legs (not sure about her armpits) do reflect her feminist point of view, has written a blog post that articulates what I'm getting out much better than I could (or at least better than I would, because my focus is waning and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to wrap this up) so I'm going to point you towards her article for more explanation: a feminist film critic defends the Onion’s Quvenzhané Wallis tweet
You can also read a former The Onion writer's take on the tweet here: Comedian (And Former 'The Onion' Writer) Baratunde Thurston Responds to Wallis Insult Controversy
[update] Another post that does a better job of explaining what I'm getting at here: Why The Onion’s C-Word Tweet Was Well-Intentioned — But Wrong (wired.com)
As (almost) always, I'd love to hear your thoughts – so please share in the comments below!