Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Oscars night riddled with tasteless and offensive humor

By Elise Martorano

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In the wake of the Oscars, much debate has arisen over the questionable and often downright insulting treatment of some of the stars featured at the ceremony.

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Only a few minutes after the awards show ended, reputed parody news source The Onion made an extremely offensive tweet concerning child actress and academy award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. Obviously playing off the worshipful attention that the nine-year-old nominee deservedly received, the tweet read, “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c**t, right?” The tweet was immediately deleted, but did not go unnoticed or unprotested.

Hundreds of The Onion’s Twitter followers responded angrily and aggressively, urging the removal of the tweet and demanding an apology, which was made the next day by CEO Steve Hannah. He stated that 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,” according to USA Today. The letter went on to apologize directly to Wallis.

While it was surprising that The Onion, whose stance is typically unapologetic, did publicly announce its blunder, many will argue that this is not enough. The tweet, which sexualized and belittled a young girl, was offensive and cruel. If The Onion has to resort to the kind of degrading and unfunny humor present in this “joke,” it seriously needs to rethink its standards for satire. Comedy at the expense of innocent and impressionable children is simply distasteful. Not to mention, Wallis has consistently proved herself to be a confident young woman, unafraid to stand up for herself.

The loss of self-esteem for young girls is a dangerous thing. Wallis is bright, talented, and assertive, and she is at a critical point in her life for the development of her self-esteem. The Onion showed no courtesy toward this. All in the name of satire? We all know what The Onion was trying to capitalize on: Wallis is a smart, sassy, and sweet young lady and everybody knows it. Resorting to the use of the sexist slur (which is offensive and downright hateful when used toward a young girl) was tactless.

The Onion’s apology, while sincere, is not enough. Wallis and the rest of the public deserve to know that the author of the tweet has been fired, and that grave missteps of this sort will never be allowed to happen again.

The tweet followed a night of poorly disguised bigotry. Riddled throughout Seth MacFarlane’s hosting of the Oscars were boorish jokes made at the expense of women and people of color. Everybody expected MacFarlane, the creator of television shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” to be off-color, blunt and crude. The issue with his, as the LA Times called it, “frat-boy humor” was that it simply wasn’t funny.

About presenters Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem, and Penélope Cruz, MacFarlane made a joke that, because they were all so attractive, people did not care that they couldn’t understand what they were saying due to their accents. He also not so subtly pretended to mix up Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington with a “they-all-look-alike-to-me” wink toward the audience, according to the LA Times.

Most prominent throughout the ceremony were MacFarlane’s blatantly misogynistic remarks. This was evident in his “We Saw Your Boobs” opening number. The Oscars are a celebration of talent and a display of the personal sacrifice that actors and actresses make for the sake of art. Exposing women such as Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron and Jamie Lee Curtis by making overtly sexual comments and marginalizing their work as artists, MacFarlane showed his true colors. Later in the night, MacFarlane made a joke about actor Jessica Chastain’s character in “Zero Dark Thirty,” saying that the film was “a celebration of every woman’s innate ability to never let things go,” according to the LA Times. Other misogynistic, senseless, and insensitive comments included quips about women having facial hair, anorexia, Megan McCarthy having a manly appearanc, and Chris Brown’s abuse of Rihanna. A memorable comment concerning Wallis was also made when MacFarlane insinuated that in a few years, the nine-year-old actress will be too “old” to date George Clooney.

MacFarlane and other members of the media, including the unnamed author of the Onion tweet concerning Wallis, give themselves the thoroughly unearned right to be hurtful, misogynistic, racist and insensitive. When the public is offended, these people say, “Hey, it’s just a joke, lighten up,” or “You just don’t get it.” When these “jokes” come at the expense of individuals, entire demographic groups, and people who have suffered at the expense of jokes like these, we have to question those who find these jokes funny and the cost the jokes place on society.

Elise Martorano is a Collegian contributor. She can be reached at [email protected]

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