Simon Williamson

Sad, sad Academy Awards night

2013-02-26 08:31

Simon Williamson

In case you haven't heard, in a moment of what must have been a severe absence of any sort of rationale from its headquarters, The Onion tweeted on Sunday night: "Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right? #Oscars2013".
 
Here is the tweet screengrabbed by Buzzfeed.



In all it was a really good night for women, young and old, kicking off when Academy Awards host MacFarlane opened with a song about whose boobs we had seen in movies, and decided, for some reason, to include Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, Charlize Theron in Monster and Halle Berry in Monster's Ball; all of whom were being raped in the respective films when depicted. Screamingly funny, right?

Backlash

Back to Wallis, however: again, the girl is 9 years old. If you require context, that's seven more years of statutory rape. She is younger than the iPod, and the first two Lord of the Rings movies. And in case you don't realise what a 9-year old girl is into, her handbag at the Academy Awards looked like a puppy-dog wearing a tutu.
 
While the backlash against The Onion was pretty swift, this was largely due to the use of the word "cunt", but forgoes some of the connotations that were thrown out over the course of the night, but bear some sort of context which the joke-makers decided to ignore at the expense of what was allegedly humour.
 
For example, Seth MacFarlane cracked a joke about at what stage Wallis would be dating material for George Clooney (the joke was aimed at Clooney, but Wallis was nonetheless an unwilling participant), which I am sure her mother, who was with her in the audience, delighted in explaining to her. Surprisingly, in that this still needs to be explained, this sexualisation of a 9-year old girl, which is what the George Clooney joke was whether you found it funny or not, is a very realistic part of life for many 9-year-old girls here in the USA (and in the rest of the world). Fifteen percent of all rape victims in the US are under the age of 12. In 2011, the last year for which we have full statistics, over 83 000 rapes were reported: you do the maths. Fine, I will do it for you: that's around 12 500 raped children. Hahahaha that George Clooney joke is really hilarious now, isn't it? #LMFAO
 
As if MacFarlane was trying to exceed that crack, he (through voicing the character Ted, from the film Ted) and Mark Walhberg then went on to crack a joke about the post-Oscar orgy at Jack Nicholson's house. Hilarious, right? Just like it was for the girl Roman Polanski famously raped at Jack Nicholson's house.
 
After this barrel of laughs it was only fitting that The Onion got to call a little girl a cunt - thematically it fitted seamlessly into the evening. And if this was a learning experience for Wallis, well it's just to prepare her for the world she's going to grow up in, populated with rapey jokes and people who find them funny.

I have already been told I am just trying to be politically correct, have no sense of humour and the usual piffle when someone says something rancid and tries to excuse it by laughing afterwards. In fact I'm just like Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, who MacFarlane told us was just proof that women can't let anything go.
 
Rape jokes should be over

And none of us should, because stuff like this is very real. The time for misogynist and rape jokes was never, but should now really be completely over. MacFarlane wasn't speaking off the cuff either: it was a scripted, pre-planned event. The stuff he said was rehearsed and approved: about how he saw Charlize's tits when she was being raped in a scene of Monster, about the orgy where Polanski raped someone, about when a 9-year old girl would no longer be dating material for a 51-year old man.
 
The Onion calling that 9-year old a cunt was a mere symptom of what went on during Sunday night. Well, for us it was Sunday or Monday night. For loads of women and children, rape and being forced into relationships with middle-aged men is a regular existence.
 
It seemed no one was to be spared by the "wit" of the organisers or the snark available online, including a little girl in a blue dress with a puppy-dog handbag.

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.

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Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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