Fine Lines

26 Feb 2013

Recently, The Onion tweeted a joke about nine year old actor Quvenzhané Wallis and many people found it to be offensive. I have already written about the difference between harm and offense, so I do not intend on rehashing those thoughts. People are going to be offended by it, particularly because of the words chosen – and who they were aimed towards – and that ship has already long sailed. But was The Onion doing something other than maliciously attacking a child? Avery Edison tries to answer that question:

The only logical-but-absurd extension of this horror show (and that’s the heart of satire: taking a concept and stretching it to almost-breaking point) is to, for no reason, call a small child the worst thing you possibly could.

Satire can be just as difficult to pull off as it can be to understand, so it often misses the mark. This is particularly the case when children are involved. Avery does a good job of navigating the nuances of the original intent. This does nothing to salvage the joke itself, as there has already been an apology and explaining humour always kills it, but if you had intended on demonizing and hating The Onion forever, Avery provides a well-thought argument for perceiving them as something other than monsters.