Why the Onion’s Crappy Apology Is Worthless

The satirical site's mea culpa to Quvenzhané Wallis makes it OK to take things even further.

Quvenzhané Wallis (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

(The Root) — When I watched Quvenzhané Wallis telling the story of a little girl called Hushpuppy and her adventures living in a poor Bayou area in Beasts of the Southern Wild, I was enchanted by how well she articulated her life and the world around her. I had so much hope that she might be the youngest person ever to take home a golden statuette and wanted to believe that everyone else on the planet shared my sentiment.

The best actress trophy went to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, and the pervasive thinking for Quvenzhané was probably something like, “It’s OK, Princess, you were still wonderful.” But that wasn’t the case in the offices of the Onion, the Chicago-based satirical news website. Someone, possibly a social media editor, as yet unnamed, decided to place this on Twitter:

“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a c–t, right?”

The tweet was reportedly taken down an hour after it was posted, but not really. Anyone who follows the Onion on Twitter and everyone who doesn’t got wind of this tweet, and it spread across the Web like, well, the smell of bad onions!

The controversy has become, at least for half a day — which is equal to months on the Internet — to the Oscars what the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” became to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Nobody’s even thinking about Argo or Ben Affleck or red carpets or lengthy, tearful speeches now, and anybody with access to a keyboard is pissed, and rightly so (except for those who try to explain that the joke was aimed at Hollywood itself and not the girl, and make themselves sound fugazi in the process).

“How dare they use that kind of vulgar language when referring to a 9-year-old girl?” “This wasn’t funny!” “They’ve gone too far!” … And on and on it goes. That’s until something else catches people’s short attention span.

Onion CEO Steve Hannah, betting on short attention spans, quickly whipped up a mea culpa for the tweet, offering his most humble “we screwed up” plea for forgiveness.

But that’s why the Onion’s half-assed apology for the tweet, while maybe sincere, isn’t enough, and nothing they can do ever will be.