Well, now The Onion has gone and punk’d itself. Typically, Onion articles accidentally fool other news outlets or political figures, driving up a furor over an event that was never supposed to be real. The general public gets a good laugh, The Onion gets new readers, and the victim gets a lesson in fact checking. The world moves on until the next prank.
Only this time, the prank was a satirical tweet, rather than a full out article, and the contents enraged most readers, even though there was absolutely no confusion about the source. I’m referring, of course, to the offensive statement tweeted about Quvenzhané Wallis. And as if calling a nine year old girl a name worthy of Chaucer at his most bawdy wasn’t enough, the paper spent the rest of the night and part of Monday morning defending the move as an act of ‘satire’.
Maybe it was. Satire can be quite hurtful, and a lot of it is in dreadful taste. But even defined as satire, the words violate an obvious boundary. By describing a child in overtly sexual language with many connotations of the gutter, The Onion offended most of its readership, and half the rest of the planet as well. The furor was well deserved, and an apology was finally issued. Certainly, my hackles are still up, and I didn’t even see the tweet until a friend pointed it out on the Book of Face.
Add to that “The Boob Song”, and you’ve got yourself some furious feminists. Oh hang on. I’m a feminist. And I’m actually not pissed off about the boob song. Don’t get me wrong. The angry people are completely right.
The women who showed their boobs believed they had to do it in order to advance in the industry. They probably did have to do so. In order to achieve success in Hollywood, they had to sexualize and objectify their own bodies. That infuriates me. And this song trivializes that very serious problem. When the camera flashed to the individual women mentioned in the song, they looked uncomfortable. (Except Jennifer Lawrence, whose boobs we haven’t seen at all.) I’ve seen several posts complaining that there’s never going to be a song about penises that suggests men have to flash theirs to get good roles. All of these are accurate statements.
Only, here’s that boundary thing again. “The Boob Song” is full on satire. Was it in poor taste? Hell yes. Was it written to draw attention to a serious problem in the industry? Fuck no. And pissing off women may well have been one of the underlying purposes. Why the hell not. All press is good press, after all.
But there’s a double standard here. Only some people are mad about rampant sexism in Hollywood. Most, in contrast, are distressed only by this specific example of sexual invasion. I don’t see boards lit up with complaints about the way sexism affected a woman who had to be sewn into her dress because it ripped. The nation isn’t pointing out the sexism of women pretty much having to wear dresses to these things in general, with rare exceptions. Few are suggesting that Jennifer Lawrence’s tripping up the stairs in that floofy gown, even after hacking six inches off, was caused by a sexist culture that insists women look like princesses. Don’t kid yourself. “The Boob Song” was but a symptom of a much larger issue. Plus, it was funny.
I loathe the objectification of women’s bodies, and I rarely watch films with gratuitous/ “obligatory” boob shots. I hate boobs, including my own. TMI alert: I have I cups. I use the British sizing because I hate typing the letter D six million times to describe my chest in American terms. They aren’t sexy, and you don’t want to see them. They hang down to my belly button without a bra and stick out like fucking ski slopes with one. Right now, I’m wearing an ice pack on my left shoulder because my new bras are giving me back spasms. There is nothing sexy about the female breast to me.
And I enjoyed the hell out of a song that mocked my least favorite appendages. I liken “The Boob Song” to “Every Sperm Is Sacred” and “Men in Tights”. It’s mocking something. In this case, it’s something audiences can identify with, because most of us have seen the movies and boobs listed. (Yes, I’ve seen several.) And the women named in the song, while not deserving of objectification, are nonetheless adults. At least this one addresses the goddamned elephant in the room.
The outrage over “The Boob Song” seems to have overshadowed outrage over The Onion’s offensive tweet. There is no collective acknowledgement that The Oscars are all about boobs. We can pretend it’s about artistry and awards, but at the end of the day, the dresses are what get dished in the morning news, and you better believe cleavage and thighs are high on the discussion list.
And speaking of dresses, did you see the one on Quvenzhané Wallis? Her navy Armani Junior gown paired with a whimsical puppy purse carried the perfect Hollywood balance of elegance and childhood fun. She looked like a princess on the red carpet. But she also carried herself with queenly aplomb and grace worthy of a woman four times her age. And that second thing is why I admire her.
Screenshot by T L Roberts