Melissa Harris-Perry | March 03, 2013
>>> welcome back. i'm melissa harris-perry. there we all were. last sunday night collectively taking part in a national watch party. no, not talking about the oscars . i'm talking about watching our twitter time lines while watching the oscars . it wasn't so bad as far as parties go. there's lots of noisy conversation and boisterous back and forth about host seth mcfarlane 's performance and red carpet fashions and acceptance fashion and the "jaws" theme music that cut many of those speeches short. like most parties there's that one funny guy who keeps everyone laughing, until he just takes one joke too far. this time that guy was the satirical news outlet the onion. unless you have been living under a rock you know that 9-year-old quvenzhane wallis whose poise and performance in "beast of the wild" earned her a best actress nomination and she game the youngest person ever to be nominated for an academy award for best actress . it is an achievement for which she should be rightfully proud, and her joy on oscar night was palpable. there she was working the red carpet in her sparkly blue dress and pressing curl and her puppy pearl. just killing us with cuteness and most of us at the twitter party responded with an ah until someone at the onion decided that the 9-year-old was fair game for the funny. everyone else seems afraid to say it but that quvenzhane wallis is kind of a "c" word, right? wrong. because there is nothing right about it. no matter how much mansplaining about comedy and free speech tried to make it right, i understand perfectly well what the tweet was trying to do, i've followed the onion, but our petty hyper critical focus on celebrities and famous women certainly is ripe for steer caatirical comedy but there's other envelope-pushing ways to accomplish that. here's what those of you defending it don't seem to understand. a sexualized hateful comment about a child is only funny if you see that child as the least likely target for that kind of attack. and if you're fortunate enough to wear the privilege of blinders, then that's probably what you saw and laughed at, but when the lens through which you view the world reveals that women of color and even little girls of color are regularly in the crosshairs for dehumanizing critiques it is neither funny nor ironic. it's just real. and now when quvenzhane wallis looks back or when history looks back on the best days of her life, on this historic moment for this little girl , you know what's going to be part of that story, the onion's tweet . gee, thanks. at the table cecile richards who is president of the planned parenthood federation of america , l.joy williams, a political strategist and judy gold , emmy award winning actress and comedian and jill philip poefic who is a includenist for "the guardian and" also with us is an actress, singer, writer and, boy, on fire about this tweet . i'm going to start with you to draw you in here with us. tell me a little bit more about what your critique was of the onion's tweet .
>> you said it perfectly i think so it only remains me not to remember to curse right now.
>> yes, please.
>> and not to say the word, but my critique was rough because the tweet was rough, and i personally have just had enough of sitting back and taking the joke. i've been in a position to make the joke. i've been the joke, and i've made money being the joke, and i get it. i completely get it. i 1,000% get it and ha, ha, ha, ha, ha but i've had enough, and that was my critique. as you said, what we found is the jokesters and the pranksters and the defenders apparently were thoroughly unaware that black women have been denigrated very casually daily.
>> i think judy one of the reasons we want you at the table. we've talked comedy on this show before, talked about rape jokes and race jokes and all kinds of things and consistently trying to push the envelope and say had a comedy like art have relative autonomy but like pia this felt like that was it, not funny.
>> well, we know that the joke was supposed to be in the absurdity of it, the fact that it's so far beyond reality and so not true. it would be as if someone tweeted other that mother teresa is like a selfish bitch. that is where the joke was coming from, and it's sad because all no jokes are funny and that word is very, very load, and -- and i don't think -- first of all, we're all assuming, i did as well, that this is a white guy that tweeted this. we have no idea. that's what i assume.
>> his anonymity or her anonymity is part of what irritates me. the 9-year-old has no anonymity.
>> exactly. i've heard every argument and every defense and i've really kicked through the teeth of all of them and i think one of the main defenses when people bring up examples like jon stewart making the same time of joke about glen hansard when he won that award arrogant when he was really the most self-effacing person ever. he was standing there in person. it was a joke made in the moment and that's what comedy is. that's what makes is magical. oopsy, i just made a mistake. it's not up to me to say what comedy is. it's entirely subjective and i get that but when you're not in the particular building and the sole building is for celebrating this young woman and performance in cinema, you're sitting in a remote location. what was her offense, that made you say that, it a made that even remotely appropriate?
>> i know, cecile, also just been thinking about the very fact that the word, the "c" word is a word that can carry that kind of power with it.
>> i want to show just a little piece from one of my new obsessions, "house of cards" where the "c" word shows up again. i want to ask you a question about this.
>> i think you're an ungrateful self-entitled little --
>> little what? little what, tom?
>> say it. [ bleep ]. you're a [ bleep ].
>> okay. that -- the very fact that that word carries that meaning feels to me like part of the rape culture that we exist in as our general cultural soup.
>> absolutely. it's interesting. i totally agree with what judy said and what pia said, and you. this is -- this is outrageous. there's nothing funny about it. it was beyond the pale . i think one of the things to kind of pull it back a little bit that's kind of interesting to me is whatever we think about the onion, they did at least recognize this was over the top , and they apologized and, again, i think in this land of tweeting when things go out and this is going to happen and people have to be held accountable, the extraordinary thing to me is the fact that this usually doesn't happen, so i think like a year ago when rush limbaugh was happy to sal sandra fluke a slut, i'm not trying to compare the two, it's not the same thing.
>> i'm not sure that this feels like it doesn't happen. recently, right, let's take gabby douglas, again, a young woman having a movement history, and now the historical record will always show there's gabby douglas winning the olympic gold medal and having consistent commentary about her hair and her body. it does feel like in fact it happens particularly to girls and women of color .
>> that is why our reaction was so emotional was because for thousands of millions of women of color across the country we see all the time in our communities, on tv, in movies, we see that constant attack daily, and so to see we were so very happy that you have a 9-year-old person of color . she did not have the weight of race on her shoulders.
>> a puppy purse.
>> and everybody thought she was adorable, not the adorable little black child . she was just an adorable child and then all of a sudden now we have this loaded word that's added to her, and so our reaction was one of protection because we finally have an opportunity to -- she's just a child , an adorable child and now we have to add that burden of race and that burden of sexism in everything to her in which she doesn't even have to understand, and i hope she doesn't have to understand or have that conversation right now, but that was the reason why it was such an emotional response.
>> we're talking about a child .
>> she was a child .
>> and we sexualize women from the earliest of ages in this country. girls are sexualized from the minute, you know, i don't know, the pre-adolescent. it's ridiculous.
>> not just in general. part of what was irritating to me i suppose is when we think about the particular context of the oscars , butterfly mcdwooen queen from "gone with the wind" and the first time we had sort of a black child in an oscar-nominated film, the weight of race, as you're saying, l. joy, and here was this girl and then the -- it's not just the onion tweet , it was the defenders of the tweet .
>> that was so distressing for me.
>> that was horrible to see.
>> as someone who who has performed in comedy and loves comedy and worships comedy and loves raunchy come dishes by the way, the people who are defending to me would blush and pee their pants and watch what i watch for fun, "down and dirty" with jim northon. it's not that i'm scared of words or anything. when people attack comedians because they say you can't make a joke about cancer because i have cancer or all kinds of things, you know, that's not the comedian's responsibility. it's not anyone's responsibility to know anyone's personal history who is sitting in their audience, but anyone watching the oscars had to endure a joke about one day she might have sex with george clooney or something. that was out there already. if you're tweeting about the oscars , i can only presume you're watching them, where's your defense? what is going on here?
>> pia, hold for me. joy, i'll get you in when we come back and we'll take a quick break and show how this whole problem could have been avoided if everyone knew the rules of the apollo and that's next.