Five People It’s Still Perfectly Okay To Make Fun Of

Don't worry, mixed kids. He got your back

Don’t worry, mixed kids. He got your back

The controversy regarding the Onion and Quvenzhané Wallis is a perfect example of how people can look at the exact same thing and come away with completely different takes, as it has served as a bit of a Rorschach test for people’s opinions about satire, social media, race, gender, and the use/usefulness of outrage.

Even with these myriad divergent opinions, there is one point everyone seemed to agree on: The Onion’s tweet crossed the line.

Some feel The Onion’s attempt at satire was inappropriate, but not egregious  Some still want heads to roll. And, the rest feel somewhere in between. Rorschach test or not, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks what happened was perfectly fine.

Also, this story serves as an example of how, in the blogosphere/media, there are certain demographics you just can’t say negative things about without expecting swift and harsh pushback. We’ll call them “untouchables.” Some of these people are protected for obvious reasons (children, the physically impaired, etc) while the protection given to others may be more politically-minded. Either way, the list of who you “aren’t allowed to” joke about and/or criticize seems to grow by the day.

Despite this, there remains some people who you can still shit on with impunity. Certain demographic groups who can still safety be the butt of jokes without anyone giving a damn, and here are a few people it’s still perfectly okay to make fun of.

1. Short Men

The perpetual redheaded stepchild of the human race (not that there’s anything wrong with being a redheaded stepchild), men who are a few inches shorter than the average man are routinely discriminated against, bullied, and used as punchline fodder by everyone. What separates them from others who experience the same thing is that shitting on them never goes out of style, never becomes politically incorrect, and never receives any criticism other than “Awwww. Leave the midget men alone.

While the “protection” given to other groups maybe be seasonal, “shitting on short men” is like a pair of Levi’s—safe, comfortable, versatile, reliable, timeless.

2. Women With Conservative Sociopolitical Leanings

“Make sexually repugnant remark about a woman” = “misogynist!!!”

“Make sexually repugnant remark about a woman who happens to be a conservative” = “Oh Shit!!! LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!”

3. Light-Skinned Black Women and Men

One specific to the Black community—there’d be some furniture moving if Rush Limbaugh dared say something bad about Jurnee Smollett—it’s never not okay for Black people to disparage light-skinned Black men and women. Why? Well, that’s obvious. Lighter-skinned people are—by virtue of their lighter skin—assumed to have a level of privilege that regular ole’ Black people don’t.

And, since “privilege” basically means “we can talk about your ass, and you have to sit there and take it,” you can say anything from “Light skinned men all smell like texturizer” to “I mean, really. Light skinned women are Black, I guess, they’re not really BlackBlack” when speaking of them and no one will bat an eye. Shit, you can even start a thousand petitions about why a light-skinned Black actress isn’t actually BlackBlack, despite the fact that she’s come out and said “I’m BLACK!!!!” numerous times. 

(Note: This only applies to light-skinned Black people with two Black parents. Biracial Blacks now have Obama, Drake, and empty bottles of Mixed Chicks to protect them.)

4. Stupid People

It’s not very politically correct to make fun of physically underwhelming men or women. It (obviously) still happens, but if you do this in front of certain audiences, you will get called on it. Why? Well, it’s not fair (or fun) to pick on someone for something they can’t control, and it reeks of bullying.

Interestingly enough, this doesn’t seem to apply to people who weren’t blessed with above average or even average intelligence. You can argue that it’s because there’s the idea that a person can always get smarter if they want to. If you’re stupid, you’re willfully stupid and deserve whatever’s coming to you.

But, this isn’t true. Some people are born dumb, live dumb, and will die dumb, and there’s not much they can do about it. Still, this doesn’t stop us from making fun of them. I mean, they’re stupid, so it’s not like they’re going to “get” any of the jokes anyway, right? No harm, no foul.

5. Bisexual Men

You’d think bisexual men would get the same type of “protection” gay men receive. But, its hard to be protected when most people (well, most Black people) don’t even believe you really exist. 

Honorable mention: Attractive women, skinny men and women, fat men. men with small penises, Christians, people not from “important” cities, sexually inexperienced men and women, athletes (high school, college, or pro), White men

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Seven Things I Think I Think About Quvenzhané Wallis, The Onion, Outrage, Comedy Writing, C*nt, And Being A Robot

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1. I think I first heard the word “cunt” when I was 12 years old. (Actually, this is a lie. I know without a doubt that was my first time hearing it. But, in keeping with today’s theme, I’m staying with “I think.”) It was halftime of an AAU tournament game. We were up a couple points against a team we should have been beating by 50, and our coach was livid. I wasn’t having a particularly good game, and the coach, um, let me know about it, calling me a “scared shitless cunt.”

Although I didn’t know what a cunt was, the spit congregating in the corners of his month gave me the idea that it wasn’t a good thing to be. After learning what it meant, I eventually categorized it with “cock,” “prick,” and “jizz” on my list of “Weird colloquialisms White people—and Black people who’ve spent too much time around White people and/or watching White porn—use to describe sexual things” and I probably didn’t hear it aloud for (at least) another decade.

It wasn’t until later (and by “later” I mean “like three years ago”) that I realized cunt is considered by many to be the single most offensive word in the English language, and I’m not sure about why this is. I mean, for other words that have been deemed unspeakable—nigger and bitch, specifically—there are clear historical, political, and sociological reasons for it. And, while cunt is a vulgar way of describing a vagina, it doesn’t seem any more vulgar than pussy or twat or cooze or any of the dozens of other slang terms for female body parts that have been used as slurs against women and 12 year old basketball players committing too many turnovers.

I guess what I’m asking is if there was a particular tipping point for cunt that I’m not aware of? What is it about this particular word that makes it dirtier and nastier than the rest?

(Personally, I think it may be due to the fact that the word just sounds nastier than most other words. It’s pronounced in a way that makes it seem like an ominous whisper. It also has a hard T ending, which can make a word sound like it has a perpetual sneer.)

2.  I think I totally get what whoever is in charge of The Onion’s Twitter account was attempting to do Sunday night. The preternaturally cute, talented, and charming Quvenzhané Wallis is the last person anyone would think to call a cunt, so the tweet was very obvious satire. In this sense, it was no different than saying “Those Phoenix winters sure are cold.”

But, just because something “structurally” works doesn’t mean it’s appropriate, or funny, and if a piece of satire is inappropriate, offensive, and lacking humor, it doesn’t work. This isn’t to say that Quvenzhane Wallis is impervious to satire or that you can never use that word in a joke. But, anyone who attempts to create that type of humor should also have enough wherewithal to know that certain things are just flat out wrong, and using a sexual reference—the most vulgar sexual reference at that—to joke about a nine year old actress is exactly that.

Whoever wrote that tweet didn’t just shoot and miss. They shot, missed, and put a hole through the f*cking backboard.

3. I think many people who regularly write jokes and other forms of potentially provocative/offensive material for a living have cold sweats about what happened last night. I know I do.

When your popularity/readership/relevance is predicated on being funny, or entertaining, or irreverent or whatever, you’re encouraged to push the envelope on what’s acceptable to say. Usually, it works. But, when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work, and the push back received from the one time it doesn’t work exponentially exceeds the praise received all the other times it did. This does not feel good.

Writers have to be especially careful with Twitter, as a potentially offensive standalone tweet just isn’t able to have the same context that same statement might have in a middle of a book or 30 minute comedy routine.

I’m not complaining, mind you. People who produce this type of content are aware of this dichotomy, and it’s just something you learn to deal with. It’s an inevitable occupational hazard that leaves you with two choices: Find something else to do, or get better and grow thicker skin.

4. I think I loved how quickly social media descended on the Onion’s tweet. Thousands of people—Black, White, and other—immediately called them out, eventually leading to the tweet being taken down and the Onion issuing a formal apology. Basically, the Onion stepped out of line, and a hundred thousand people responded, ultimately saying “Don’t worry, Quvenzhané. We got your back.”

But, as much as the emotive/visceral part of me loved to see that happen, I did feel some ambivalence. The outrage was supposed to protect Quvenzhane, but without it, I doubt she even finds out the tweet exists. Like millions of other controversial tweets, it would have been forgotten about in 10 minutes. Now, the reaction to the tweet is a bigger story than the tweet itself. And, while she might have come across this tweet before it became a story, there’s no doubt she will—and will probably be interviewed about it—now. Basically, while this was supposed to protect her, it places her in the line of fire.

Ultimately, the outrage was a positive. The tweet got deleted, and the Onion issued an apology. This would not have happened without that. It also served as a reminder that “free speech” doesn’t equal “accountability-less speech.”

Most importantly—well, most importantly to many—it was a very swift and public pushback to Black women and girls being disrespected in some form in the mass media, a too rare sign that people are in fact there to protect them.

All that considered, it still doesn’t sit completely right with me. It just seems like while the attention brought to the tweet about Quvenzhane helps Black women and girls in general, it didn’t help Quvenzhane specifically. I’m not sure what else could or should have been done to protect her though.

I expressed these views on Twitter yesterday, and—among other things—I was accused of being myopic. I actually don’t disagree with this. I realize my tendency to see certain things in very black/white absolutist terms leaves some blind spots. (While discussing this yesterday, Panama called me a robot. I am a human being, so naturally I disagreed.) It’s not that I ignore nuance and context. But, I do think that too much of it has a tendency to cloud the truth.

(For instance, in the Dorner case, I just can’t get past the fact that he likely killed that couple. There are no “Yeah, but’s” for me, no sympathy, no nothing. If he did that, nothing else he did as far as exposing corruption or fighting the power matters to me.)

Anyway, I’m bringing this up because although I feel how I feel about the effect of the outrage not sitting right with me, I also realize that I could very well be wrong. There may be something here I’m just not seeing, and perhaps what happened was both the best way to approach this issue and the best way to defend Quvenzhane.

5. I think the Onion’s tweet wasn’t even the most disturbing Quvenzhane-related thing I saw yesterday. Apparently, quite a few people feel she is quite full of herself, and the flexing she did whenever the camera was on her confirmed (to them) that she was a little asshole-in-training.

There are a thousand different things you can say about all of this—how confident Black people are still thought by many to be uppity/cocky, how she’s a freaking 9 YEAR OLD GIRL having the time of her life, etc—but three questions have to be asked:

Did these people not see the f*cking movie??? Don’t they realize she was just mimicking what her character (“Hushpuppy”) does in the movie’s most memorable scene??? Do they even know what “Beast it!!!” means???

6. I think our resident Obsidian brought up a good point yesterday. Everyone was rightly and justifiably angry about the Onion’s tweet. Yet, many of us—myself included—are very selective about who deserves our outrage. Often, this selection is determined by likability. Basically, wrong is wrong, even if you don’t agree with the politics held by a person a wrong is committed against.

7. I think Beasts is a spellbinding, captivating, enchanting, engaging, and completely unique movie. I’m not sure if it was good, though. While I was fascinated with it—and even may have even accidentally rubbed some salt in my eye that forced them to water a little—once I got out of my post-movie haze a couple hours later, I couldn’t help but think that I just watched a 100 minute long ode to child abuse.

Maybe P was right. I just might be a robot.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Are You A “Namist?”

***Hello, people of VSB.com. Please welcome star of “Shit Diva Dudes Say To Bougie Black Girls” and my ace boon goon Gem Jones as she makes her VSB guest post debut***

Recently in a GroupMe convo with friends, someone mentioned Quvenzhané Wallis, star of Beasts of the Southern Wild and youngest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Before I could remark about having never heard of this film, or show praise for this child’s high accolade at such a young age, I immediately focused on her name. “Wait, is her name really Quvenzhané?”

I googled her to see if this wasn’t some errant rumor. My follow up response to my search was, “Why is her mama’s name Qulyndreia?”

This certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve seen an “ethnically creative” name that caused me to form a serious side eye. I mean, I’m an NFL fan – seeing names like D’Brickashaw, Jacquizz, Knowshon, De’Anthony and LaQuinton are commonplace. I have also come to regularly expect texts from my brother containing a list of students he works named LaDravious, Dan’kevien, Markevius, Jonquerrius, Marionique, Jamorrious, and LaPhil. My reaction is always the same: “What is with the egregious use of apostrophes, La- prefixes, and -ious/eous suffixes?” My brother and I have even gone so far as to attempt to conjugate and combine the most common names into as many remixes as possible just for fun. And then, of course, there are the infamous (and possibly nonexistent) Orangejello, Lemonjello, and Le-a.

I think some of these “unique” and “uncommon” names are just too over the top and I don’t like them. But it wasn’t until being introduced to Quvenzhané that I considered my reaction was judgmental. I was so distracted by a name that I failed to acknowledge and credit the person to whom the name belonged. I felt bad about it.

Does this make me a namist?

We all have our prejudices and make assumptions based on superficial knowledge. We might even justify our opinions based on our experiences, especially if said opinions are more “rude! LOL” as opposed to “you’re becoming Rush Limbaugh” on the “how f*cked up is your way of thinking?” scale. They’re not right but if kept at bay they don’t have to be harmful. We also have our preferences, our likes and dislikes. We’re perfectly entitled to them and don’t have to explain them to anyone. But sometimes the line between preference and prejudice is so thin and we can cross it before we know it.

This is where I’m a bit conflicted about my feelings about names – do I harbor some deep rooted prejudice against “Black” names?

On the one hand, I just think some names are ugly and silly. A person named DaRealyst? Really, doe? Kids with names that belong one a bottle – Tequila and Hennessey – and not on a playground? Why? It’s like the parents were having a “most likely to spell the Eiffel tower as ‘ifold tower’ and become a twitter trending topic” or “most likely to be THAT eye-witness interviewed by a news crew with an absurd story that starts off with, ‘what had happened was…’” naming contest. Why do my people have to stand out with names that make no sense?

On the other hand, who the hell cares what I think? Who am I to say someone’s name is acceptable or not? There isn’t some set standard or criterion to measure an appropriate name, other than it just sounds/looks weird to some. But yet I’m guilty of asserting an arbitrary bias on others. People have the right to be as creative as they please, right? Do names have to have a deep meaning or translation to be legitimate?

Sure, there are studies to suggest “Black sounding names” are more likely to be passed over in the job market. There’s even a study that correlates unpopular/uncommon names with criminality. But so what? Should parents be restricted to certain types of names because of possible discrimination (discrimination that may come regardless of name)? Should negative perceptions guide one’s decision on what to name their child? How important is the perceptibility of names? Do our names define who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going? Are names more than an ID?

Perhaps this is just a Black burden. White people don’t have to answer these questions or have to defend their names. They can have seemingly unorthodox names (with an explanation as simple as, “my mom ate an apple once, while reading about Adam and Eve”) without suffering consequences more severe than others simply thinking the names sound strange and weird. But Black folks know different. Their differently composed names can warrant much harsher scrutiny – even from their own – that goes beyond aesthetics. Assumptions of class, education, and potential for success are often made.

I don’t think I’m wrong to find Quvenzhané, LaDravious and any name with a stupid ass apostrophe to be unappealing, just as I don’t think it’s wrong to find people’s art, fashion sense, or faces unappealing. I don’t like what I don’t like. But I do worry that my dislike of these names are just a symptom of a larger problem. I worry that my preference for more subtle names is really a prejudice, and I am subconsciously reducing people’s worth based on their name. I don’t mull over what kind of person I think they are or where they come from (her name is Twerkeisha so she must be a low budget stripper or have remedial parents only 13yrs older than her), but I’m worried I might actually be doing something worse – dismissing them all together without bothering to scratch the surface. And being that judgmental makes me uncomfortable.

(But Qulyndreia??? Really???)

***You can find Gem Jones on Twitter, where she straddles the line between ratchetness and respectability***