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”)

The Digital Dating Era Isn’t All Bad

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(The Champ’s latest at Ebony explains why some of the hang-wringing over “the death of courtship” may be overblown.) Now, I’m not here today to necessarily dispute the findings and first-hand accounts found in each of the recent articles decrying the death of … Continue reading

No Social Media, No Thank You.

Believe it or not, I still know people who utilize no forms of social media. Now this “people” is a relatively small group of individuals, but they exist. Now because I’ve known those folks for years and years, I trust them.

But let’s say I’m out in these streets – because I’m usually out in these streets doing things that people out in these streets do – and I meet an individual lacking either a Facebook page, a Linkedin profile, Twitter or Instagram, and well, I’m throwing more shade than Oprah in 1995. Hmm…y’all know how people differentiate between Fat Luther and Skinny Luther as to which version made better music, has anybody ever done such a thing with regards to Oprah? I’m guessing no. But that would be a worthy project for a communications major.

Real talk. No R. Kelly.

Back to the lecture at hand. I’m not sure I’d fully trust anybody who attempted to leave no digital footprint short of their email accounts. It just makes me nervous, like you have something to hide. Now, the irony of this is how often people lie on the Internet. So while I don’t trust anybody who has no footprint, I also cannot trust what I see from the majority of folks who do.

Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Panama Jackson.

You know what else makes no sense, despite the fact that we all make so much information readily available, we still get freaked out when we find out people are taking a look at all of it. I remember many moons ago, a young lady I was seeing made it clear that she’d looked thru my FB page and then went thru all of the pictures of my sisters. While this is all completely legal, it seemed creepy and stalkerish. Now, as it turns out, I was more upset that she informed me that she was a stalker as opposed to her actual stalking. Some things you should keep to yourself, but as many of us know, when women are interested in you, they like to gain as much information as possible and in doing so tend to be extremely inquisitive about your life and everything in it. With that inquisitiveness comes a remarkable ability to remember details…while leaving keys in the refrigerator or a purse in the chimney.

I’m not so sure why men aren’t that way. I think when we like a woman we just like her as is, the details aren’t as important. Sure we like to know you aren’t a murderer but we assume that if we’re interested, the details are just extras. Men? We stupid.

Where was I? Oh yes, so despite all of this information being available, I’m leery of people who make it clear that they avail themselves of all accessible forms of social media. Instagram? They know what date you and time you posted that picture. Twitter, they’re reading that like a hawk. Facebook…well shut the front door.

Conversely more, you know what else I don’t quite understand? People with all of this social media sh*t and it’s all padlocked. Now, I get to some degree why its necessary to privatize your information. And for a vast many people, FB and Twitter is a way to communicate with people they’d not likely communicate with, so I suppose it makes sense to some degree. But it does seem like if you’re going to be apart of the community, just do it with open arms. Sure, I’ve had blog posts stolen and pictures jacked and I’m pretty sure…wait for it…

…Brick killed a guy.

(I haven’t done that in a while.)

But I’ve also met some great and terrible people online that my life wouldn’t be the same without; people I’d never have met if I locked myself off from the world. So if I meet you out and all of your sh*t is private, I’m also giving you the Panama Jackson Epic Side-Eye and assuming you’ve got something to hide. Either that or your tremendously boring. There’s no way somebody who is insanely entertaining is locking their profile. If you tell a joke and nobody is there to hear it, is it funny? Methinks not. So if you were interesting, there’s a good chance that your profile would be public so that others could validate your entertainingness. That’s the first commandment of blogging: Thou shalt be narcissistic.

Y’all think I do this for you? No, I do this for me so when I look in the mirror at night I can say, Pretty Petey, you did that. Not coincidentally…

…that’s what she said.

(Are you still reading and wondering what the hell just happened in the past 754 words? Mr. Me Too.)

The point is, even though you can’t trust anybody via social media, you definitely can’t trust anybody who isn’t up on social media. Unless that person still uses any of the following services that may or may not exist: MySpace, AOL, BlackPlanet anything, etc.

So what say you? How do you feel about folks without a social media presence online? Would you date or actively get to know somebody who informed you that they just don’t get down like that (I realize that’s a dumb question when stated like that…on the list of dealbreakers its an odd one…but would it make you suspicious in 2013?)? If you don’t involve yourself, even in Facebook, why not? What’s the 411, hon? You got it goin’ on? Yeah I got it goin’ on.

Talk to me. Petey.

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. INSTAGRAM THAT SH*T aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Don Lemon’s Haircut Killed A Guy

BTT71WjIEAAb037If you’re Black, use Twitter, or know somebody with a degree, there’s a very good chance that you know Don Lemon got a haircut. Not just any ole haircut either. He got f*cked up in a barber’s chair. It could have been the angle or something, but he definitely shouldn’t have paid for that haircut. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not die for a Black man to go into a barbershop, point to a number 14 then walk out with a dry A.C. Green. He just didn’t y’all.

Well, the reason folks know that Don Lemon caught a bad fade is because for some odd reason, after getting a terrible haircut, he decided to take to Twitter to ask folks for feedback on his haircut.

Now, I’m guessing this was Don Lemon’s first foray into the slander that is Black Twitter. See, you can’t just ask questions on Twitter without Black Twitter getting wind and then taking it as far left as possible. You’d have thought he would know better after his ridiculous talking points a few weeks back. I mean, he caught the fade (pun intended) and he was being serious.

You canNOT put a f*cked up haircut on Twitter AFTER calling out the Black community looking like one of your own bullet points (his haircut looked like the nword and litter to me) and expect to walk away the same way you showed up. Black folks…we don’t have short attention spans for certain things. Needless to say, the clouds opened up and the pain was swift and severe. Urban Daily cataloged some of the funniest ones.

We all know Black folks are funny. We do comedy. We’re good at that, but even I was in tears at some of the responses. Black people, I salute you.

Believe it or not, the point of this post isn’t Don Lemon’s Drake-do. Nope, it’s this: if you get slandered like that via Twitter…

…wouldn’t your feelings get really really hurt? I remember when I got laughed at in first grade for wearing three different shades of red to school. I didn’t even know what clashing was at that point. I just really liked those pants and that shirt and had some red Chuck Taylor’s. I didn’t know I was yelling at people with my textiles. If I wore that today and posted a picture, Twitter would have a field day. And I’m not famous. Definitely not infamous.

Granted he asked for it (and clearly has no Black friends), but wow I have to feel like he woke up the next morning and probably shed at least one struggle tear. My feelings were hurt for him. Which leads me to this next point, which may or may not be a reach…at what point does Twitter or social media slander, even of famous people, become bullying?

A reach, I know…but I mean wow, if I’m Don Lemon, I’m IMMEDIATELY cutting my my hair back to a number 1, going on television and pretending it never existed. And crying into my pillow at night since men cry in the dark.

(The upside to this is that at least his mother isn’t dating a rapper named Lambo. Or at least not that we know of.)

Again, he asked for feedback, and feedback is what he got, but how much of the slander is because he’s Don Lemon. I mean, it is a struggle haircut, and Twitter is relentless, and how much of that is just rude bullying. Looks like he tried to take it in stride.

Eh, maybe I don’t care…since at the end of the day, what I really want to ask…to the homeys here…

…how much do you think Don Lemon’s feelings were hurt by the slander? Sociologically speaking, what type of effects do you all think really occur when folks get gone ham on via Twitter?

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka lower.case.p aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3

Is Social Networking Making Us Socially Awkward?

***Yup. S. Nicole Brown is here again.***

I noticed it one day while walking from class.

Making my way across the  common area of campus on a beautiful sunny day, the sounds of the latest Top Forty blaring from a speaker behind a DJ booth asking people to sign up to volunteer for the next “save the world” project, I looked up from my phone, and looked around.

What I saw, kind of jolted me. Every single person that passed in this very busy area of campus, was looking down at their phone. I realized I had walked halfway across campus without one lifting my head up away from my phone, and noticed everyone doing the same. Watching people swarm around me in a rush to get home or to another class, I realized we had all so mastered the art of texting/tweeting/status-liking while doing other things, that we were on a sort of real time auto-pilot while our virtual lives kept our attention.

So of course, I took to twitter to state publicly my observation, and continued to walk with my head down, and on my phone.

From that day on I noticed more and more the absence of eye contact or basic human interaction when walking into stores, restaurants, on campus, at home. Everyone was seemingly more interested in tweeting and status updating about what they were doing, rather than enjoying the actual experience of what they were doing.

Still, I thought it was odd, but didn’t really realize just how dependent my generation and younger folks had become on social media interaction until I began meeting e-friends and associates in real life. Meeting someone in real life whom you only know online and believe to be super dope, is so exciting. You think about all the fun you’ll have when you finally meet, all the jokes you they’ve said that you’ll laugh at even harder in person.

And then you meet, and your entire image of them is shattered. They are quiet. Or uncomfortable, which makes you uncomfortable. Painfully shy, creepy, or just plain rude. You almost want to send them a direct message and ask if everything is okay with them, since they seem to have had the personality drained from them and you like their virtual one much better. A friend of mine went to a blogger meet up once, and described the behavior of several people as “lurking in real life.”

It’s a weird realization to come to that the very medium meant to foster social communication and connections, could be stunting us socially. More and more people seem far more comfortable to “poke” you or RT you than to call, or say hello to you on the street. People get keyboard courage and fire off statements that they wouldn’t dare say to those very same people away from their screen.

And as awkward as it is for me as a thirty year-old person to get over this, it’s so much worse for the teens and early twenty-somethings, who don’t know a social world beyond high school without smart phones and facebook and twitter. Those people that literally say “LOL” when they see something funny (my younger sister did this for an entire year until i threatened to end her life if she didn’t learn to laugh like a normal human), or think exchanging subtweets and nasty statuses is a way to solve an argument– while sitting in the same house (also witnessed this happen. With grown people no less). I feel so afraid for the youngins. So nervous that they will not know what it is to walk up to someone and say “hello,” or how to be somewhere longer than ten minutes without checking in on various social networks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of social networking. I’ve met a good number of close friends from just being interactive online (including P to the Jay and Champness). But there needs to be balance. Social media makes it possible to spend an entire day talking without uttering one word. This to me, is scary. Nothing can replace the importance of being able to read body language, of knowing proper ways to interact in different social settings, having self-awareness, and the joy “friending” a stranger can bring through a surprisingly painless face-to-face conversation.

S. Nicole Brown (aka “Muze”) is a writer of fiction, lover of words, and chronic reader happily living the clichéd under-spaced and overpriced life of a NYC writer. You can find her in 140 or less @muzeness or on her blog, Because I’m Write.

***Check out “Yes, Monogamy IS Unnatural (…and so is everything else we do)” — The Champ’s latest at Ebony.com***