The tweet went as follows:
“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a (expletive), right?”
The missing word is a bit of verbal sewage sometimes used to disparage women. Begins with “c,” rhymes with “hunt.” Its target here, however, was not a woman. Quvenzhané Wallis is the actress who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Hushpuppy in the celebrated film Beasts of the Southern Wild. She was all of 6 when the movie was filmed. She is 9 now.
The tweet, penned by a so-far anonymous writer and posted by The Onion, the satirical newspaper and website, was intended as a joke, a meta commentary on the sniping and backbiting of Hollywood. Yes, The Onion snatched the tweet back an hour later. Yes, it promptly apologized.
And yes, funny covers a multitude of sins. The problem though, is that this was not remotely funny. It was, however, profoundly illustrative.
There are some things you just do not say. Not because there is a law against them, not because you don’t have the right. No, you don’t say them because you don’t. You know better. Or at least, you did.
These days, there is a good chance you don’t. These days, we worship at the altar of edgy.
You know edgy, of course. It is the sine qua non of pop culture, represents rejection of the straitjacket of propriety and political correctness, celebrates the freedom found in bare-knuckle, impolitic truth. As such, it has become a value unto itself, a synonym for good. Once upon a time, a comedian worked to be funny. Now, it seems they work to be edgy.
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