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Is Violence The Punchline Of This Chris Brown & Rihanna Onion Piece? A Reading Comprehension Test

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Chris Brown and Rihanna

If you're only going to read thing about the latest controversy regarding The Onion, Chris Brown and an imagined Rihanna death scenario, make it Hanna Rosin's smart take at Slate.

Here's a two-sentence summary of the latest hoopla: The Onion published a piece titled “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death.” People freaked out.

And here's a sample from the (short) Onion article:

Despite all the ups and downs, I was so sure Rihanna was the one I’d take by the throat one day and fatally assault, and even toward the end I continued to hold out hope that we’d be together until the day she died at my hands from blunt-force trauma,” Brown, 24, said in a radio interview this week, telling DJs he still has abusive feelings for his ex-flame and is hopeful that he might punch her again one day.
A saddened Brown added that, should the couple not reconcile, he remains confident that the special someone he was meant to beat to death is still out there for him, and when he finds her, he’ll waste no time in slapping her around.

It seems like it should go without saying that (apropos of everything the Onion is and stands for) violence against women is not the punchline. The target here is Brown and our celebrity-obsessed culture, the way we sidestep serious issues in favor of romance and redemption tales, the way we take violence against women and domestic partner abuse so un-seriously.

The humor or satire does not lie in how hilarious it is for a man to dream not of wedding but strangling his intended; it lies in the fact that this is an absurd and awful scenario that would hardly seem out-of-keeping with Brown's behavior, comments and the cultural context. This is a man who tattooed a picture of a battered woman's face on his arm and was widely defended for it. This is a culture where O.J. Simpson's “faux” account of killing his ex-wife, If I Did It, came this close to being released by an imprint of a major mainstream publishing house.

And yet, once again, professional digital feminists seem almost deliberately obtuse about all of this in their condemnation of The Onion. The Onion is not the problem; The Onion is so far from the problem that it makes the project of feminism as a whole look petty and absurd when it acts like it is. You wanna talk about triggering? The whole damn culture is triggering. Appropriating its sadness and vulgarity in order to comment on it is not the same thing as endorsing that sadness and vulgarity.

Which brings us back to Rosin: She mentions being pissed about Louis C.K. recently telling Jon Stewart that comedians and feminists are “natural enemies” because “feminists can’t take a joke” and comedians can’t take criticism.

The humorless feminists trope is stupid, stereotypical and annoying—but you know what's even more annoying?

When feminists prove Louis C.K. right, by failing to recognize an excellent joke even when it’s so obviously doing their work for them.”

Yes yes yes yes yes. Rosin cuts right to the heart of it with this next line, which mirrors my initial reaction to reading about this for five minutes (the one followed quickly by OMG everybody just please shut up):

Jokes are only “offensive” if they offend our particular political sensibilities. As my colleague Will Saletan points out: “It's liberal prudery. You can soak a crucifix in urine because there's a larger point to be made, but you can't mix humor with domestic violence even when the point is blindingly obvious.” The anti-Onion reactions basically amount to: hide it, don’t mention it, keep it away from our delicate sensibilities. That’s the opposite of what comedy is designed to do. In fact, this item brings more attention to domestic violence that 100 earnest blog posts on the same subject ever could.

Read the rest of Rosin's post here.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Liz Nolan Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth N Brown, outrage, internet outrage cycle, twitter liberals, progressives, feminists