What The Onion Said About Rihanna and Chris Brown Was Wrong

7 May

Trigger warning for domestic violence

The Onion’s attempt at satirizing Chris Brown’s attack of former-girlfriend Rihanna is triggering, dangerous and hurtful. There are some here at Abortion Gang that feel what The Onion wrote was brilliant, but I disagree. The Onion’s use of violent imagery and triggering language in the title and article remove the focus from Chris Brown and place it squarely upon the survivor, Rihanna. I also contend that writing stories about Chris Brown under the guise of satire is exploitative and perpetuates the dangerous notion that in the years post-abuse, jokes and commentary are fair game when in fact, they are almost another attack on the survivor.

1) The Language Is Triggering 

The article read like torture porn, like a sadistic turn through the author’s sick mind, a demented stroll through the horrible way women die from an attack. The title was triggering enough, “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death,” because nothing triggers flashbacks of abuse like “beat to death,” and I guess that is what gets the clicks, too. Everyone knows what Chris Brown did to Rihanna that night, he beat her savagely in a close and confined space. She was unable to get away as he sped about in the car . As a person who’s been there, in that passenger seat withstanding another attack, that space is a special kind of hell. The one where you consider throwing yourself out of the speeding car to get away from the flying fist and vicious words.

2) Not Everyone Knows This Is Satire

The Onion fantasized about another attack that ends in death without adding a trigger warning. (Yes, a trigger warning. And if you read the preceding sentence and fix your mind to type, “but you know it’s satire and you know The Onion is dark… just don’t click,” do not type. You’re victim-blaming.) I think there are many, many people, survivors and otherwise, that do not actually know that The Onion is satirical news site. WIth a click and without realizing it, a person reading an article that says, “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…” could be triggered. They may not realize what they’re reading is a dark satirical take on Chris Brown’s re-acceptance into mainstream popular culture after such a savage attack. That hurt that results from being triggered, a small reliving of the abuse a survivor has endured is pain I never wish upon anyone.

The Onion doesn’t always distinguish itself from the other douche-bag jokesters on twitter and facebook with their sexist jokes and vapid commentary on current events. And yes , I do recognize that the vapidity they espouse is a satirical representation of our social response to many of these current events, but that’s not something many are going to get.

3) The Article Is Exploitative

Instead of focusing on Chris Brown, The Onion’s target of the satirical piece was Rihanna. This directly contradicts what my counterpart Kaitlyn has written. If The Onion was truly brilliant, they would find a way to write satire about Chris Brown being an abusive boyfriend without typing one word describing another attack on Rihanna. Because the whole article was about the ways Rihanna could have died by Chris Brown’s hands the satire is lost and the joke’s on Rihanna. She’s re-victimized . This is exploitative and it disgusts me to no end.

4) It’s All For the Clicks

Readers are triggered, and The Onion knows it. While Kaitlyn maintains that The Onion has gone to a dark place after Newtown, I think the shift has been meticulously planned and executed. The Onion is trolling for clicks and attention. The more outlandish stories they publish, the more buzz–both bad and good–they generate. I think they have realized that the more pointed and critically brilliant satire loses many of their readers and they are releasing increasingly inflammatory material to appeal to the least common denominator in readers.

Do we really want to support a publication that consistently publishes hateful language about black women ? Do they really deserve a pass when they publish a fictional account of a black woman’s death-by-beating ? Absolutely not.

The Onion says it is humor, some argue it is satire, but an article about Rihanna being beat to death by her abusive ex-boyfriend is triggering, exploitative and not critical commentary. I support satire and criticism of Chris Brown. I do not support and fail to find the satire from a publication that editorially fantasizes about the beating death of a black woman.


3 Responses to “What The Onion Said About Rihanna and Chris Brown Was Wrong”

  1. jovan b. May 7, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Thank you for writing this! There is NOTHING funny about domestic violence – I do not give a flying flip if the intent of the piece was to mock Chris Brown or not!

  2. S.L May 7, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    How about a “trigger warning” for the 9/11 cicada story too?


  1. New rule: The Onion | Ideologically Impure - May 9, 2013

    […] Onion is now officially covered by the Jezebel Rule, because there’s nothing satirical about fantasizing about the violent death of a black woman.  And since they fired the person who called Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt, they’re also […]

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