Monday, February 25, 2013

Kids Should be Off-Limits

I watched all of about five minutes of the Oscars last night.  I do enjoy watching the actresses come in on the red carpet donned in their dazzling diamonds and gorgeous gowns, but even the possibility of seeing a flash of Denzel Washington in a tux couldn't get me to sit through five hours of Hollywood excitement over movies I hadn't seen.  (I'll get to see him in that plane one day!)

The part I saw was the teddy bear making a joke about being Jewish to get any work in Hollywood, Michelle Obama and Jack Nicholson present the Best Picture award, and that awful "loser" closing song.  That was my entire Oscars experience; good thing I saw the Obama/Nicholson piece, because, although I was surprised the First Lady was presenting an award, that was the classiest of the three segments I saw.  Such was my impressions of the Oscars.

I was surprised, pleased, and just a bit excited that Miss Quvenzhane Wallis was a nominee for Best Actress in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (another one on my must-see list).  The nine-year old is the youngest nominee ever and a first-time actress.  Wow.  That says a lot and is quite an accomplishment for the little girl.  Oh, and she's Black.  So add that she's also now in the very small sorority of Black women who have been nominated or won an Oscar.  Can you imagine the thrill, the excitement, the amazingness of this event for her and her family?  It literally makes me tearful in joy.  Not for me, I have nothing to lose or win in her nomination, but for the idea that this little Black girl is getting recognition for her work.

And then I read Twitter and the blogs this morning and unfortunately became aware of the ignorance directed at this little innocent.  The jokes, the derogatory terms, the rudeness.  Its unfathomable that people would subject a child to the negative commentary that is usually directed towards adults.  Jokes about George Clooney?  Funny or not, he's grown, he's used to it, and he can take it.  By now, he knows how to fly off to his private Italian villa and laugh it off.  But a nine-year old girl, taking her first steps into the public?  She shouldn't have to figure out what people are saying about her, her mother shouldn't have to shield her from such rudeness.  Now, I'm not in a bubble and unaware that children are faced with rudeness - and worse - on a daily basis, but I do believe, wish, naively hope that we could live in a society where we don't have to say "hey, no rude and ignorant jokes and comments about a kid on a so very special night in their life."

We can debate whether comments were racist or sexist.  Would such things have been said (or were they) about a young Drew Barrymore or Dakota Fanning or McCauley Culkin or Dougie Howser (he'll always be Dougie to me)?    But I hope - again, perhaps naively - that we can agree that kids shouldn't be the butt of adult jokes.  That we, as adults, can surely find some other fodder for humor than the name or existence of a little Black girl.

When the Obamas first moved in the White House, one of their rules was basically, "leave our girls alone."  Some folks cried and screamed, saying they were wrong for protecting their kids, that they were public figures and were open to scrutiny.  But the Obamas, as parents, obviously knew what the public could do; that the public, the media, whatever you wish to call it, would ignore that these were young girls and attack at random, without boundaries.  And in the process, they would little by little, crush their spirits and their innocence.  They protected their children in a way that any parent would.  They protected their children in a way that we all, as adults, should.

Congratulations to Miss Quvenzhane Wallis for her nomination and best wishes for a bright future!

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