September 26th, 2001


I'm Not Crying...It's Just the Onion Bringing Tears to My Eyes

This week’s Onion is not funny. Granted, it has been going down an unfunny hill in recent months, with the now-phonetically gangsta-speaking Herbert Kornfeld and the near complete elimination of Jean Teasdale, marked by a tragically humorless article where the Jeanketeers meet the real Jean. Adding advertising to injury, since they moved from Wisconsin to New York, the comedy-lite Onion is now punctuated with epileptic flash banners and pop-ups. But this one is bad in an entirely different way.

I understand that lately, making ironic quips about the news has got to be as hard a job as writing an original joke about Bill Clinton for Leno, and I applaud their efforts at keeping the humor topical and relevant. The headlines are good, and some are pretty funny. The articles, however, can’t carry their tune for more than a paragraph or so. The endings are making me cry, and not in the way I cried when I learned that Jim “The Cruise” Anchower thought his new Zoso tattoo was even more mystical since it got blurred when he went in the pool the day after he got it.

Take, for example, the Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake. We can all chuckle knowingly at the memory of running out of ideas for what to do next, and smile when we remember how we had to do anything to turn away from the TV for 45 minutes or so. But that wasn’t a happy time. Sure we all know what it was like to create a Dungeons and Dragons player character, and we can laugh at the idea of Bill Gates doctoring the stats on his sheet, but this is different. Those were happy times.

God Angrily Clarifies Don’t Kill Rule closes with God’s shoulders shaking as he hangs his head and cries. With the images of the Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam and countless non-cartoon Americans sobbing at the loss of their…anything, do we really need to think about God crying too?

Talking to Your Child about the WTC Attack doesn’t even make efforts to be humorous. Honestly, there’s nothing funny about having to explain this to your children (without treading on now-taboo comedy stylings not seen since Blazing Saddles), and there’s really not much that’s funny about it all. Death isn’t funny. Destroyed lives, cities, and buildings are not funny. A crippling sense of National Fear is not funny.

The last thing I want to do is imply that I am upset with the Onion for trying to make light of this, or that I’m “offended”, or that I think it was in poor taste. I want to reiterate in no uncertain terms that they did a pretty good job considering there is nothing to laugh at. I find it hard to read; I can’t imagine how hard it was to write. In the same way we all, deep in our hearts, wish that Arnold is going to come and save us from our new Jerry Bruckheimer Reality, I know the Onion has brought me so much in the past--I have a feeling that I hoped it would somehow make this Wednesday as bright as it did three Wednesdays ago.

Standards for Sale - $14.99

This afternoon, I was invited to go to the Gap in the middle of the day by my supervisor and a few of my co-workers for no other reason than there was a jacket on sale there for $14.99. These are the people, mind you, that for the first few months of my employ would stand over my cubicle and make plans to go to happy hour with each other. Now they’re asking me to blow off some work time with them. I kinda felt like I had been asked to ditch 7th period to go to Taco Bell with the cool kids.

The walk to the Gap was pleasant, I oohed and aahed with them over leather skirts and awful zipper sweaters, and I actually found a new purse/bag that I liked for only twenty dollars. Walking back to the office, however, I felt hollow inside. Sure, I had crossed one more thing off my List (go shopping for clothes I don’t want in the middle of the work day—check), but it wasn’t satisfying. I felt like I had left a little bit of myself back there in the Gap. I didn’t want to go in the first place, I really am not interested in these people’s acceptance, and I don’t like the Gap.

I know I’m cashing in my pride every day I come back to this job, but is it so bad that I’ll throw all of my standards out the window just to get away for a little while?
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