A web site called Autostraddle published an editor’s note about why it pulled a review of Seth Rogen’s new animated film Sausage Party. The editor’s note is brilliant and hilarious — assuming it’s satire. But some observers (including my husband) insist it’s 100% real. Let’s figure it out.
Does Any Of This Sound Real?
Yesterday we published a review of Seth Rogen’s new animated film, Sausage Party. After we received feedback about it from our Trans Editor Mey Rude, the members of the QTPOC Speakeasy and Facebook commenters, we decided to un-publish the piece. Here’s how the review came to be published on Autostraddle, why it was a problematic decision, and what we’re doing to avoid mistakes like this in the future.
It’s not just the presence of a “Trans Editor” or that editor’s name being “Mey Rude” that is great, but the entire paragraph supports the theory we’re about to embark on a fun ride. Here’s the original, delightfully positive review that embraces the movie’s prominent lesbian, uh, taco character.
Autostraddle describes itself thusly: “We are a trans-friendly website and aim to make Autostraddle an accepting and supportive environment for queer trans women. Although Autostraddle is a website created for and primarily aimed at lesbian, bisexual and queer women (cis and trans) and always will be, as the community evolves we also are starting to include work by and about non-binary-identified folks in our community.”
The editor’s note regarding the movie review explains in exhausting detail “How The Review Came to Be Published.” Senior Editor Heather Hogan explains how a freelance writer pitched the review, she discusses the ethnic stereotypes that populate the film, and notes that actress Salma Hayek “expressed unbridled enthusiasm about the role” of an “animated queer taco.”
She posts the entire editorial discussion — which was held in the messaging app Slack — of the review “in the interest of transparency.”
‘Is The Reviewer White’
heather: Salma Hayek Is a Surprisingly Endearing Lesbian Taco in “Sausage Party”
how’s that [headline]?
i can’t see how a latina woman voicing a lesbian taco in a seth rogen movie could ever be a good thing, but this review says it is nuanced and sweet
riese: is the reviewer white
The “riese” mentioned here would be Autostraddle CEO Riese Bernard.
‘The Category Of Movies I Hate’
Yvonne: i think it’s fine heather! i think i wouldn’t watch the movie because it’s in the category of movies i hate and i hope our readers can make that distinction for themselves. and it’s not like we’re endorsing this movie, just pointing out there’s a lesbian taco
‘I Hope It’s Not Transmisogynistic’
This is my personal favorite line of the editorial discussion.
heather: i hope it’s not transmisogynistic. i went through ten pages of google results and tumblr and didn’t see anything about transphobia or transmisogyny
When you’re in need of moral guidance, and looking for authoritative sources, who doesn’t turn to Tumblr?
Weird Comment About Salma Hayek’s Voice
like if i think about it, of course i hate that they resorted to a stereotype, like making salma hayek use her accent for the voice of a taco but like this is seth rogan so my feelings are like :face_with_rolling_eyes:
Making Salma Hayek use her accent? Making her use her accent? I think that’s just called “casting someone and letting them use their real voice.”
‘Also I Wonder If The Taco Is Bisexual’
heather: also i wonder if the taco is bisexual
That’s it. That’s the beautiful line.
This Editorial Discussion Can’t Be Real
i can’t believe i am having this much of a crisis about this!
Yvonne: i get it though!
because sausage party is crass
Yvonne: like people in our community can critique the hell out of it
and pick it apart
Yvonne: because it’s meant for stupid fucking men
thank you, yes
that is my feelings exactly
Yvonne: and it’s not meant for us
and we don’t need more media like it in this world
because that is the world
Well said, Yvonne. We don’t need more media like it in this world because that is the world.
‘Why The Review Was Unacceptable’
The next section begins, literally, “Why The Review Was Unacceptable” and includes this amazing opener:
After we published the review, we heard from Latinx readers who believe the portrayal of Salma Hayek’s taco was racist and that it reinforced harmful stereotypes. We heard from readers who were upset that we labeled the taco a lesbian when it seems more likely that she was bisexual. We heard from readers who questioned the consent of the sexual encounter between the taco and the hot dog bun. We heard from readers who found the taco to be a damaging portrayal of a predatory queer woman.
PSA: “Latinx” is the term preferred by people who can’t deal with the fact that languages are gendered. Also, the last time I mistook a taco for a lesbian when they were really bisexual, it was so humiliating. Who can’t relate?
More Utter Insanity Of Identity Politics
There are several reasons I should have listened to the alarm bells of unease I felt about the Sausage Party review. First and most damning: we allowed a non-Latina writer to cover a story about a caricature of a Latina, and while the review didn’t specifically mention the film’s stereotyping, by praising the film as a positive portrayal of a queer Latina, we allowed a white writer to, in effect, condone that stereotyping.
Why did they stop using Latinx and go back to Latina? I’m feeling so triggered right now.
‘Blinded By My Own Whiteness’
I want to personally apologize to every reader who was hurt by the Sausage Party review. I failed you as a senior editor of this website and I failed you as an ally. I am wholly sorry for the pain and anger I caused you. I offer you no justification. I was blinded by my own whiteness existing inside a system of white supremacy. I must do better. I will do better. I also want to take full responsibility for not working more closely with the freelancer. This was not her fault. This was an editorial failure. I should have asked more critical questions about the film, especially since no one I know had seen it.
I don’t think I’ve ever been on the receiving end of such a debasing apology in real life. To say this is over the top doesn’t come close to accurately characterizing the situation. It seems kind of unnecessary to commit career seppuku over an animated lesbian taco.
The Struggle Session Continues
Yvonne weighs in about her own deep “shame”:
A note from Yvonne: I want to apologize to our Latinx readers specifically because I could’ve stopped this from happening, especially when I recognized the red flags and didn’t stop to question them. I knew the taco was a racist caricature but attributed it to a systemic problem in media that wasn’t necessarily our problem. But it became our problem when we used our voice as a queer publication to write a positive review of that racist caricature and perpetuated a racist narrative for the sake of the queer representation in the film. I was wrong for not stopping this immediately, especially when it deeply effects my own people. I’m a Latina and I’m also susceptible to the racist, oppressive system we live in. I know how incredibly challenging it is to find genuine Latinx representations in media and I’m sorry I was a disservice to Latinxs by not demanding better. These aren’t our stories and we deserve better. I’m deeply shamed by this deplorable mistake and I will definitely learn from this and make sure I can provide the best representation for people of color going forward.
Again, did it occur to anyone here at any point that if we’re prioritizing injustices to be remedied, resorting to sackcloth and ashes over a movie called “Sausage Party” probably ought to be ranked somewhere between “no one cares” and “you’re embarassing yourself with this nonsense.”
Maybe All The White *Editors* Need To Go, Am I Right?
Heather goes on to explain “What We’re Doing To Stop Mistakes Like This From Happening.” I’m not sure this says what she thinks it does:
We were three episodes into our review schedule when we found out about OITNB’s season-ending death. At that time, I pulled reviews from two of our white writers and sought Black writers to cover the important episodes. Riese mandated that we read the widely circulated article “Orange Is the New Black is Trauma Porn for White People.” And I personally edited every review so I could make sure the opinions voiced by our white writers were in line with the voices of Black writers I was seeking out every day for their opinions on every episode. I am really proud of the diversity of voices we showcased in our 13-episode review schedule. We published reviews by two trans women of color, four Black writers, one Latinx, one Indian woman, two nonbinary writers, and two bisexual writers. The majority of our reviews were written by people of color.
Anyone else spot the contradiction highlighted above? Diversity in skin color is SUPER IMPORTANT. But if people express themselves differently from the approved group consensus, please edit that out. And non-white people can be edited by white people without that being a significant problem, but white people can’t write the original content without it being a horrific problem.
But Seriously, Someone Needs To Quit
We understand that (like most online media for LGBTQ folks) the majority of our senior staff is white, and that because of that, we make decisions based on our conditioning by white supremacy. Yesterday’s Sausage Party review is a very hurtful example of what happens when our lack of access and that blindness and our weaknesses as editors due to our privilege and systemic racism collide. I take full responsibility for the pain and anger the review caused.
We’re not there yet. In fact, we will never get there because the work will never be done. And we’re going to keep fucking up along our way. But we are constantly working to get better. I will redouble my own efforts to unpack my role in the systemic oppression of people of color and to check the ways in which I benefit from that system. I love you very much, and I want to work with you to make the world better.
Be the solution, not the problem, right? This editor should quit for her whiteness, but if not that, she should be fired for not assigning this review to a taco.
Evidence For This Not Being Satire, Part 1
Below the article, there are nearly 200 comments as of press time. Here’s a random example:
I appreciate how you are modeling some of the complex parts of being a white social justice minded person in a white supremacy: apologizing, acknowledging how we (white ppl) profit from, AND also think within white supremacy. the levels of mistakes. this will help me in the future. also i am also trying to be aware of creating a white space down here in the comments of white SJ praise and shit (this apology is not for me or to me, and if it resonates with QPOC than it can teach me). noting that this apology is a helpful model for others, myself- that seems worth commenting. thanks heather, yvonne, riese, staff.
Evidence For This Not Being Satire, Part 2
The people mentioned in the piece all have social media profiles. And they say things consistent with the rhetoric of the above piece:
The number of white men I've blocked on Twitter for yelling at me for apologizing to women of color explains Trump to me so clearly.
Heather Hogan (@hhoagie) August 17, 2016
Evidence For This Being Elaborate Satire
The website exists and has tons of other articles. Here’s the top hit for the moment:
Please help us out. Is the 2,600-word apology for a comment in a review about a cartoon lesbian taco satire or real life? When writing about animated tacos, should concerned Americans seek out the undervalued perspective of taco-Americans? And finally, can we definitively say whether a Sausage Party is in any way preferable to a queer identitarian circle jerk? Let us know.