Shawn Johnson isn’t dead, or euthanized, but ‘Shawn Johnson dead’ is a headline on Google Trends. Shawn Johnson being dead would appear to be another Internet hoax at first, as it is common for celebrities to be rumored dead when they’re not. However, the false source of Shawn Johnson being dead isn’t a blog, tabloid or some other unreliable Internet source. It is actually the topic of a comedy bit on the Onion News Network.
The Onion, of course, is a satirical newspaper that posts false comedic stories about current events. For a bit from the spinoff Onion News Network, they reported that Shawn Johnson was dead, and put down.
According to their fake news, Shawn Johnson suffered a knee injury while training. The famous gymnast did not suffer an injury in real life, of course. However, the joke behind this story was that after Shawn Johnson suffered an injury, her parents decided to put her down.
Shawn Johnson being dead was used as a joke to compare gymnastics to horse racing, and to take pot shots at the sporting culture that doesn’t have much use for people when they can’t perform. The actors playing Shawn Johnson’s parents even said that since Johnson would be too “skittish” to compete in gymnastics anymore, it made no sense to keep her alive.
Shawn Johnson does have a lot more to live for than gymnastics, however. Before she was “dead” Johnson was declared the surprise winner of Dancing With the Stars in May. Olympians tend to do very well on that show and display other talents, but the fake parents from the Onion didn’t seem to notice.
Johnson is alive and well for real. She already had her big life scare for the year when a stalker broke into the ABC studios and tried to get to her early in the Dancing With the Stars season.
After a whole week of wondering how far jokes can go, due to the David Letterman/Sarah Palin mess, The Onion’s joke/satire about an Olympic champion being dead, and her parents giving the okay to put her to sleep, certainly wouldn’t be allowed on late night. But The Onion is known for going farther than most in joking about the news, well before the Comedy Central news team came along.
Since The Onion News Network report was just for the Internet, it’s a lot harder to protest against it and call for The Onion reporters to be fired. But for a brief second, some gullible fans who never heard of The Onion might think Shawn Johnson was dead – as fans have been fooled by other Internet death hoaxes in the past.
The Onion- “Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep After Breaking Leg” www.theonion.com/content/video/gymnast_shawn_johnson_put_to
OMG Blog- “OMG, she was euthanized: Shawn Johnson” www.omgblog.com/2009/06/omg_she_was_euthanized_shawn_j.php