Jack-O Derecognition Would Be Expressive of Sincere, Yet Misdirected, Campus Anger

by Matthew Benedetto | 11/7/97 6:00am

To the Editor:

I feel it necessary to express my opinion in regard to the recent controversy of acceptable speech in the Jack-O-Lantern Humor Magazine. I will focus specifically upon the "Dartmouth Review Dictionary" in my comments. Though I acknowledge that many student groups took great offense to the words written on that page, I feel this issue is not one of the racist ideology of the Jack-O, but rather, one of the meaning of satire.

Satire is an extremely complex and conflicted literary form. It proves to be so complex because many readers fail to, or refuse to, draw a distinction between mere presentation and actual self-representation (i.e., the Jack-O used those words: they MUST have meant them in their opprobrious context.) Analogously, when an actor plays a gay character on stage, the actor must actually be gay, some people affirm. I feel that the failure to make this distinction is the root of the Jack-O problem. The Jack-O's words are simultaneously racist/homophobic/sexist and anti-racist/anti-homophobic/and anti-sexist. They are racist/homophobic/sexist in that their mere invocation contextualizes them in a society that is undeniably racist, homophobic and sexist. However, they are, I believe, more importantly-anti-racist/anti-homophobic/anti-sexist in that they attempt to satirize and hence criticize those elements of campus that find humor in those racist/homophobic/sexist contextualizations (i.e., Dartmouth Review sympathizers.) I feel it is unfortunate for our free-floating anger at societal forces in general to be (mis)directed at the Jack-O, who in fact is decrying the cloak-and-dagger racism/homophobia/and sexism of the Dartmouth Review.

I have been criticized for espousing this literary view of the Jack-O controversy, but I feel compelled to express it. Satire is a literary genre that has exasperated readers for half a millennium -- it will continue to do so by its very nature. However, what seems to get lost in the shuffle of this discussion are the historical benefits satire has induced and the potential for campus galvanization and unification that the latest Jack-O satire may have actualized.

De-recognition of the Jack-O would be short-sighted, expressive of sincere, yet misdirected, campus anger.