“So, how can we piss people off this week, editors?”
“Another Harrington story?”
“No, that’s too easy a target. Besides, our reporters don’t like going in there. They’ve complained about slipping on all the blood in the halls.”
I look across the story meeting table at an editor who’s sweating like a pig in a butcher shop.
“Well, how about the sports guys? Surely, that academic suspension story is ready by now?”
“Sorry, I got nothing this week. They all seem to be clean this year.”
“Do you even know which team you’re snubbing this week? Get on it!”
“And don’t forget what happened to the international section.”
Finally, my eyes drift over at my most trusted editor, who’s sitting in the shadows, rearranging the pins in his Jeffrey Carleton voodoo doll.
“Bridgeburner, you got anything?”
“I know this guy,” he hisses, as he removes his fedora. “This pretentious poseur. The ultimate talentless hipster. He’s a pretty unpopular character on campus. And I think I may be able to convince him to write for us.”
Our eyes dart to the sides and smiles creep wide on our faces.
That, my friends, was my attempt at a satire.
A satire is a piece of literature meant to ridicule “human vices.” There is often an unmistakable sarcastic, over-the-top tone.
Sometimes satires can be misunderstood, so publishers label the piece to make sure readers know it’s a joke, as The Aquinian does with Dylan Sealy’s satire.
Dylan takes on the character of Arte Mechante, whose “advice column” appears on the backpage every second week. Arte is an artist, the above mentioned “talentless
hipster,” who lives off his parent’s dime and has been going to St. Thomas for eight years now. He thinks he’s a genius, the world’s best writer, but he has yet to get into the journalism program. His advice? Be more like him.
Last week, we published an Arte Mechante column that was essentially a poet’s guide to mistreating women. Arte
called it “a handy guide to getting and keeping beautiful women,” but his tips included pointing out women’s flaws and being indignant about them.
As always, the column had a sarcastic tone that screamed, “Don’t take me seriously!” But some people weren’t so sure.
A few women left comments on our website and said we had crossed a line; that even though we labelled the piece “character satire,” it was degrading to women and it
shouldn’t be published.
This isn’t the first time The Aquinian has offended women.
Some refer to it as “the skank article.”
It was about two years ago, around Halloween. It was meant to be a satire on women and the scandalous costumes they
tend to wear. There was a drawing (and maybe even a reference to the “rape trail”). Most students didn’t get it – and the same people were extremely unimpressed.
I was one of those students. Though I was more sympathetic than most because of my involvement with The Aquinian at the time, I was offended by the generalization of the
article. As someone who dressed up as Cat in the Hat her first year in university, I could understand where everyone – and I mean, everyone – was coming from.
With any satire, you have to be careful.
Often the writer is touching on sensitive topics that could easily offend someone.
But that’s kind of the point.
In his essay, “A Modest Proposal,” originally published in 1729, Jonathon Swift suggests the Irish sell their babies as food for the rich in order to alleviate poverty.
“A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with
a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter,” he writes.
As Swift demonstrated, satire can cross the line – but that’s the effect you’re going for.
With so much satire around us – think Saturday Night Live and Jon Stewart – you’d think we’d all be more accustomed to this type of humour.
Julia Whalen, editor of the arts section and the backpage, uses her discretion when it comes to Arte. If she thinks he’s gone too far, she’ll edit.
But last week’s Arte Mechante column wasn’t about making fun of the ladies; it was about Arte. That’s what it’s always about, no intentional discrimination required.
Every week our web editor Shane Magee sends me a list of stories that were most popular on our website.
For the seven days leading up to Halloween, one two-year-old article got a few hits. Yupp, you guessed it.
Between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, 53 people clicked on “An open letter to Halloween Skanks.” Fourteen of those 53 found the article by googling “Why do girls dress like skanks on Halloween?”
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