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Opinion

Letters to the Editor

By Rob Fagan '14, Tara Huggins '14, Frederick Spencer '13, Sally Bourdon '15

September 26, 2013

Hell raises questions about stereotypes

Hell: The Musical is a momentous achievement for the Hamilton student body. In my three years at Hamilton I have not seen a group of students put on anything of that magnitude. Yet, contrary to popular belief, bigger is not always better. I do not mean to say that the musical was bad. No, I found the musical quite good and enjoyable. Moreover, it is a pleasure to see my peers participate in activities that they are passionate about. Rather, I found the musical problematic. Or should I say that amidst the grand set (that set was grand for a student performance), long script, and custom songs, I discovered that the musical potentially revolved around some racist and sexist stereotypes and caricatures.

Though I am a white, privileged, heterosexual, perceived as  Christian, male and therefore am not necessarily in a position to make claims about racism, I feel inclined, as a self-proclaimed anti-racist, to bring my observations to the student body in the form of questions. I would like to say why I intend on raising these following questions. I felt that the musical relied on certain problematic stereotypes but given my position, I do not feel  I have the authority to make a hard claim that there were in fact moments in the performance where racism and sexism replicated. In short, I am asking the student body what they saw in Hell: The Musical. Did you think that the young white man-child, i.e. the protagonist, played a role similar to Indiana Jones?  Though such a comparison seems absurd at face value, I think that you will find that both the protagonist, Rick, and Indiana Jones perform a similar function. Both  represent the mythic white hero, the white male messiah.

For instance, in The Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones “drags with him an oriental orphan (the only male his equal) and a screeching, hysterical woman,” the natives are helpless to liberate themselves, and all it takes is for one “enterprising American, the great White god sent by destiny, to free the people” (Herman Vera and Andrew Gordon, The Beautiful America: Sincere Fictions of the White Messiah in Hollywood Movies). Analogously, the protagonist in the musical is a white privileged, heterosexual male that is mistakenly condemned to a hell that is occupied involuntarily by Judas, a gay man without hope, a woman helpless to change her situation, a “ghetto Hispanic,” and a white priest who did not understand what it meant to be a priest. In the end, the protagonist wins the heart of the helpless woman and transforms her situation by reuniting her with her daughter in heaven. His mere presence is enough to encourage everyone to realize, either intentionally or unintentionally, that they have done bad deeds and ought to right their wrongs. Incidentally, wasn’t Jesus non-white? To some of you my observations and questions might seem meaningless, nit-picky, or fallacious, but to me racism, sexism, etc. are relevant and the portrayal of people of different  races and sexes matters.

Rob Fagan '14

Annex a bad fit for theater productions

As I leave Hell: The Musical, I cannot stop smiling or thinking about how impressed I am. Jim Anesta, his partners in crime, all the cast and crew put on a fantastic show. Hell will most likely be one of only two musicals this year, since the choir puts on a musical once a year, and the theater department chooses not to do musical theater. What is even more impressive is that Jim and his friend wrote and scored the show themselves. No, this was not for his thesis—Jim is not even a theater major—it was for a club.

I am proud to be a Hamilton student when I see students being so passionate about their interests that they pursue it without receiving academic credit. As a second semester student of Live Design and Production (the main technical theater class on campus), I could not help but notice all the behind-the-scenes parts of the show that could have been improved had Hell been produced in a real theater rather than the Annex. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think the crew of Hell did the best they could with what they had available. But when the back wall reads “Patricia and Winton Tolles Pavilion,”the light board does not have the ability to make smooth transitions and the sound goes in and out making it very difficult to transport the audience into a different world, in this case, into Hell.

I wish that Minor Theater could have been used, so that the audience could have been transported even further into the story. I know that Jim requested to use the theater, but the theater department, which has control over Minor, did not allow him to do so.

I am so proud of Hamilton students in all aspects, and wholeheartedly believe that everyone on this campus should be focused on what we can do to help students follow their dreams and find their passion. This was not an option provided to Jim. I write this as a hope for the future. Next year our new theater complex will have two theaters, one which will be perfect for student productions, as long as students are allowed that option. I look forward to coming back as an alumna, and seeing these student productions thrive and fulfill their entire potential to allow students to chase their dreams.

Tara Huggins '14

Hamilton leading political correctness?

Over the four years I spent at Hamilton, it was impossible not to notice a significant change in the culture of the campus and in the attitudes of students who fill it. I am talking about the proliferation of political correctness. That is not to say Hamilton was not PC when I was a freshman in 2009, but it was certainly some distance from the sanitized, offend-no-one-at-all-cost campus that exists today.

I remember there being a lot of fuss about flyers promoting an off-campus party, and wondering how something seemingly so innocuous could cause so much offense and warrant such a backlash. Now, I shudder to think what outcry a similarly harmless flyer would cause. For one reason or another, this Hamilton administration seems to be intent on making the school a leader in political correctness.

This desire to be the best at being PC has not gone unnoticed. The school distinguished itself by winning a Jefferson Muzzle Award in 2011. This award, given for abridgment of speech, was won by the administration for requiring all freshmen to attend “She Fears You,” which automatically assumes men are complicit in a campus rape culture.

It does not end there. The lack of intellectual diversity on campus is there for all to see, as well. How can a school that gets giddy at the buzzword “diversity” have only one openly conservative member of the faculty? Something smells like hypocrisy.  

Certain sections of the campus could do with donning a thicker skin. Perhaps the school would consider buying one with some of the funds at its disposal from the sizable endowment. Instead of jumping to condemn those who don’t share the campus’s left-leaning attitude, perhaps the school can see the humor that some of these differences bring to light.

I can categorically say the Hamilton administration would not have “good sense of humor” listed in an online dating profile. The over politicization of liberal arts colleges is nothing new; one must look no farther than the Oberlin racism hoax scandal to see that.  How long before a similar sham blights Hamilton?

I am a white, English male. Make an anti-English, misandrous joke that mocks white people, and I’ll be the first one laughing.

Political correctness? Not at my Hamilton.

Frederick Spencer '13

Negativity surrounds Greek life

Last week, the Spectator editorial staff commented, “For all the benefits that Greek societies deliver to the campus community, there are also obvious drawbacks to their existence,” emphasizing their aversion to  “the exclusive nature of such societies—an exclusivity that serves to divide the campus rather than unite it.” As a student involved in Greek life, I would like to respond. Firstly, in reality there are very few exclusively Greek events. Nearly every weekend, societies host all-campus parties, which welcome all students, and never has there been an event that specifically excluded non-Greeks. Whether or not other students choose to attend these events is their choice; but the option is always there. Yes, we do have formals and the occasional “mixer” with another society or campus group, but so do the soccer teams, a capella groups, rugby teams and a variety of other organizations. We also sometimes eat meals together or do homework together, just as a sports team eats together after practice or a group of friends does work together after class. We do it because we are friends, not because we are in a society. Some people might argue we would not even be friends if it had not been for joining Greek life, but think about your friends who you met through a club or organization—would you have met and become friends with them if you had not? Some might also say, “Well I joined that club because I love whatever it is the club does.” Well, I joined Greek life because I wanted to meet upperclassmen and new people in general, and through joining, I have. To put it simply, we are no different from any other campus group.

As Elizabeth Rodriguez wrote in the Spectator’s September 5th issue, “we are just like everyone else.” Recently, however, I have seen something that differentiates us from the rest of campus; we have not criticized, mocked or disapproved of the organization of another campus group. I am not specifically referencing the recent changes to Greek life recruitment, but rather the attitude on campus toward Greek societies. Many times I have overheard, and been the recipient of, negative comments about Greek life: absurd speculations (“They make them eat disgusting things during pledging”), rude exclamations (“They’re all assholes”) and generally malicious statements (“They’re stuck up rich kids”). It is true that not everyone is perfect, but that is applicable to everyone on Earth, not just its Greek life members.

What I want to ask is, “Why?” I cannot name a person in Greek life who I have heard slander another Hamilton group, so why the continuous resentment? To me, it is these kinds of attitudes that divide Hamilton, not students’ affiliations to particular campus groups. Editorials and somewhat slanted articles like those I have read recently only serve to continue to create this “divide,” and frankly, that is unfair.

Sally Bourdon '15

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