Proximity and Satire

Debbie sends me a link (via Z) to this article about University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann posing (on Halloween) alongside a student dressed as a suicide bomber. (More on the incident here, here, and here.)

The article reads:
[The student] can be seen carrying out a series of mock hostage executions, evoking images reminiscent of the series of abductions and murders of Westerners in Iraq in 2004.
Now, satire can be tough to read, and often the best forms can be in very bad taste—but it's funny how proximity works to damn the prez in this case. For her to be seen posing alongside the satirist is viewed as in poor taste (or uncritical), even though she's not the one laden with phony explosives and undertaking the performances so obviously critical of ethnic prejudice.


  1. I've been thinking a lot lately about how we distinguish the intention of costume use for satire or its use for reinforcing cultural stereotypes (like the "Tacos and Tequila" party).

    I was surprised to get an email invitation last night from some chemistry friends for a "Pilgrim and Indian Party" this upcoming weekend, especially with what has happened here on campus so recently - needless to say, I will not be attending the event.

  2. For me, it's not the costume that distinguishes the satire, in this case, but the performance. Still, this text is soooo multivalent as to be read in a number of ways.

    Pilgrims and Indians? No way.

  3. I'll be skipping the P&I party for an evening at the movies: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443453/

  4. Now there's a satire worth writing about!