Trump and Satire
Currier House was wrong to take down its Donald Trump-based parody video
Shortly before spring break, Currier House produced a Housing Day video in which a Trump impersonator travels from house to house, criticizing each in the style of the real estate developer’s bombastic insults, before eventually praising Currier. Shortly before Housing Day, the video—which had previously been approved by the House’s Faculty Deans and tutors—was taken down.
One does not need to be a fan of Donald Trump to recognize that he is no longer a fringe character. While Trump’s meteoric political rise is disturbing, it also makes him a valid target for satire. In light of this reality, Currier House’s recent decision to take down a Housing Day video featuring the businessman and Republican presidential front-runner was wrong.
With the exception of passing references to campus liberalism and Ted Cruz, the video is entirely apolitical. It does not purport to promote, endorse, or sanction Donald Trump, his policies, or his rhetoric. Even had the video been more politically charged, it still would not be Currier’s place to decide what topics are valid objects of political satire. Such a view would find us on an uncomfortable and slippery slope down the dark road of administrative censorship.
After all, this video was created by Currier’s House Committee, the body that supposedly represents the residents of the House. If the video needed to be taken down, it should only have been done after extensive dialogue with students. Though productive dialogue did occur at a town hall meeting after the video was taken down, the House should have conducted a longer and more thorough process of consultation before reaching a final decision.
Some Currier residents, especially Latino, undocumented, and Muslim students, may very well have felt uncomfortable with satirizing Trump, given his bigoted and racist views. But opposition to his poisonous rhetoric is precisely why it deserves satire. Indeed, all political satire inevitably touches on difficult topics.
Other apolitical Housing Day videos could be similarly construed as offensive. Numerous videos describe gratuitous sex, drinking, or drug consumption or, more appropriately, they parody songs that do. By the standards of Currier House, these videos should be taken down as well.
The brutal reality is that Donald Trump is leading the race for the Republican nomination. As of now, he has amassed nearly 50 percent of all GOP delegates awarded thus far. He is the subject of constant political discussion, newspaper headlines, and cable news coverage. He is certainly a reasonable target for satire.
More fundamentally, Housing Day videos are not house mascots. They are not comparable to shields, crests, or namesakes. They do not represent a House, nor do they embody it. They are one-time, passing, light-hearted, student-created, and unofficial ways to celebrate Housing Day. When they satirize the Republican presidential frontrunner—hardly a road less traveled—let’s not blow it out of proportion. Let’s not censor it either.