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Small jokes, big responses

Letter to the editor | Thursday, October 18, 2007

If you ever had a sibling around your age, remember being like six years old on a long car trip, and you’d make goofy faces at him or her because you knew you’d get a reaction. And, of course, it would work, and about an hour into it your little sister or brother would get mad and either start crying or throw their juice box at you? Notre Dame, you’ve just been hit with a twin-barreled Hi-C from Elizabeth Karle and Katie Shea.

Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to Saint Mary’s-based comic-related-Viewpoint-Hate-Mail-season almost as much as college basketball season, but if I could, I’d like to make our Saint Mary’s friends aware of an important point. The biggest stereotype that exists about Saint Mary’s College is: (drumroll, please) that ya’ll are phenomenally defensive about being stereotyped. Small jokes; big, angry responses.

I can’t speak for the writers of “Tastes Like Failure,” but I’d guess that it’s highly likely that the punchline of that comic wasn’t found in their three panels (you can’t form a complete thought in a comic strip, let alone any kind of a judgment about entire groups of people), but in Ms. Shea’s letter referencing literary analysis and calculus equations. I’d also guess that the goal of said comic was to elicit that response.

When something meant entirely in jest draws that kind of a response, it’s really, really funny, even if the comic wasn’t. So therein lies the catch, especially for those who think like Ms. Karle and Ms. Ballinger who say such statements are “vile”, “bitter”, or used for “oppression”.

Bitterness and oppression imply forethought and malice, I’d ballpark that about 95% of Saint Mary’s “stereotypes” are used completely glibly to generate a response. Turns out, while there will always be some truly hateful people, just about every Notre Dame student I’ve met who actually knows Saint Mary’s girls doesn’t buy into the truth of any of those stereotypes, but that still doesn’t mean the over-the-top reactions to them aren’t funny.

This is the same reason we call Boston College “Backup College” despite the fact that it’s universally recognized that Boston College is a darn good school.

So members of the Notre Dame community are making faces at you, Saint Mary’s, respond how you will. But if your responses to offhand jokes fall along the lines of “stop this vile hate and oppression,” just realize that the mindset you’re attacking is one that most Notre Dame students don’t possess.

And you’ll be feeding the biggest Saint Mary’s stereotype as well. The reason, Ms. Karle, that same stereotypes exist now that did 20 years ago has more to do with the same hypersensitive reactions to them than anything else.

Matt Wallace

senior

off campus

Oct. 17