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Political correctness and the Keenan Revue

| Thursday, February 19, 2015

This past weekend, the Knights of Keenan Hall took the structurally unsound Stepan stage in “Revue’s Clues: A Private Investigation.” Last year, I implored the student body not to attend for their own good, and I tried to repeat that same message this time around. Outdated 90s references and childhood nostalgia, a homage to the over-saturated crime drama market and way too many critiques of Notre Dame stereotypes, policies and the administration. I ask, where is the appeal?

Well, it is the 39th year of the Keenan Revue, so there is obviously a desire amongst the student body for good-natured humor. A full house the entire weekend confirmed that desire. This trend reflects the general consensus of the American people. Saturday Night Live is celebrated its 40th year anniversary last Sunday evening, so in a way, Keenan is the three-night opening act for SNL. While the dream is one day for SNL to open up for the Keenan Revue, Lorne Michaels demands a pretty high salary. This presents a problem as Revue tickets are free, due to an outdated Indiana State Law, (Acts 1973, P.L.55, SEC.1) which explicitly implies that any profitable performance which includes erotic dance must be taxed at a 69% rate. Rather than bow down to the Tax Man, Keenan decided to go with a free show, of which all of Notre Dame is a beneficiary.

Notre Dame benefits because it is in the current mission of the Keenan Revue to provide social commentary through the thinly-veiled disguise of sketch comedy. In no way is Keenan Hall the moral compass of the Notre Dame student body. Far from it, to be honest. While some material may be hard-hitting and provocative, most involve absurdist scenarios or the immature sexual jokes that college aged men are naturally inclined to (SNL is guilty of this too. See the famous skits “Schweddy Balls” and “Colonel Angus”). The Revue is, however, a voice. It is an opinion that prompts thought and open discussion on campus. When a voice is silenced and censored, it shows a deeper problem that constitutes a society’s lack of confidence in itself. This is an example of a deeper problem — the disappearance of open discussion in student unions, intelligentsia and the media, as well as the general partisan attitude of Americans.

In the age of political correctness, Jonathan Chait, in his must-read article, “Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say,” in the New Yorker, notes how “political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.” Afraid to be attacked by both sides, it is becoming increasingly difficult in America to truly speak ones mind. It is not only athletes on social media who have fallen from public grace for speaking their mind; it is politicians, professors, teachers, the clergy and students who find themselves unable to truly express their beliefs. Those who speak their mind and are willing to fight for their beliefs now face opposition under the monster of comment boards, blog posts, social media, lawsuit, a society that is drawn to buzzwords such as liberal and bigot and news stories involving allegedly “racist” or “feminist” comments. In the age of overwhelming and drowning opinions, it is through reason, Chait notes, that society will triumph again: “And that glory [of liberalism] rests in its confidence in the ultimate power of reason, not coercion, to triumph.”

It is not up to the Keenan Revue to decide what is right and what is wrong. The Revue merely expresses its views, whether they be in song, skit or dance form, to the student body. It is then up to the student body to reason what needs to be changed or what needs to be addressed on campus. The policing of the Keenan Revue by University administration is wrong and further perverts the American liberalism described by Chait. Does this University truly preach a message of open discussion and truths, if the powers that be fall prey to political correctness, and are willing to hide the truth in order to save face or avoid unwelcome confrontations? Censorship does not allow the student body to formulate its own opinions or discuss the content that is provided. It is not the administration who should decide what is right and wrong; it is the students.

In conclusion, this weekend featured the final bastions of attempts at truly free expression. While it may be under the pretense of comedy, there is a strong, powerful message underneath. SNL has changed America with its unrelenting parody of culture and politics, as evidenced by Will Ferrell’s dynamite impersonation of George W. Bush or Tina Fey’s brilliant portrayal of Sarah Palin that heavily influenced the ’08 election. The Revue has had legendary skits (search Flip & Tuck on YouTube) and even better performers, yet at the end of the day the Revue has strived above all, much like SNL, to parody life at Notre Dame, with all of its bizarre quirks, changes, policies and obsessions. So, in the unlikely event that you attended this weekend, remember that we are trying to convey a message that is sometimes done best through absurd and what may seem like offensive comedy. The skits should be taken in good humor as a message about life in South Bend as a college student. Whatever logic or message that is, the Revue can leave you to reason what is right, wrong, or just plain funny.

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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