Why we should not revel in “Stacy’s Mom”

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A recent article on “Stacy’s Mom” defended the playing of the song at the end of University events by detailing how it is an instance of satire. “Stacy’s Mom,” the article argued, is fitting for the University of Dallas’ culture, which strives for truth while maintaining a healthy sense of humor.

I wholeheartedly agree that humor is and ought to be a key component of the University of Dallas’ culture. Humor requires a facility of mind and a knack for insight; it can focus the mind of an individual person, and it can wonderfully draw different persons together. It is a good within the life of a community, especially that of a university.

Moreover, I think that humor can expand over every conceivable topic. There are certainly situations in which humor is not applicable—St. Benedict discourages laughter in his monks, for instance—but in the world, the freedom of speech ought to be most protected when it concerns humor. The ability to make fun is integral to a healthy sense of humanity. It allows us to step back and laugh at our all-too-human foibles and failings.

In principle then, if “Stacy’s Mom” were an opportunity for UD students to pause and laugh at vice and folly, refreshing their minds for a more eager pursuit of truth and goodness, there would be no problem with playing it. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that most students prancing in the mosh pit on Thursdays are not in a satirical frame of mind come midnight.

Nor do I think that Fountains of Wayne was embracing satire in any meaningful way when they wrote the song. While the dictionary may tell you the common uses of the word “satire,” it cannot communicate why satire is a perennial staple of culture. It cannot tell you why satire really matters.

Satirical criticism is skillful and valuable only if this criticism lifts toward the good. Satire must have a redeeming quality beyond mere ridicule. Chaucer, like no other English writer, pushes his readers to acknowledge human bodiliness and sinfulness. His satirical ridiculing of sexual sin throughout the “Canterbury Tales,” however, finds ultimate meaning in his contrasting depiction of the self-giving, celibate person.

In a similar way, the satirically crass final line of Canto 21 of the “Inferno”—if you remember —is superseded by the heavenly thunder that rings at the end of Canto 21 of “Paradiso.” The redemption of criticism may be subtle, even hard to find, but it must be there. Otherwise, the ridicule has no end.

I acknowledge that there is irony in “Stacy’s Mom,” some jesting at a high school boy’s woeful infatuation with a much older woman. But like a lot of unskillful humor, the jesting goes nowhere.

Many people can notice sin; Freud, Nietzsche and Marx are especially adept. It takes a genuine sense of humor, however, to bring real good from this insight. For all their supposed creativity, Fountains of Wayne is bereft of this genuine humor.

In closing, I must admit that it is possible for someone to laugh at “Stacy’s Mom” in a satirical way—despite, not thanks to, the intent of its writers. However, I still disagree with the previous article’s implication that this power belongs most especially to the “wonderful type of UD person” who both reads Jane Austen in her room and then later leaps aimlessly in the mosh pit.

To be frank, why is this such a wonderful type of UD person? Why is it not the girl who stays in her room reading all evening because she just can’t set down Jane Austen? Why is it not the guy who skips TGIT to write a better essay for Lit Trad? Why is it not the two persons who awkwardly swing dance in the corner while “Stacy’s Mom” plays (and laugh more genuinely than those in the mosh pit)? All these people understand more thoroughly why the song ought to be mocked, and these people, as I have found, do not particularly care for its lyrics.

It’s time to rethink, then, what makes a genuine UD tradition; it’s time to rethink what makes a wonderful UD person. It’s time to stop playing “Stacy’s Mom.”

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