Enough Is Enough
Article by Julia Stiles
One would assume that as students of an Ivy League University, we have enough insight not to take talk shows too seriously. Either a lot of Columbia students watch Late Night with Conan O'Brien, or they find second hand gossip a reliable source. I have received a lot of criticism, both to my face and in print, about flippant comments I made while appearing on talk shows to promote Save the Last Dance. I was denigrated in one Columbia media outlet and nearly slandered in another, all because I made a joke about the dining hall on national television. Talk shows require a pre-interview, where the guest is grilled for funny anecdotes.
They are asked to point out their own quirks, to define themselves, to make fun of people, and as a last resort, they are even asked if they can perform any stupid human tricks. The guests are often made to feel stupid and dull, simply because they cannot point these things out off the top of their heads. Later, the producer gives the guest a modified script of what should actually be said on the show. A lot of times, stories are altered because the producer comes up with a more humorous ending. More importantly, it is just television, and the sole purpose is to entertain. There is little regard for truth or personal feelings.
In the case of my appearance, I was asked about the quality of food at school and told to exaggerate for the sake of comedy. Granted, I was not forced to say anything, but under the circumstances I wanted to get through the interview alive. Having every comment examined under such heavy scrutiny has made me consider the repercussions of what I say. I have apologized in writing to the dining staff; they seem to understand that I wasn't commenting on any particular person. They understand that it is a very common, if not clichéd, joke to poke fun at cafeteria food. Adam Sandler did it, and so did a writer for an on-campus publication that took issue with my comments.
I didn't realize that so many Columbia students have made it their cause to go crusading for Dining Services. I also didn't realize that the way to criticize thoughtless jokes was to mudsling. Contrary to what some people think, my tuition has not been paid for by Twentieth Century Fox, it has been paid for by years and years of hard work on my part. I have a job, just like anyone else. My wardrobe is not photographed by In Style; in magazines, I am dressed by the designer being advertised.
I accept that, much like the dining hall, I am subject to mockery. Students bond with each other in sharing criticism of the dining hall. We often forget the context in which the food is made and the pressure under which dining services operates. The moral of the story is: think twice before you hurl insults at someone, albeit indirectly. You may be attempting humor to get in good with your audience, but even lunch ladies and Hollywood wenches have feelings.
Originally published in the February 22, 2001 issue of the Columbia Spectator