Harvard, Lampooned

Although I understand it’s all in good fun and spirit, I can’t say I’ve never been disturbed by Yale’s outright hatred for that sub-human cespool of squalor that is Harvard. I just can’t help myself wondering how easily Harvard could be replaced in the minds of Yalies with someone or something that I hold close to my heart, like hippies. With the horrific possibility of persecuted hippies weighing on my mind, I jumped at the opportunity to further explore Harvard and get to the bottom of our mutual misunderstandings. But when

I set out to boil Harvard down to one absolute phrase that would once and forever encompass its essence (“The _ Ivy”), I failed to consider that I knew little to nothing about this bastion of higher education. I have never graced the sidewalks of Cambridge with my presence, I have no friends currently enrolled there and I never seriously considered applying; perhaps I was foolish to embark on such a quest. In a frenzy, I went on a 24-hour research binge worthy of even the most strenuous term paper, and came to some interesting conclusions about our mortal enemies to the north that, frankly, I had no right to make.

My first stop was obviously Wikipedia, and, wouldn’t you know, Harvard is old (and they’re damn proud of it). The word “old” or “first” appears on their Wikipedia page 52 times! Now, I can appreciate the sanctity of tradition, but Harvard as “The Oldest/First Ivy,” though true, is hardly a compelling moniker in itself.

Harvardians (Cantabs? Crimsons? Pompous jerks?) are also supposedly quite a funny bunch of intellects, and their comedic reputation precedes itself. The Harvard Lampoon gave rise to the comedy giant National Lampoon and its subsequent masterpiece “Christmas Vacation” (a perennial favorite in my household). Conan “Coco” O’Brien (class of ’85), the biggest act to ever hit basic cable, is also a Harvard alum. So maybe Harvard is “The Funny Ivy?” To find out, I scoured their humor publications and HUTV (Harvard Undergraduate Television) for some sidesplitting comedy. Sure, there was a parody of “The Departed” titled “Yale: The Retarded” that was mildly humorous if not slightly offensive, and the Harvard Hooligans interviewed Will Ferrell, but overall my reaction was lukewarm at best. Believe it or not, there are some funny people at Harvard, but nothing spectacular. “The Understandably Mildly Funny Because They’re Intelligent Ivy?” Now that might stick.

Next I turned to the Harvard Crimson for some leads. The top four most-read articles are about Four Loko (yes, we know: if you drink it you WILL DIE), Phi Beta Kappa selections (obviously), “Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board” (hmm …) and vuvuzelas at The Game (oooh, cultural). The 2003 “Facemash” article is about none other than the infamous Mark Zuckerberg and his harrowing journey to the Ad Board and back for his salacious stunt as a Harvard undergrad. It’s a bizarre sort of “metahistorical” and ironic moment when you see a Facebook “Like” button next to the article’s title, but that’s a whole other issue. With all the recent hype surrounding “The Social Network,” it’s not necessarily surprising that this article is in popular demand. Unfortunately, I am unable to make a judgment on Harvardians (?) themselves because it’s most likely not Harvard students who are the cause for the article’s popularity, but rather the greater American public. Americans are proud of Harvard, and understandably so. “The Darling of America Ivy”? I can live with that, but I’m still not totally convinced.

So hours of “research” later (mostly devoted to watching HUTV), I still had no leads. I finely broke down and asked some friends if they knew anyone at Harvard. They did, and I emailed a young lady in the sophomore class, asking her if she would kindly attempt to characterize her school in a simple phrase. Her response was, “Uh, The Brick Ivy, because there are lots of bricks?” I was doomed! Following the advice of a recent NPR article on doodling and writers block, I doodled, a lot. As I rounded out the last tentacle of a football-playing Octopus, it hit me. Maybe there was a reason I was having so much difficulty? Maybe there is nothing unique about Harvard to set it apart form the other Ivies? Well, “WE”RE #1!!!!!” was the response I imagined, but to be honest, who in the Ivy League is counting? It seems that Harvard very well may be “The Brick Ivy” or, more aptly put, “The Square Ivy”: pompous and dull. I’d sure hate to ever take myself so seriously.