Once a Font of Daring Humor, the Bugbear Has Lost Its Way

by Max Agigian

Satire

January 21, 2019

We are all familiar with the BUA Bugbear, the Scarlet Letter’s homegrown answer to the Onion. Nobody could deny that some of the newspaper’s best writing is to be found in classics such as its opinion piece purporting to be from a member of the school administration, or the scathing mockery of BUA’s founder, first headmaster, and resident reactionary politician John Silber. This author, at least, has opened the Letter each month, not first to the arts or current events section, but to the satire column, eager to see what bizarre or pointed humor its editors have produced.

I will do so no longer. This decision is not because of a personal, political, or pedantic disagreement with the good people at the Bugbear or the Letter. It is merely what has been a long time coming: a result of the steady decline in quality of the Bugbear’s writing. In its salad days, the column was a source of hearty chuckles due to its witty and occasionally controversial articles. At times it was even a source of admiration for what the writers managed to sneak past the undoubtedly strict censors in the leadership of the Letter and of the school. Lately, however, it seems to have lost its touch. I could stick with it through the times of moderate quality, such as its article debating which ancient weaponry the classics department would need to take on the rest of the school. I could even stand the rambling thinkpiece about the search for the new headmaster. Finally, however, I realized that these articles, mediocre or worse, were not flukes but instead representative of a greater pattern.

The impish, transgressive spirit that endeared the Bugbear to the student body has gone out of it entirely, whether because of censorship or because of a lack of good ideas. It has increasingly rarely been willing to tackle serious issues of school politics, and when it has, it has done so with an eye more to appeasing the administration than to amusing the student body. Most of its articles are uninteresting, like its recent review of Fall Fest, which most students agree was bland, off the nose (as it were), and at times even mean-spirited. Gone are the days when the Bugbear would take on any challenge in front of it.

One can hope that new blood will infuse new life into the once-beloved Bugbear, but I’m not holding my breath.

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