From a complaint about a mural in a University of Wisconsin – La Crosse residence hall, quoted in a National Review piece titled "UW Student Files Report Claiming Harry Potter Mural Is Transphobic and ‘Represents White Power,'" by Katherine Timpf. Timpf is too dismissive of the student's concerns, I think, and resorts to mockery.
Listen, kid. If that’s how you “feel,” then fine. Well, at least kind of fine, because I’d say if you really are so “angry” about having to even “know” people who put up a Harry Potter painting, then you probably have some anger issues you need to address. It’s not like they’re ISIS, relax. But in any case, the biggest problem about all of this isn’t even the fact that this kid seems to “feel” a level of anger over a painting that seems like it would be more appropriate to feel over something like terrorism. It’s the fact that he or she goes right from “it is how I feel” into “I do not want it up on this wall” — right from “I feel like this” into “I am telling you I want you to take it down just because of the reasons I just outlined, those reasons being my feelings.” Honestly, this student’s report shows a level of entitlement and narcissism that’s far more offensive than any painting I’ve ever seen.It's not just a painting somewhere in the museum. It's a mural, a permanent part of one of the walls that house the students, and it's directed at the students with the obvious intent to make them feel good about where they live:
The intent of the artist is to say to the residents: You should feel great about living here; this place will make you happy. The complainant is saying: It's having the opposite effect on me. That's useful information to the university, and it is, in fact, expressed modestly.
"Why do we need a BEFORE and AFTER?" That is: Why are you portraying me as ugly and awkward before I got here and in need of a change?
Now, I'm sure many of you will object to something else in the complaint that I haven't quoted yet:
It represents white power. Man power. Cis power. Able power. Class power.... etc.That may sound a little hysterical, but as art analysis, it makes sense. The happy "after" character has distinctly lighter skin, and he is in many ways a conventional, idealized young white man. The boy looks gnomish and misshapen. I know it's a joke, and it's based on a real Harry Potter character, and I don't know enough about the Harry Potter series to have any insight into its race and gender politics, but the university can't assume everyone's into Harry Potter. I'm pretty sure the people involved in putting up the mural meant well and thought it was cute and pop and fun, but they should take seriously how they actually make people feel, and the anonymous complainant has brought new complexity to the analysis of art and that's something colleges should want to do.
Let's have more speech.
And let's have better murals. Come on. It really is a bad mural, a bad atmosphere for a college dorm. It's okay to be a funny looking kid. You are loved.