Using the recent comments made by Trinity alum, Jesse Watters, staff writer Collete Grimes ’18 analyzes the results of a harmful campus atmosphere back in the 90s and wonders how much Trinity has truly changed since then.
Jesse Watters, a Fox News commentator and alumni of Trinity College, recently found himself in the midst of a scandal after a Chinatown Edition of his segment “Watters World” aired on the third of October. Watters’ segments are intended to be satirical, but when one watches his skits, it becomes clear that his talent is making jokes at the expense of others.
In his Chinatown segment, Watters was tasked with finding out the political sentiments of China, especially in regards to the upcoming election. Rather than engaging in substantial interactions, Watters proceeded to ask his interviewees if it was the year of the dragon or if he should bow when greeting someone. Many of the people he interviewed were older, did not speak English and were visibly uncomfortable. Watters’ routine others the passersby on Mott Street, placing himself and his viewers in a position of power. By failing to engage in a meaningful political exchange as equals, Watters further perpetuates Asian stereotypes and depict Chinatown and the people who live there as intellectually inept.
Rather than demonstrate how complex the immigrant and first-generation American experience can be for Asians, Watters decides his time is best spent getting a pedicure. Watters’ segment exemplifies the American tendency to celebrate and mock diversity in the same breath.
In an interview with Philadelphia Daily News’ Ellen Gray, Watters claims, “I try to make it enjoyable for the person I’m interviewing. We always come away from the interview all smiles, for the most part. And it’s always fun to come back and look at the footage and say ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened.’” Some may come to Watters’ defense, urging that his segment was a joke and that the liberal media needs to stop being so politically correct. Believe it or not, it is possible to be funny without being offensive.
Take, for instance, Comedy Central’s Drunk History. This hilarious show features arguably lesser-known celebrities recounting important points in history while in a drunken stupor. Last week, writer and comedian Crissle West retold the account of Stonewall Riot, a series of noteworthy demonstrations in queer history. Comedy Central did something that apparently no one else has been willing to do. In their dramatic re-enactments of Stonewall, they actually cast trans people. The same television network that brings us our beloved celebrity roasts was able to be funny without being offensive by simply doing the right thing and allowing trans people of color to be the agents of their own stories.
The question is, how does Trinity contribute to this lack of empathy and ignorance? Granted, Watters matriculated from Trinity fifteen years ago. The logical conclusion would be that much has changed about Trinity’s culture. The cover of the November 1998 Tripod features seven trailblazing Trinity women.
However, the rest of the newspaper is littered with stories of sexual harassment, date rape, and eating disorders. Then-Tripod opinion editor Ian Lang suggested that if women wanted to stop the aggressive frat culture, that they should “just put away those short skirts and revealing blouses and stay at home.”
By no means does the blame for Watters’ actions solely rest on Trinity, but the lack of accountability and responsibility for one’s bad behavior seems to have been a problem then and continues to be a problem now.
By: Collete Grimes ’18