Student Humor Magazine Pulled From Newsstands for ‘Offensive Images’

The latest issue of the Toike Oike, a student humor magazine at the University of Toronto, has been removed from campus newsstands amid complaints about a pair of images perceived by some to advocate or trivialize domestic abuse.

As the president of the school’s Engineering Society, the Toike‘s chief financial sponsor, told The Varsity, U of T’s student newspaper, “Understandably, everyone is extremely in outrage about this.”  The humor mag’s editor, meanwhile, said he “almost had to be pulled out of a mid-term” to attend a hastily-called meeting to discuss the controversy.

The photo illustrations (see below) present a controversial spin on the popular Dos Equis commercials.  Those spots feature the “most interesting man in the world,” typically accompanied by a woman or two, saying into the camera with bearded confidence, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

The Toike satire shows the same man, seated next to a woman sporting what appears to be a black eye.  One of the two statements attributed to him in the cutlines, “I don’t always drunkenly beat my wife, but when I do, I prefer being whiskey drunk.”

Along with pulling print issues, the Engineering Society requested that the image captions be changed in the online edition.  One now reads, “I don’t always beat my wife, but when I do I prefer beating her at Scrabble.”  According to Toike‘s editor, “[I]f we could make everyone happy by changing the joke, that’s the easiest solution. It’s not worthwhile to stubbornly stick it out.”

A second controversy over the use of the word “f-ggot” prompted yet another online change, yet not without much more protesting from the editor and a debate on the nature of satire and offensiveness.

My take: Humor magazine scandals are cultural road markers of sorts.  In an issue filled with potentially offensive content about various aspects of religion, sex, race, and the homeless, the target of people’s Toike ire is domestic abuse and homosexuality.  What does that mean?  What does it say about us?

In response to this flare-up, the student head of the Engineering Society said, “I think they [the editors] strongly believe the purpose of the Toike is to provoke a reaction. . . . [T]hey feel that the more over the line they are, the more of their job that they’re doing.”

What I’m left to wonder: Is that truly a terrible thing?  Or is there maybe, just maybe, some value for some student media, or all student media sometimes, to cross the line, provoke reactions, and get a sense of where we are?  Frankly, it is fascinating to occasionally see what pisses people off and what satire we are unable or unwilling to yet digest.

One Response to “Student Humor Magazine Pulled From Newsstands for ‘Offensive Images’”
  1. Sarah says:

    Student response to satire can be very interesting. We did a satire issue of our paper last year for April 1st and the reaction from the student body was very strong, but in the negative, not positive. Very few students actually appreciated the presence of satire and told us that putting out a satire issue was just asking for us to lose credibility as a valid news source.