In “How to Make a Scene,” Travis R. Kavulla and Sahil K. Mahtani rightly censured the editors of Scene Magazine for producing a low-quality piece of work that hardly reflects any sort of “class” they might have tried to project with such a publication. However, Kavulla and Mahtani’s scathing, aggressive critique seemed to ignore the real flaws of the magazine while focusing on such petty concerns. Instead, Scene fails to achieve its own delusional aspirations of “portray[ing] the events, the people, the passions and the talents that make up the experience we are all a part of.”
If the internal inconsistency of classiness and grammatical errors were Scene’s biggest problem, we’d throw it out along with every other Harvard student publication stuffed in our door-drops. Let’s face it: we’re bothered by the elitism. Scene Magazine reflects an ugly side of Harvard, one we often ignore. It’s easy to discount the extravagance and elitism of our peers as simply a matter of personal taste or habit. It’s harder to accept pieces like “Not Quite Currier: the Living Space of Nathan Gunawan” (an article celebrating this individual’s ability to live in the Ritz-Carlton) and a 10-page Brooks Brothers photo shoot as characteristic of “the intricate culture that the students themselves create.”
The content of Scene may very well be a reality for a small group of students here, but I refuse to believe that it “is representative of…diversity.” Avid Scene readers might point out that the Scene’s editors use the phrase “representative of the diversity that we aim to cover,” not simply “diversity”—but if your conception of diversity is limited to those whose incomes fall in the top 1 percent of the country, don’t distribute this magazine to the entire student body. Kavulla and Mahtani’s critique of the magazine’s innumerable errors at least captures the idea that this publication should have been distributed among the small group of friends that staffed it.
We can’t deny that elitism exists on this campus and that there is an audience for the nonsense contained in the magazine. Thus, I believe it is unfair to criticize Scene simply for being elitist, and I find it highly unfortunate that Kavulla and Mahtani placed such an emphasis on the role of the editors’ fathers in funding the magazine. Our objections should be grounded not in the publication’s air of superiority (and inconsistent typos), but in its failure to capture the true diversity of the Harvard “scene,” an objective the editors-in-chief delineate themselves. Scene’s picture may be blurry and unrefined, as Kavulla and Mahtani wrote, but more importantly, it is incomplete.
CATHERINE L. VAUGHAN ’08
December 7, 2005