Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The Maybe Challenge
In 1991, Nickelodeon unleashed “Rugrats,” chronicling the triumphs and tribulations of toddlers, as one of its first cartoons alongside “Doug” (produced by Harding Alumni David Campbell). But it wasn’t until season five, episode 54 that “Rugrats” made television history in the controversial “Naked Tommy” episode—featuring Tommy removing his diaper to become more like Spike, his dog. “You shouldn’t take off your clothes. It’s not natural!” pleads Chuckie, Tommy’s conservative friend. With diaper waving in air, Tommy gloriously proclaims: “Nakie is fun! Nakie is free! Nakie is…nakie!” And with that, a generation is defined.
While no one at Harding would ever be so immature or careless as to ever go streaking to, say, the Mabee building at midnight during a session of Honors symposium, it’s important that we as college students are exposed (pun intended) to a range of ideas, including: Why are we so fascinated with being “nakie?” And yes, there is a Wikipedia article on streaking; no, the filter doesn’t block it.
Living in Los Angeles last fall, I read about a local art gallery displaying a photo of a nude person that was free for anyone to take. The catch? If you wanted the picture, you had to become the next person to pose nude. The cycle continued and became a huge success. Sound awkward? A group in Miami didn’t think so. Last Monday, over 600 random men and women posed in a massive nude photo shoot recreating the Tower of Babel. And these displays aren’t limited to trendy beach cities like L.A. or Miami. Restaurant patrons at The Black Frog in Greenville, Maine are upset about police prohibiting the “Skinny Dip” sandwich: sliced prime rib in a baguette roll, served free to anyone who will jump into the restaurant’s lake naked. How did these trends begin? Is this just another liberal conspiracy to put clothing enterprises like Wal-Mart out of business?
Naturism, nudism, and flashing have been around long before Will Ferrell let us all know “we’re going streaking.” The first college “streak” was in 1804 at Washington and Lee University by George William Crump—who later became a Senator and ambassador to Chile. Streaking really took off in 1974, a year after Time magazine called it a fad, when the University of Georgia set the record for the most streakers at 1,549. Erskine College followed by setting the highest per-capita streak involving 25% of their 600 students. That same year, country artist Ray Stevens recorded “The Streak,” a #1 hit ironically preceded by Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run.” Since then, thousands have run “naked as a jay-bird” through the Olympics, the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, weddings, funerals, Wrestlemanias, and of course, college campuses.
There’s Harvard’s “primal scream” before finals week, Notre Dame’s “streakers’ Olympics,” Michigan’s “naked mile,” and Dartmouth’s “blue light challenge” where students try to press all the alarms on the blue light emergency phones. Harding is no exception to such traditions with Allen dorm, the nudist colony of campus, the “Mabee challenge,” HUF’s “Scandicci challenge,” and the brand new “Zeedonk Dash” which sends students running to Kensett to feed the Zeedonk oats and sing the alma mater. With modern technology, however, many students are apprehended—as was the case several years ago when Professor Michael Wood bravely unmasked a student streaking through muffin chapel. But realistically, does Harding have a nudity problem?
Let’s first be honest about streaking: it’s not political. This summer’s World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), an international event that attracted over 1,000 participants, claimed it was “to protest oil dependency.” Basically: we want to ride bikes naked. Secondly, girls must admit that guys aren’t the only guilty ones. Though extremely wimpy, the female “Little Rock challenge” involves a unique car trip to Little Rock and back— just in time for curfew and new inside jokes on Facebook.
For guys, as Robert E. Lee said after George Crump’s first campus run in 1804, streaking is often a rite of passage. A communal experience. Still, with pledge week approaching, the notion that we’re “nakie” all of the time will likely be reconfirmed. So I’m proposing the “MAYBE challenge”: maybe guys can break the stereotype by reducing excessive streaking/going one week without playing nude ultimate-Frisbee. Can we gather as civilized students of higher education and watch one episode of “The Office” without waiving our diapers in the air? True, Harding may be the closest thing to heaven on earth, but let’s remember it’s not the Garden of Eden. Grab some fallen leaves and, as Ray Stevens pleaded, “Don’t look Ethel.”