Harvard humor magazine under fire for posting photo of Anne Frank in bikini

The Harvard Lampoon, the university’s “humor” magazine with a history of racist and sexist commentary, has apologized since coming under fire for publishing a photo of Anne Frank in a bikini last week.

“Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging [sic] Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died,” read the headline above a photo with Frank’s smiling teen face superimposed on the busty body of a woman in a bikini. “Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked,” the caption beneath it read. The photo was signed with CdLLdR, who is listed as a “staff” member on Harvard Lampoon’s website, though their author page wasn’t loading on Thursday morning.

The “artwork” received immediate backlash, not only for trivializing Frank’s murder as simply a “death” and in turn undermining the brutal narrative of the Holocaust, but for also sexualizing a teenager.

It even prompted statements from the Anti-Defamation League and the Anne Frank Center. “Absent good judgment, the @harvardlampoon published an offensive, tasteless, humorlessly photoshopped image of Anne Frank too inappropriate for social media,” the Anne Frank Center tweeted. “The silver lining is they have editorial standards now, albeit a week too late. #thinkfirst.”

Harvard Lampoon apologized on Tuesday, saying in a statement: “We as individuals and we an organization would like to apologize for our negligence in allowing this piece to be created for an printed in our latest issue. We are sorry for any harm we have caused.”

Adding that the Lampoon “condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism,” the statement further said it would “approach the content of our magazine with greater care.” “We realize that our publishing process lacks sufficient editorial oversight, so we are going to restructure our advisors, and our peers, we are going to come up with a series of further steps to improve our publication and organization as a whole.”

But critics say the apology came too late, given that the backlash quickly spiraled into an exhaustive list of past issues people have had with the Lampoon, accusing the publication of perpetuating sexist, racist, and bullying ideology and behavior.

A Change.org petition went viral among students demanding accountability from the the publication and listing their various offenses over the years, including the trivialization of 9/11 and school shootings. The petition linked to an April 2018 Facebook post by Solange Azor, who wrote: “As a WOC and an aspiring comedian with no familial connections, I was tempted to join the lampoon, despite knowledge of its toxicity. I ultimately decided against it, but at times have felt an uncomfortable nagging feeling that the sacrifice/discomfort would have been worth a potential career.” 

Cat Zhang, who has written for Harvard Magazine, also posted a note in February detailing the Lampoon’s toxic behavior and “a climate of fear, intimidation, and mystery surrounding the Lampoon that negatively impacts not only the diversity of the institution but how people at Harvard, specifically underclassmen, perceive comedy more generally.”

She shared an incident that was reported by “multiple people” wherein someone from the institution called Black passerby students the N-word. She also wrote about a culture of hazing and mentioned accidentally seeing something about a “rape den” on a Lampoon member’s phone.

tl;dr: Lampoon is bad, I'm done with comedy, read this if you're a freshman who needs transparency on all of the rumors...

Posted by Cat Zhang on Sunday, February 3, 2019

It seems the Lampoon has a lot more work to do besides “restructuring” to ground itself in ethics.

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque