The world of advertising has been undergoing a radical transformation over the last few years, with many mascots facing massive changes in the name of progressiveness. We’ve seen Barbie made more body-positive, and Aunt Jemima Syrup renamed. And recently, to much public scrutiny, we saw the M&M mascots redesigned to be more gender-neutral. With all of these changes, I believe it is time for Duke to make the same moves towards a more inclusive society and make the Blue Devil mascot less sexy.
Sure, there are many historical reasons that the Blue Devil is so wildly hot. The initial design of the Blue Devil was suggested by students shortly before Duke was renamed from Trinity College, in no small part with the intent to upset the Methodist origins of the university. To further intensify the appeal of the sweet, sweet, sins of the flesh, the Blue Devil was designed to be slim yet muscular, with roguish good looks, and horny in more ways than one. He was the face of rebellion; a stylish and controversial mascot for a university striving to be the same.
But now, our society is moving forward. And when the Blue Devil mascot comes out at sporting events, the sight of his ears so clearly designed to be nibbled on gently, or of his eyes that are so easy to get lost in, is no longer as welcome to a modern audience. Sporting events are for celebrating the athletic achievements of our student body, not admiring the Michelangelesque sculpting of the Devil’s body.
Even beyond the foam mascot costume itself, other representations of the Blue Devil are sexualized to a point far beyond that which is necessary. Take one look at the official logo often printed on T-shirts, and tell me that those lips aren’t drawn in a way that makes you want to kiss them passionately. Even the Devil in the Pitchforks logo, a cartoonish facade of the real thing, calls out to viewers with curves we could otherwise only dream of and horns that bend in a way you can’t look away from. Clearly, some fundamental changes are needed.
Why, though, is it so wrong to have a sexy mascot? Even if half of the student section spends every basketball game lusting after the Blue Devil, what is the harm in a little bit of fun? Unfortunately, the Devil’s design plays into several harsh stereotypes and reinforces many of the religious beliefs he’s designed to challenge. Recall that sin is supposed to be tempting, and that the Devil is supposed to try to sway us into it. The stereotype of devils as beautiful, though technically a positive one, is still an implicit bias, and one that the mascot plays into. This is especially nefarious because of how it relates to the identity of the Devil as something that is evil or wrong. He’s only trying to pull us in because he’s such a bad, bad boy, and he wants to punish us for being just as naughty as he is. This is not good representation for the Devil community.
So, what changes do I propose to the Blue Devil’s design? I think several changes should be obvious as Duke moves towards a more inclusive representation of our campus community. First and foremost, the muscles of the Devil should be slimmed down to make his well-cut arms less clearly receptive to gently cradling you as he whispers sweet nothings into your ear. The well-groomed beard clearly invokes imaginings of it gently tickling your chin as you hold each other, so that unfortunately should go as well. Honestly, the whole design is so provocative that it may be time for Duke to reconsider the entire idea of the Blue Devil. Perhaps we could take the route of the UNC Tar Heels, whose mascot is clearly designed only to invoke disgust and pity, or follow in the footsteps of the Harvard Crimson, which is literally just a color.
Regardless of the route that Duke chooses to take, I believe it is well past time for the Blue Devil to see a redesign. As the mascots of the world move to a less provocative, more neutral style, it seems only natural that Duke abandons the overtly sexy design of the Devil and moves to a more respectful mascot.
Sam Carpenter is a Trinity sophomore. His column typically runs on alternate Fridays.
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