by Drew Thomas-Nathan
LOS ANGELES, CA — A year and a half ago, USC opened the new Village by unveiling the sculpture of Hecuba. Instantly, she was accepted as another iconic USC landmark. Consequently, it seems there’s no one except me who is brave enough to ask the fundamental question here: Is Hecuba even likable enough to be a USC mascot?
Sure, Hecuba is a twelve-foot bronze statue, so she doesn’t say much that could be seen as controversial. However, this also makes her rather vanilla. This overly-secure “no words at all” strategy Hecuba employs is sure to lose her the support of students who want Hecuba to take a stand when all she ever does is stand around.
For comparison, Tommy Trojan is seen from all angles in a proactive posture. One step forward, shield and sword drawn, his metallic abs and dangerously short loins embody “Fight On!” Completely unlike that limp, withdrawn other bronze statue. Where are Hecuba’s abs? How am I supposed to like a mascot who lacks visible reminders of an intense workout regimen? Is Hecuba tacitly promoting unhealthiness instead? That accursed, icky, cooty statue!
Also let’s take a look at Hecuba’s base, decorated with women of various backgrounds and disciplines. It comes off as an unfettered celebration of cosmopolitan ideals that leaves behind a certain sect of middle America. There isn’t a single coal miner and none of these women is a man. (My research has found the UTEP mascot “Paydirt Pete” checks both of those boxes. Just saying…)
Let’s do an experiment. Notice anything in this list of college mascots that sets them apart from Hecuba? Goldy Gopher, Albert Gator, Sebastian the Ibis, Alberta Gator, Gus the Gorilla, Rodney Gator, the Stanford Tree: That’s right, they’re all animals. (The Stanford Tree is famously a party animal.) Sorry Hecuba, these mascots understand there’s no need to remind anyone of unnecessary identity politics when you’re not even human.
Look, I’m only being harsh on Hecuba because I want her to succeed. I’m not the bad guy here. I just wonder how Hecuba is supposed to inspire the women who will one day run for President and who I won’t vote for That is exactly why she needs the same level of wanton criticism those presidential candidates will face. Because what’s the point of a double standard if it isn’t consistent?