(RNS) Calvin College has canceled a scheduled Oct. 15 concert by the Canadian indie rock band New Pornographers after the band’s name prompted complaints from the local community.
“After weeks of discussion and consideration, the irony of the band’s name was impossible to explain to many. The band’s name, to some, is mistakenly associated with pornography,” the school said in a statement.
“Consequently, Calvin, to some, was mistakenly associated with pornography. Neither the college nor the band endorses pornography.”
Ken Heffner, director of student activities at the Christian Reformed Church-affiliated school, said complaints had poured into the school since the show was announced in August, but wouldn’t say specifically the source of most of them.
“The show was announced in the summer, when few students were around, and letters began coming in to the office shortly thereafter,” he said.
Heffner said the New Pornographers had been on the Student Activities Office’s wish list of acts for several years, and when an opportunity came to book the band, he didn’t hesitate.
“The band, The New Pornographers, makes good, thoughtful music, and we invited them to Calvin College based on their artistic merit,” a follow-up statement said. “The decision to invite this band fits our rubric of engaging culture through a Christian lens.”
However, the name became too much of an issue, Heffner said.
“For some people, the name, it hurts them, it confuses them. They wonder why would we ever associate the college with that word.”
The band’s name often is interpreted as a reference to preacher Jimmy Swaggart’s insistence that rock music is “the new pornography,” but frontman A.C. Newman has said he took it from a Japanese film called “The Pornographers,” a dark comedy.
“The name of the band could be perceived as being flippant,” Heffner said. “I don’t know that the band would see it that way. But that’s how some people responded. That became kind of a wave, and it became something the college had to respond to.”
Heffner said the band has been respectful of the decision. E-mails to the group’s management and publicist requesting comment were not immediately returned.
Calvin senior Jake Hoskins, 21, of Chicago, had planned to attend the show and said the cancellation was a “knee-jerk puritanical reaction to things that can seem offensive at first, but when you think about it, it’s really not.
“It represents everything that can really bother me about Calvin College,” he said.