Remember when SNL was funny?
For those of you who missed Saturday Night Live this week, the sketch “comedy” show once again focused on political news, targeting Donald Trump, Sean Spicer, and in the most talked about segment of the night, Kellyanne Conway. The talented Kate McKinnon plays Conway, while Beck Bennett reprised his role as CNN’s Jake Tapper in the pre-produced sketch based on the 1980’s hit, “Fatal Attraction”. The main idea behind the skit is that Kellyanne Conway is angry that Jake Tapper wouldn’t have her on CNN after revealing she has “credibility issues”.
Here’s the thing. Great parodies give the audience a solid reference point. If you haven’t seen “Fatal Attraction”, you’re not going to get the skit. If you have seen the movie, you may still not find it funny. For me the highlight was, “I will not be ignored, Jake”. The low point was pretty much everything else.
The problem with the portrayal of Conway as the stalking, bunny boiling psychopath, is that they’ve chosen to sexualize a wife and mother of four. She also happens to be one of the most powerful women in Washington, DC. In all it just didn’t feel like comedy to me, though perhaps like all art it’s subjective.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine, suggested your reaction may be the revelation.
sensing the Tapper-Conway sketch is this week's Rohrshach test
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) February 12, 2017
Some seemed to find the sketch hilarious…
I could watch full 2 hour episodes of just Kellyanne Conway sketches. Pure gold #SNL
— Jason Lamprecht (@lillampy) February 12, 2017
However others saw something completely different… and it’s not a split down party lines.
SNL just gave a gift to the White House with this sexist, unfunny Kellyanne Conway skit.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2017
One thing is clear though, humor wasn’t the goal. One tweeter inadvertently captured the true spirit of the SNL portrayal…
#SNL just ruined whatever is left of Kellyanne Conway.
— csd (@csd) February 12, 2017
And that is why I have a problem with the sketch. It had funny seconds, but it was so dark and disturbing that someone pictures Kellyanne Conway in that circumstance, it lost me. Another issue isn’t the comedic value of the sketch, but the unfortunate fact that many believe what they see on SNL.
Never forget that most Americans actually believe Sarah Palin said “I can see Russia from my house” when in fact, that was a line uttered by Tina Fey in her Palin character. People aren’t smart enough to discern reality from parody anymore. The rise of what can only be called “actual fake news” is proof of that.
SNL’s ratings have been way up since the election of Donald Trump, as each week people tune in to see them skewer the President. Tonight they may have gone too far. You can say anything if it’s funny, but when you come across as mean-spirited, you’re going to lose half your audience. Or more. That’s just how it works.
Some were outraged on social media after the sketch. I don’t give it that much power and I doubt Kellyanne Conway does either.
However, one would think the brilliant minds behind SNL could have found a pop culture reference less than 30 years old to give life to the narrative they wanted to tell. “Liar, Liar” comes to mind. They chose to re-imagine her as a sex crazed, psychopath instead. That tells you all you need to know about them.
The premise was “crazy her” but it landed as “crazy them.” That was the fatal flaw in the sketch. It showed more about the writers than it showed about the subject.