I think the Saturday Night Live sketches about the election, most especially with its sharp jabs at Donald Trump have been wonderful. Pretty much the highlight of each show they've been in. But two things have bothered me about them, much as I do like the sketches and find them often extremely funny.
The first is that lately they have had a consistent running-theme throughtout them, which is to make the Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway a sympathetic figure. The concept actually began during the campaign with a short film starring Kate McKinnon as Conway, showing her as a beleagured, exhausted woman who's had her poor life interrupted daily as she continually has to stop what she's doing to keep rushing on TV in emergencies at any time of day and explain away each new deep hole Trump has dug for himself. Now that the election is over, that's morphed into the Conway character feeling soul-crushing mortified at what she realizes she's done, helping get this horrible, totally-incompetent man elected President of the United States. Almost every word out of her mouth and roll of her eyes in response to Trump is weary, hellishly-sad, drained and apologetic.
It makes for extremely funny sketches. It also is teeth-gnashingly galling, since I have no doubt that Kellyanne Conway is anything but mortified at having helped get Trump elected, but rather is likely overjoyed, feeling heroic at doing the near-impossible, and knows she's had her career put into overdrive, with riches galore ahead. at becoming a kingmaker. Further, and far wrose, I suspect that a lot of viewers of SNL take the satire as a funny exageration of the truth. And so, there are probably a great many people who watch this and think (as they know they themselves would) that Kellyanne Conway is indeed mortified and a figure of sympathy.
It's a horrible concept. This is a person who did a strong job covering up this disaster of a man running for President of the United States, and did so willfully literally lying to the public for months. Rachel Maddow, as cheery, genial and good-natured a spirit as there is on TV news, whatever you may think of her politics, made scathing comments days after an interview with Conway when news subsequently showed that the campaign manager had brazenly lied directly to her. A shocking concept, I know, given that it was her standard operating procedure. But still, when Rachel Maddow gets pissed off like that on air, it speaks volumes. (If only she'd grasped it likely at the time, and used the "court testimony rule" after -- if you lie once under oath, the jury can assuming everything you say is a lie.)
The only saving grace I see from the sketches is that while Ms. Conway probably enjoys the attention from them and appreciates the humor, she also no doubt gets that the point of the sketches is that she sold her soul to the devil. But that's small comfort since it only affects one purson. The larger potential risk is that when she speaks from this point on, a lot more people are likely going to do so with at least a slightly-more sympathetic ear.
I do find the sketches very funny, and the comic take on Conway helps make them that. And I well-understand the point of contrast in humor and using exageration to make an opposite point. But I also understand that most people see something and take it for what it is. So, I do hope that the writers find a difficult balance for continuing the sharp writing, but also find a way to make clear that Kellyanne Conway is not only not a sympathetic figure, but a craven one who, rather than is profoundly disturbed by helping Trump get electly, almost assurredly celebrates it.
The second issue concerns the very funny news items and commentary about Trump that they have on the Weekend Update segment, and general jokes at his expense throughout. They've generally done an extremely good job ridiculing Trump and showing how empty and pathetic he is. Great, no problem with that.
What I would like, though, is that at some point they direct the spotlight and ridicule at themselves. After all, Saturday Night Live gave Trump one of the biggest and most controversial platforms of all during the Republican primaries. Lest we forget, that was when the show made Trump the guest host and provided him with not only a free ride for a full 90-minutes of high-profile attention, but also did so in a way that made him an "endearing" comic personality that the audience could laugh with and appreciate, and even embrace. ("Hey, he's funny. He must not be such a bad guy!")
This is not an "endearing" comic personality. This is a racist, mysoginistic, egomaniacal, sociopathic lying conman with fascist tendencies who has opened the door to white supremacists feeling welcome by the incoming administration.
So, hopefully, SNL -- while making fun of Trump and doing an excellent job of it -- will at least dance that balancing line and acknowledge that they themselves played a part in helping create a public persona of someone horrific that, sadly and egregiously, was in its early stages when opinions were being formulated made acceptable to many.
Saturday Night Live had a very funny, pointed and scathing sketh the other week on how the news media covered Trump, with a focus on CNN. If they turned their scathing attention to themselves, it could be as funny and pointed and remove the patina of hypocrisy from some of its sketches, which will make any subsequent pieces all the funnier and more pointed.
So...there, they have two assignments. I'm not expecting either to come to pass, but a guy can hope...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor