Having grown up with the post-1970s Saturday Night Live, I’ve become used to underestimating them as a relevant political influence. When they played to the middle, they lost much of their punch; if everything is funny, nothing really means anything. But this year, really for the first time, SNL has become actively political by taking a stand for and against the candidates.
This happened to a certainty when Tina Fey put her full support behind Hillary Clinton by declaring, “Bitch is the new black.” But Clinton failed to earn the nomination, and when the Republicans pulled the shock of the election year by choosing Sarah Palin to run alongside Senator John McCain, there was no one else more suited to the parody than Tina Fey. Now that her political beliefs were out in the open, Fey could mock Palin without worrying about giving a fair and balanced view of her. And this, my friends, has been the juiciest bite for us hungry liberals.
It turns out it is sometimes handy having friends on a widely watched comedy show. While the conservatives apparently have the higher ratings on cable news, they don’t go viral. They certainly aren’t widely circulated and a news item every hour on the hour: Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, topped everything else. It played once and then replayed again and again, linked on hundreds of blogs, replayed, eventually, on YouTube and other streaming media.
The first spot had Palin standing alongside Amy Pohler as Hillary Clinton. Fey portrayed Palin as a confident, bubble-headed, gun-toting poser, ringing the bell so loud it shook the house. Last week Fey returned and mocked Palin’s ill-informed interview with Katie Couric. Fey repeated Palin’s words almost verbatim, which made the whole thing funnier, and scarier.
Probably Palin wouldn’t be such an easy target if she didn’t try so hard to sound smart and fake her way through it – does she really think that’s possible? Her best option would be to admit at the outset she didn’t know anything about anything but was doing her best to learn. In some ways it wasn’t fair hurling such a novice onto the world stage; but then again, she didn’t blink, did she? Had she blinked, she might have had to think about it. New baby with a disability for starters, a pregnant teenage daughter – gee, maybe taking on the job of Vice President isn’t such a good idea? But she didn’t even think twice; thus, she put herself in this mess.
The last two weeks of Saturday Night Live has marked a unique point in time when everyone was waiting to hear what they would have to say about the state of the union. They are anything but an afterthought. This has to be attributed to Fey, who put her own beliefs headlong into the race and declared SNL political, liberal, and feminist.
Whether this joke will continue to be funny depends absolutely on Palin. If she somehow deflates it by making fun of herself, which would require she admit that she’s uneducated, inexperienced, and unqualified, … If she digs her heels in and keeps playing this silly game, Fey will keep making fun of her and we’ll all keep laughing so that we may not cry.