By Sara Fraser
Most nights you turn on the TV to Saturday Night Live, Donald Trump is almost always being mocked in some way. Sara Fraser explores whether portrayals of Trump by Alec Baldwin and other comedians is a nice relief from the hectic political world or offensive and divisive to our society.
Saturday Night Live was once a break from the crazy world and all of its drama, tension, and intensity. Many took solace in the very literal comic relief it provided. The 1970s, when the show became popular, had a much different political landscape than that of 2017. Now, more than ever, our politics are divisive. Many still appreciate the comic relief SNL provides, but for others it has been tainted by what they deem to be inappropriate treatment of politicians deserving of our respect.
The whole point of satire is to point out flaws in our society for the purpose of saying that they need to be fixed. Some consider SNL to be truly helping and improving our society, but others consider it pure entertainment.
Due to the major attention on and backlash from the 2016 Presidential Election, SNL mostly centers directly on our president: Donald Trump. Early into the 2016 presidential campaign, the famed actor Alec Baldwin was invited to play Trump on Saturday Night Live, and he continues to play this role long after the election is over. The unusual number of episodes starring a non-cast member made sense in an unusual election, but now most still find Baldwin to be a perfect fit in the role of Trump. Baldwin recently spoke backstage at the Emmys about whether or not he thinks his portrayal of Trump is having an influence on public opinion of the president. He says ,"I think we're in a situation where a critical mass of people still don't accept where we are … [People] are very frustrated, they're suffering a great deal … they walk up to me and slap me on the back and say, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us to, in some small way, manage that pain.'"
Baldwin’s point demonstrates that many people find his caricature comforting, finding comfort by laughing at what they find a difficult political situation. Every time he puts on his wig and finds that perfect shade of orange skin, Baldwin makes the reality of what is happening in politics a little less unbearable for some.
But, it is hard to know whether these people who claim that Baldwin is helping them “manage their pain,” are experiencing a small moment of comic relief, or are feeling more inspired to create change in society. Does his mocking of the president serve any beneficial purpose in society? Is Baldwin forcing viewers to notice the absurdity of the situation and moving them to action, or are we just endlessly laughing and not dealing?
Others find Baldwin’s mocking of Trump offensive to the reality of our political climate today. By making fun of the president, SNL could be seen as encouraging people not to take his policies or decisions seriously, thus further endangering the state of our politics. As some laugh over the actual policies and decisions Trump makes, the reality of his position becomes less and less serious, making people less worried and less prone to want to inspire change. By making fun of the president, some fear that there will be no concern over things with which Americans legitimately find problems.
Although I do agree that solely relying on comedy as a means of expressing what we are unhappy with in current politics can be dangerous, I truly believe that humor is a healthy, alternative way to face what some consider an awful situation. I do make the choice to watch comedy, but I sometimes worry that I could be becoming content with simply laughing at politics, not trying to create changes concerning what I do not agree with.
I would like to believe that if there was a conservative show equal to SNL, I would be able to find humor in the mocking of opinions I agree with.
I believe that Americans can continue to use humor as a break from hectic politics, but not let comedy diminish their desire to stand up for what they believe in.