When we are told Saturday Night Live wasn’t funny, I find it usually was
When we are told Saturday Night Live wasn’t funny, I find it usually was and James Franco was rather brave to subject himself to the current climate of sexual harassment outrage. Yes, Lorne Michaels of SNL allowed the skit but Franco and others will have to deal with why his skit was seen as offensive and likely offer an explanation.
I don’t want to get called out for “mansplaining” without at least giving you the demographics:
- Under 40
- West LA
What I think:
I know it’s not cool to chime in and hopefully in hindsight, years from now, I won’t look like a complete ass. No one is laughing at women getting harassed or hurt. Let’s just get that out of the way. Comedy is a funny thing (no pun intended). It’s reception can be fickle in that what was funny can be offensive, simply based on a current climate and vice versa. I personally thought the skit was more of a commentary on social norms. We perceive taboos yet we aren’t consistent with our application of them or fair in identifying what is inappropriate situationally.
Remember Mad Men? We tuned in because we enjoyed the somewhat alien contrast between the past and present. The portrayal of sexual harassment was a mainstay of the TV show’s fiber. It was the 1960’s and we were looking back. It was a different time, not our time. It was then. It was those people. SNL is current and not a period piece but more of a silly, faux news source with a core of truth to be taken away with you, like you would the “moral of a story.” So SNL is held to a higher standard. Don’t laugh. It’s no stretch to say we live in a strange time. Comedy is not immune to the “guilty till proven innocent” movement we are in and Hollywood is not innocent to say the least.
So was this skit funny? Hell yes it was! Why? Because we cannot be 100% sure as to how we define what inappropriate is in American culture with real accurately anymore. Cultural relativism can be blinding – we lose a sense of our individual morals and apply them corporately, prescribing them to others e.g. if you hurt me, you did wrong and if I hurt you, it’s because you did wrong. Who’s to say otherwise? If we are without a reference point e.g the Bible, the Constitution, a legal contract, the institution of marriage, etc – how does one define these things outside of black and white laws? In other words, we know what is egregious and clear but we are quite fuzzy on subjectively offensive behaviors, person to person. That’s why it’s funny. It’s not funny when people are hurt, it’s funny when people aren’t hurt and shouldn’t be. That’s why the skit is brilliant. Honestly, I am not an SNL fan but I enjoy when we ponder what is and we can actually laugh at ourselves for not being sure. It’s refreshing and not at the cost of someone else’s plight but in light of who we are, embracing humor for what it is. And it’s a part of what it is to be human. Hopefully, in retrospect, it’s something that can actually bring people together emotionally and intellectually in spite of the recent wave of zeitgeist washing over us.