Wednesday, 21 October 2015

You suck a pol, you suck a goal.

Surprisingly (from my perspective), the latest cold opening on Saturday Night Live was a pretty spot-on analysis of political reality. It exaggerated Hill's apparent belief that her demonic traits are charming, painted Bern a little cranky, and foreshadowed the not unlikelihood that a party member would back the nominee and grovel for a cabinet position.

SNL's problem began long ago when they started allowing money'd candidates and sitting functionaries a platform to humanize themselves. From a blood-on-the-hands perspective, the coming ratcheted-up whining about Donald Trump hosting the show amounts to too little, too late.

The entire exercise takes on a whole new light given the participation of the politician. It has so many folds I don't know where to begin unpacking it.

First and foremost, they do not get skewered on their most (w)retched policies. If this were the case, they wouldn't be making cameos, let alone would a program that actually satirized politics and not just personality traits be wont to invite them.

Then, their version of soft-satire makes the targets "good sports" — better sports in proportion to how much they get "made fun of". What a likable trait!

Another aspect is revealed regarding the Hill's appearance the previous week to the aforementioned opening: What previously had been a pretty unflattering portrayal on the show in general (again, as far as the entitled attitude of her personality is concerned) became a "we're all in on the joke" and gave the candidate an opportunity to admit in such a comfortable environment that she might have been late on marriage equality in a "but we're all still friends here" way that doesn't even come close to getting challenged. You see, she listens!

Also, we are not privy to the back & forth about what cannot be written in the sketch, though, as is probably the case, the writers are hardly vicious enough that the handlers need bother with a list of no-gos or pre-approval. Still.

Again, I admit that Kate McKinnon did a solid job continuing to paint an unflattering portrait in the cold open the following week, but at this point it cannot help but come off as all in good fun amongst friends.

So maybe SNL is just soft parody machine at best, but I firmly believe you cannot adequately lampoon a person when your target is invited to play along — either before or after such appearances when such has become the norm.

That every fucking candidate does every show is problematic. One might argue that reaching a larger public is a good thing, but it's actually just taking the money-in-politics to another venue, and hence another level — as if they don't have enough friendly exposure. And that access and exposure corresponds well to the larger media reality. Imagine how long Lincoln Chaffee's cameo would be; it wouldn't be the length of the sketch even if he were invited. Not that I'm saying he should be, only that it mirrors the biggest problem in a democracy, which, ironically, media have argued is an adequate defense of the balance of their coverage, when in fact, it's only the content that could be justified on such grounds, not the absence that makes up the greater part of the format. This absence would be glaring to more people if they had a clue.

Take Benghazi. Please. It has come to amount to a trumped-up political witch-hunt conducted by the opposing party because journalists won't do the job of scrutinizing the shit out of the former State Secretary and her President's administration's massacre of Libya, nor will they cover the overlapping oligarchical policy continuity between the parties while they're so busy with both parties insisting there is nary but contention between them.

As far as the extent to which Saturday Night Live is gonna go in satirizing American politics, it probably didn't take a memo from the corporation to result in as superficial a take from a comedy writing staff as you'd get from their counterpart in Putin's Russia. If that's an exaggeration on my part, it'd only be because, in America, we're so free that we're not afraid to caricature our politicians' lack of charisma. Well whoop-de-do!

I've said this before but it's worth repeating: Neither Jon Stewart nor Stephen Colbert have ever provided anything but a comfy chair for the big name politicians on their shows. It is clear from their demeanor during these interviews that they just will not bring themselves to cross a certain line of questioning. This is particularly disappointing considering the blistering the latter laid on Dubs the year he hosted the WH Correspondents' Dinner. And that was on potentially unfriendly territory. But there's the rub.

In an attempt to wrap up this unpacking: If you want access to the candidate, you give them a platform that benefits them. It's better not to provide the platform, regardless of the anodyne ribbing you'll give them the next night. It's a net win for the pol, and a net loss for the tradition of satire. That Colbert and Stewart are seen as the cream of the crop of the American variety only makes it harder for me to stomach, because it doesn't just set the high-bar lower, but establishes a problematic framework for what constitutes an informed public.

Anything could happen, but my prediction is Trump will garner the same screeching applause that every other celebrity politician has been getting. Whether that's due to an applause sign is a secondary matter. Because we're oh-so civil that way. And isn't that what Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Insanity turned out to be all about? Yes it did! I learn waaay more from The Daily Show than I do from the regular news! Indeed.

Politicians do not belong on any show that even pretends to be satire. Even if it's hip and newsy. Colbert's Late Show's first guest after he had a different politician on every single night during his first couple of weeks? Oprah. What a cutting edge comedy program that turned out to be.