It’s been five days since the (in)famous Sarah Palin visit on Saturday Night Live, and yet, by the look of things, the furor has yet died down. I wonder what is making this last so long: the importance the world places on American politics (which consequently makes them want to analyze every bit they can get their hands on), the need for humor in a world where things are not going so well, or the sad fact that the world seems to be more focused on the ‘celebrity’ factor in the American election campaign.
I feel a little pessimistic today, so I’m going to go with number 3.
As Steve Johnson explains: “(…) There’s no denying that pop culture seems to be playing a bigger role this time around than in years past. Yes, Bill Clinton blew the saxophone on TV and Dana Carvey mocked the first President Bush, but the feedback loops are tighter now, from entertainment to mainstream coverage to voter influence. “It is a lot more profound and more widespread because the information flow is so much greater,” says Jeffrey Ressner, West Coast reporter for Politico. “Ten, 20, 30 years ago, major newspapers, newsweeklies, TV networks and CNN, that was the bulk of the election news. Today, every outlet, YouTube, TMZ, Entertainment Weekly, it’s all become sort of a horse race/reality show/talent competition, and America is both a viewer and participant.”
I don’t feel very comfortable with pop culture and politics mixing. While one is definitely a reflection of the other, should a SNL skit have importance on the choice the electorate makes?
And importance it has. To the point that writers such as Peter Bradwshaw are angry at SNL for not taking the opportunity of exposing Sarah Palin : “Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin‘s victory over comedian Tina Fey has been painful to behold. And Tina Fey had been doing so well, too. Sometimes in the media-political complex, satirists are all-important, and until recently Tina Fey must have been waking up every morning feeling like Superwoman. Her superb impression of Palin on Saturday Night Live has given John McCain‘s campaign a vicious punch in the kidneys from which it and he may still not recover. (…)
Katie Couric’s tough one-on-one TV interview with Sarah Palin exposed her ignorance and absurdity but it was Fey’s comic turn which hammered the point home, turning Palin into a laughing stock, often by simply repeating what she actually said. (…)
Yet the awful truth is that Palin has successfully neutralised a lot of the damage, and will probably come out even – or actually ahead. And all because America’s media liberals are too good-natured, or too pusillanimous to go for the kill. Palin’s throat was exposed in front of them, and yet Fey, Alec Baldwin and the whole Saturday Night Live team coyly folded the razor and put it away.
Fey’s impressions of Palin have been really funny as well as eerily observed, especially her dual press-conference sketch with Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.
Obviously, the show doesn’t want to get in trouble for political bias so close to the election, but surely that double-act – satirising the Democrat and the Republican – was enough to satisfy any critics?”
Then again, why shouldn’t pop culture and politics mix? After all, politicians are about representing the people, and pop culture is about what the people like; logically, the two should therefore mix.
But they are also terribly different. Pop culture moves quickly and reflects what the people are doing in the moment; politics is a slow build, year after year, and reflects where the people are going to be. Politics should change pop culture, and not the other way around. So while a certain interplay must happen, politics shouldn’t change because of pop culture; it has to be the cause of change in pop culture.