Who’s been naughty, who’s been nice? Or: Who’s been dull, who’s been toothless?
Try, try as it might — and “Saturday Night Live” has tried — it still can’t find anything funny to say about the sexual harassment scandals that have leveled prominent careers from Hollywood to New York, and this past week, Washington, D.C. That’s reasonable enough because there’s nothing funny about it, although that hasn’t prevented late-night hosts such as Stephen Colbert from finding the jugular night after night.
Instead, on Saturday, “SNL” offers a sketch specifically entitled “Sexual Harassment” which almost entirely missed the point of what’s happened (and happening) with the ongoing trauma of workplace sexual harassment. “Weekend Update” trotted out tired one-offs, such as L.A. “wildfires are spreading faster than Harvey Weinstein’s bathrobe,” then compounded that with a baffling interchange between Cecily Strong’s crackhead Cathy Anne and co-anchor Michael Che, who explained to her that Al Franken was forced to resign “so Democrats can show they are trying to take a tough stand on sexual harassment.” Really? Nothing more, nothing less?
This James Franco-hosted “SNL” came at sexual harassment again and again, not once finding the target, not once rising — remotely — to some semblance of savage indignation.
The cold open offered a who’s-been-naughty/nice sketch with Kenan Thompson as a mall Santa stymied by a series of cue-card reading kids wondering why Al Franken resigned, or football players kneel, or why the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem, or how about that tax plan?
Would just one kid like a toy? That set up this: “Oh, you mean a toy like the one Matt Lauer gave to his co-worker?”
It was insufferable, and worse, sanctimonious. Kate McKinnon’s “Santa’s Elf” explained to one kid that the “country is not “as bad” as it seems, and “I promise you [that] maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow . . . maybe not for another three years, 42 days and 24 minutes . . . Most people in America are good people, and eventually good people will fix our country.”
The “Harassment” skit featured a pair of office casualties in the great reckoning — the elderly “front desk guy” Charlie (Kenan Thompson), who was presumably canned for making outrageous comments to female employees; and the white collar exec (Franco), fired for referring to to someone as “my little honey bee.” The female employees protested Charlie’s firing because after all, he’s just the front desk guy — charming, funny, harmless, gross — but applauded the exec’s firing because he’s the boss, and should’ve known better.
Wrong in all sorts of ways, the skit was wrong in maybe the worst way — diminishing the #MeToo movement by diminishing the scope and nature of what has really happened and continues to happen. It’s not just about the Charlies of the world, or the boorish executive, but the predator (like Weinstein) or the groper (like Franken) or the serial harasser (too many to name) who corner women, then isolate them, and finally humiliate them.
Right: There’s nothing funny about this cultural movement, but is it too much to expect the most important show on television to at least have something smart to say about it?