Saturday Night Live’s Political Power

“The first time I ever really started to like Saturday Night Live was when I watched Tina Fey say ‘I can see Russia from my backyard.’ That was my first political sketch and I was very interested in it,” sophomore Blythe Bull recalls.

This season of SNL has certainly had its fair share of political sketches. Yet, maybe that is to be expected. Although many people think SNL is hitting it especially hard this year because of Donald Trump’s presidency, there are those who think it would be no different if Hillary had won.

“I wouldn’t say their critique is limited necessarily to Republicans” freshman McKenna Huse acknowledged, citing the skits from the past election cycle as being equally targeted towards Trump and Clinton.

“I don’t think they’re making fun anymore than usual, I just think people are reacting differently because it’s so heated. I feel like political insults are taken more personally recently,” freshman Tel Johnson stated. “I think if Hillary was the president they would be doing the same thing.”

No matter what SNL’s real agenda may be, their influence on the public is undeniable. President Trump himself acknowledged their power when he criticized the sketches on Twitter. The skits have become their own political commentary, a vernacular substitute for the hard news of CNN or NBC.

It started in the 2016 election cycle, but ever since President Trump was elected, SNL has continued to surge on. Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of Trump is close to perfect, and Melissa McCarthy’s image of Sean Spicer is ridiculous enough that it belongs exactly where it is: in the year that is 2017. For many Americans, the images that pop up on their TV screens on Saturday nights have become the images they displace as real, the caricatures becoming the characters, and the characters becoming the people.

Hendrix students have uncommon ties to SNL. Bull visited the set of SNL when she was ten and can still recall the impressions it made upon her.

“It was eye-opening because the actual set isn’t as big as you think it is,” Bull stated. “The lady who was telling us about the set and the fact that it’s live means they never know what celebrities are going to do, and sometimes celebrities have done things they aren’t supposed to do, but everyone just has to play it off like everything is fine.”

SNL’s skits in 2016 and 2017 have only amped up the apparent political differences in America, specifically in regards to Trump and his administration.

“I think SNL is like ‘OK, look at this ridiculous man who keeps on doing these ridiculous things, and how are we allowing this?’ so I feel like in that sense, yes, they have amped up the anty and made things more grand. But at the same time I feel like SNL has done a good job of segmenting that off and still having their show outside of the political criticism,” Huse mentioned.

Although SNL is trying to keep their identity as an entertainment giant, there is no doubt that a new era of entertainment politics is shining through. SNL has always been a critical force in modern American life, but the politics of late have pushed them beyond boundaries they have ever been. SNL can no longer just be a late night comedy sketch show – it has become the force of political, comedic resistance shared simply through a Facebook post, a YouTube search, and a click of the remote control.


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