Fey, as Palin, helped get youth demographic interested in politics
Here in Buenos Aires, Argentina, my only connection to the American world and the itty bitty (ha!) economic crises going on is the Internet and the bars full of citizens fresh from the United States, and yes, that the dollar is worth 3.40 pesos instead of 3.15 or something. The Internet has been rife with political commentary from illustrious organizations like CNN, thoughtful, professional, unbiased blogs like www.Jezebel.com, and the absolute cream of the crop: www.perezhilton.com. But all of these online media sources have one thing in common: They all feature clips from Saturday Night Live.
SNL has been serving up hot and delicious political satire this election season from the time Sarah Palin opened her pageant-winning Alaskan mouth, and seemingly everyone has noticed. I imagine that SNL had hit a bit of a dry spell after its more famous cast members left for bigger and better opportunities, but famous alumna Tina Fey’s transformation into the former Republican vice presidential candidate moistened that right up. From my southern hemisphere-perspective, I relied on SNL skits as a way to follow the race for the presidency.
And why not? What at first seemed like exaggerations and heightened reality has proven eerily parallel to real-life events. I was pleased with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s take on Katie Couric’s interview with Palin — until I watched parts of the interview and realized there was more reality than exaggeration in the skit. Fey’s performance was frightening in that it was spot-on, besides her throwing in a few extra sultry winks at the camera for good comedic measure.
It is interesting how things that were supposed to endear us to Palin, such as her talk about Joe Six-Pack, those aforementioned winks at the crowd, and her claim that she’s nothing more than a hockey mom, ended up working against her — as Fey pointed out through her multiple SNL skits. Palin’s quirks annoyed me, and I’m sure others as well. Yet, Palin’s willingness to be the butt of her own jokes during her visit to the set was the most watched episode of SNL since December of 1997 — way back when. And I’ll admit that Fey’s version of Palin was certainly endearing — but to Fey, not to Palin. Following these performances, Tina Fey was gaining more fame and recognition than she already had by being on seemingly every late night talk show, every morning talk show, everywhere. But Palin’s public image only continued to wither.
As the ladies at Jezebel noted, though, the public started to argue that Tina Fey was ruining Palin’s political career. But this public likely forgot that Palin brought it on to herself. “Oh the New York Post, will your clever wordplay ever cease?” asks Jezebel’s Jessica. She cites a Post article that insists that Palin had been “swift-butted” by Fey’s lovely impressions, but also argues that Fey only worked with what Palin gave her.
You see, Fey’s SNL skits represent a specific rhetoric for the 18- to 30-something age group. I’ve never been a political pundit; politics has never interested me, even though I realized that the outcome of this election could potentially affect my life more than the previous ones have. Everyone has heard of Fey’s Palin-based skits, and while they make us convulse with laughter, they also make us think. These SNL skits got people interested in the election — how could one not be interested in Fey-as-Palin with McCain-as-McCain when the former Republican presidential nominee appeared on the late-night program? Sure, his appearance on SNL so close to Election Day was seemingly a last cry for attention — or votes (maybe he thought they were the same thing). But the skit with McCain and Fey still as Palin was utterly hilarious, as it brought back the former’s hysterical-old-man persona, albeit a little too late in the game.
These skits brought out the juice of the candidates’ personalities, the maverick beast inside of them all.
Perhaps it all comes down on the role of popular culture in politics and how pervasive it really is. Skits on Obama weren’t usually funny on SNL, as our lovely president-elect is more tranquil and chill than an absolute caricature, and therefore not as comically entertaining as Palin and McCain. Obama’s exposure came with his face on the cover of every magazine. McCain was already known in the political world and thus did not receive such popular attention during the election. Contrastingly, Palin’s exposure came through Saturday night comedic skits, live from NBC studios. Whether this was a good thing or bad thing, I can’t say objectively, due to my terrific bias for the former Democratic candidate.
But the thing is this: SNL got me interested enough to watch actual footage of the Katie Couric/Sarah Palin interview and at least a chunk of the vice-presidential debate. (I was almost sure that Palin actually did say that she believed marriage was meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers — but I was wrong.) Fey and SNL’s comedic commentary got me interested in finding out what was the real deal with Palin, and for that matter, Joe Biden, and both sides of the election. So thank you, SNL. I do believe that if I rely on you for the rest of my life to culture myself, I’ll maybe be a better person — or at least a more culturally aware person — one day.
All I have left to say is this: Go rogue, Palin. Go rogue with your bad self.