There were few things I was more excited to watch on TV this fall than Saturday Night Live’s spoofs of the presidential debates.
Kate McKinnon’s performance of an unbalanced and slightly manic Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin’s exaggerated Donald Trump not only made me laugh—they also portrayed so clearly the issues most people have with the two candidates.
But when I scrolled through the comments on each video, I saw SNL garnering typical YouTube hate.
Instead of ragging on SNL for not being funny, the comments mostly criticized the show for being “too liberal,” for lowering the public respect of both candidates, and for acting irresponsibly overall.
Is SNL’s satire good for the general public because it makes light of the election, or does it make the candidates seem less qualified and decrease the perceived importance of the election?
Before this fall, many comedians and news outlets started to impose their own expectations on the show.
In an article from Politico titled “Will ‘Saturday Night Live’ Take Down Trump?,” several comedians, including Dean Obeidallah and Samantha Bee, pushed for SNL to cover the ground that the general media hasn’t in exposing Trump’s toxicity. Bee, in particular, criticizes shows for smoothing over Trump’s vitriol and inviting him on their shows for ratings.
SNL has also fallen victim to this criticism, with people angry at the show for essentially being neutral on both candidates up until this fall. When SNL satirizes the debates, instead of seeing this as a way for the country to work out their frustrations at the whole election, some people are assigning a political agenda to the skits.
And maybe SNL does lean liberal. But it could also seem to be leaning that way because the ridiculousness of Trump in real life is so absurd that to create a caricature, the show has to turn him into a walking hate-machine.
To be fair, people had been lacking in respect for both Clinton and Trump since long before SNL cranked up its satire. The insanity of Trump’s comments and actions over the past year, and the seemingly endless supply of road blocks for Clinton, have already made this election cycle seem surreal, so much so that people need an outlet like SNL to laugh at the state of the country without compromising their respect for the institution of the presidential election.
SNL is how a lot of people, particularly young ones, get their impressions of the candidates, but its primary objective is to be funny. The show has been influencing the country’s perception of candidates since 1975, and it doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon.
SNL lays all of the flaws and faults of the candidates out, and it’s up to us to decide what we want to do with that information, laughing all along the way.