ISIS is never funny. Except when it is.
Why does the media have to drop its critical faculties anytime something makes more than a dozen people on social media angry?
An inspired Saturday Night Live parody of the Toyota Super Bowl commercial, in which a father tenderly and tearfully says good bye to his college-bound daughter, became, by early Sunday, a controversy.
In the SNL version, the daughter happens to be joining ISIS.
Dad: "You be careful, ok?"
Daughter: "Dad, it's just ISIS."
Dad (to a militant): "Take care of her."
Militant: "Death to America."
A half hour after the sketch aired on the East Coast, a Buzzfeed writer, Jaimie Etkin, wrote a story which her editors headlined, “That ISIS Skit on “SNL” Offended A Lot Of People.”
In her article, Etkin quotes from a dozen critical Tweets. One is Rutgers communicator Ed Tate, 243 followers, who wrote: “just saw maybe the most unfunny #SNL piece of all time. Is ISIS really a good subject for humor? #nbc And I've loved SNL for decades.” Randy Galloway, a sports writer with a big ol' cigar in his mouth, wasn’t happy either. "'Take care of my daughter' referring to a group that gruesomely kills.” Maxine from Boston thought it “horrible and inappropriate.”
I question Buzzfeed’s headline. Did the SNL sketch really offend "a lot” of people? How many who watched it were offended? Even 10 percent? If 10 percent of people find an SNL sketch offensive, does that merit a news story?
Buzzfeed, which can find a way to make drying paint interesting with the right headline, is the Axl Rose of the media: its range (highbrow lit-crit, investigative stories, kitty (cat) porn, half-naked men trying bondage) is astonishing. So, sure. Write a story about it.
But the editorial choices within the story are interesting. Buzzfeed is quick to endorse the idea that publicly expressed outrage of any sort is a subject that deserves uncritical coverage. Subjecting the outrage to analysis — not so much.
Hey, you know you’re getting angry about a fake ad on a TV show, right? And you do realize that the reason why the ad was funny — why it got huge laughs in the studio, and why the producers and writers put it in the show, is because ISIS is not funny? Because we’re not supposed to find ISIS funny, conventional, amusing… that is why the parody ad was funny. The juxtaposition of the warm and fuzzy fantasy world of the original Toyota ad against the horror of Americans leaving their families to join ISIS is incomprehensible and true at the same time — and SNL kind of nailed it.
SNL makes ISIS jokes all the time; Chris Rock joked about 9/11; the same SNL episode began a Birdman parody that mocked Rudy Giuliani’s post 9/11 political career. 9/11 is not funny. Rudy Giuliani’s self-conscious patter about his identity as the hero of that day — that’s funny. (“Freedom to mock is our greatest weapon,” said the co-star of the sketch, Taran Killam. In his own Tweet.)
Buzzfeed’s POV is: it’s ok to be offended by the skit. Really? Why isn’t Buzzfeed’s POV: hey — grow a little armor, folks; think through why you might feel offended by a fake ad on TV.
The former POV is clickbait and the latter is better served elsewhere, I guess.
Speaking of clickbait, overnight, producers for network morning shows took the clickbait, and at least two of them created segments based on the premise that, indeed, “some” thought SNL had “gone too far.”
Some who? Why?
Come on, Buzzfeed. You're the ultimate meta-narrativists of our day. So defend humor. Take the side of satirists. Endorse the idea that it's often ok to mess with the sacred. Figure out, because you've got the sophistication, whether outrage based on symbolic acts is truly merited, or simply ask why the skit made people angry. Question the people who say that ISIS can't be a punchline.
Don't just let a precious few voices on Twitter turn a molehill into a mountain.