The Emmys aired this past weekend, and unsurprisingly, they were practically drowning in commentary on Trump. And not just when it came to the subject matter for the shows that won big (Saturday Night Live in particular).
It’s comedy’s job to show us the truth behind the lies we tell ourselves as a society—in a lot of ways, that’s what makes it so funny.
But liberals aren’t the only ones who watch award shows. And maintaining the balance between funny and inappropriate is difficult at best.
Probably the best example of this was the surprise cameo from former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer. That’s where things get really tricky: How funny is it, really, to have the man who repeatedly lied to the American people (and not just about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration) do damage control for his own reputation on a Hollywood awards show?
The ensuing tweet storm made it apparent enough that not everyone thought it was funny:
I suppose it’s easy to discredit this kind of response as people who just have no sense of humor. But it also normalizes—even as it mocks—political events that have been far from ordinary.
Interestingly, Emmys creator and producer Lorne Michaels acknowledges the difficult balance between comedy and politics—and shows no particular concern for how it might affect the people watching.
“Occasionally we do go over [the line], but not because we didn’t think about it,” Michaels remarked after the show. “You try to make sure always that it’s a clean hit, that you’re not going after somebody because it’s an applause line or because it’s easy.”
Fair enough—although the sheer number of Trump references can certainly be construed as going after someone for that very reason (not that Trump makes it difficult).
The real concern with bringing politics into an awards show is the difficulty of that line. Where does the comedy end and the giving a further platform to an amoral politician begin? And what does that say about who we’re giving screen time to? By including that level of politics, Hollywood lends legitimacy to a disaster of a political situation that continues to deteriorate the decency of our country. And that’s no laughing matter.