Laughing At Donald Trump On 'Saturday Night Live' Only Gives Him & His Dangerous Ideas More Power
Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend and made jokes about his comments on Rosie O'Donnell and his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which he plans to force Mexico to pay for, of course. But the Washington Post is saying that Trump's performance fell flat, and the Chicago Tribune is saying that the anticipation of his performance "trumped" the reality. But, given the fact that Trump only makes offensive jokes about women and immigrants, why did anyone have high expectations in the first place? Laughing at Trump on SNL is not acceptable because it gives his ideas far more power than they deserve.
Trump said that he appeared on SNL because he had nothing better to do, and then he went on to say, sure, his comments about O'Donnell were mean, but they were "completely accurate," according to NBC's video of his monologue. People laughed at his joke.
But was it really a joke? During the first Republican presidential debate, Fox News host Megyn Kelly cornered Trump on the language he's used to talk about women. She said, "You've called women fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals," according to USA Today. Then, as she said, "Your Twitter account has several...," Trump interrupted her and said, "Only Rosie O'Donnell," with a small smile on his face. The crowd actually cheers at this, as if it's acceptable — and even hilarious — to use that kind of language to describe some women. Kelly looks visibly annoyed, and it's pretty clear why: Trump gets power and support for his ideas when people laugh at them and don't condemn them. This is exactly why people shouldn't have been looking for a good laugh in Trump when he hosted SNL.
I'm not saying offensive jokes can't be funny, but racist, sexist language coming from a presidential candidate is not funny. Some comedians and critics have also said that racist and sexist jokes aren't funny when they come from anyone. There's a difference between censoring comedy and condemning speech that harms minority groups.
Last year, comedian Paul Eastwood reportedly made jokes about foreigners and Muslims at an event for the right-wing U.K. Independence Party, according to The Telegraph. In the upset that ensued, Steve Bennett, an editor for a popular comedy guide, said Eastwood's jokes were "more pathetic than offensive" because there's a "growing consensus that his sort of humour is tired, lazy, ignorant, bigoted and dated," according to the Telegraph. But, Bennett continued, Eastwood was only catering to his audience, who find stereotypes funny because they do believe that they actually apply to all Muslims.
Ava Vidal, another British comedian, wrote an op-ed for the Telegraph where she said she agreed with Bennett on the idea that racist humor is tired. But she also said she disagreed with the fact that censoring this kind of comedy would be bad, or that it might make it hard for a comedian to pander to an audience, according to the Telegraph:
Bennett may not find these jokes offensive but at the end of the day, as a white, middle-class British man they do not affect him. I am sure that members of the Polish, Somali, Asian and Muslim communities may well find them very offensive. Especially given the amount of racist attacks perpetrated against them. And the ‘right to free speech’ argument doesn’t hold up in a court of law. Because as much as you think you have a right to say it, people have a right not to be subjected to it.
Here lies the crucial problem with laughing at Trump's racism and sexism that many SNL viewers and Trump supporters are missing: They are not being affected by his stereotypical — and false — mudslinging. Trump wasn't calling all men rapists when he said that a lot of Mexican immigrants are rapists, so not all men were peeved. Further, he wasn't calling all women fat pigs when he targeted O'Donnell, but he has been incredibly sexist toward other women as well. But it's pretty clear that his views are widely held, otherwise immigrants and women wouldn't be the disproportionate targets of crime and hateful language.
Jokes aren't just jokes. And often, behind Trump's jokes lie things that he actually believes. We don't joke about war, and we are moving toward a culture that doesn't joke about rape, because war and rape are serious acts where the victims truly suffer. Racist, sexist, and stereotypical language causes suffering as well. It doesn't always cause physical harm in the form of a hate crime, but it definitely results in discrimination that immigrants, minorities, and women feel every day. Laughing at Trump's absurd ideas might seem like it makes them less legitimate. But it's pretty clear from the crowd's laughter at the first GOP debate that Trump supporters aren't getting that message, and that's truly dangerous.