'Girls' Lena Dunham Hosted 'SNL': 5 of the Most Feminist Moments From the show
Yes, Lena Dunham hosted Saturday Night Live last night. And, while other celebrities have been occasionally overshadowed by the show's regular performers, Dunham contributed well to this week's episode. You could tell that she helped shape and drive the sketches, from her opening monologue to "Biblical Movie," starring her as Eve and Taran Killam as Adam Draper as Adam. Dunham, in short, appeared to be in her element. She came on to the show with a clear voice, and it was heard. Does this inherently make her, and the show itself, feminist?
I would like to say that, yes, Saturday Night Live is a feminist institution. I would like to believe that they pay their actors equally or based on seniority, regardless of gender. I sincerely hope that SNL cares for both the male and female members of its cast. I hope that it gives everyone an equal voice at the writing table. These are the actions that would mark the show of feminist, not the fact that they brought on a female celebrity who also writes her own show. Nonetheless, I think Dunham did bring her own perspective to SNL, which allowed her to shape the flavor of the week. That, in fact, is what makes SNL so special: its ability to encapsulate the personalities, beliefs, and quirks of its host each week. Of course the sketches are going to be different, because they are extensions of different guests. What Dunham's hosting allows us to do, then, is to see how SNL channels a strong female voice. The verdict? It does it well.
Outside of last night's performance, what else has SNL done to channel the voices of its ladies? Let's take a look at some past shows.
Matthew McConaugheys For Days
I was impressed this season when the show called itself out for not having a single black woman in the cast. Kerry Washington's cold open when she hosted SNL featured the following voiceover:
The producers at Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play. We make these requests because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent — and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman on the cast. Mostly the latter. We agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future, unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.
Washington, meanwhile, was forced to rush from Michelle Obama to Oprah Winfrey to Beyonce, further underscoring the show's lack of a black female cast member. When asked to portray Oprah, she pressed Obama (Jay Pharoah), "And Keenan won't…?" As she changed to play Beyonce, Killam opened the door to six Matthew McConaugheys.
Along Came Sasheer Zamata
SNL added Sasheer Zamata to the featured players midway through this year's season, and she debuted on January 18th, 2014, when Drake hosted. She appeared as Drake's daughter in a sketch, while her Rihanna portrayal in the episode's "Resolution Revolution" video left me excited for the singer to pop up more on the show. And without Zamata, it would have been impossible to pay tribute to Washington in this week's Scandal sketch, in which Dunham played a supremely impressed tagalong to Pope and Associates. Zamata nails the out-of-body convulsions that overtake Olivia Pope whenever the president strokes her chin.
Cecily is Strong in "Weekend Update"
During the first episode of season 39, Cecily Strong shouted out Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for paving the way for her at the "Weekend Update" desk. Fey rolled on to tell her,"This man don't own you. You do you. You're in charge." And indeed, when Seth Meyers finally stepped down on February 1st to take over Late Night, Strong held down the fort when joined by Colin Jost. They even have developed a little "rock out" fist pound to replace the vanilla (though adorable) fist bump that Strong shared with Meyers.
The SNL Women Parody Girls
SNL kicked off a precursor-to-Dunham-hosting conversation with the show Girls when Fey appeared as "new girl" Blerta from Albania. Fey's character highlights the somewhat shallow and self-absorbed problems that the characters in Girls face, all while keeping it real as her underdog persona. In a way, this is a message from a queen of comedy to one of its rising stars: keep writing, keep performing, and never be afraid to self-examinze. Vanessa Bayer's Shoshanna is priceless, while Kate McKinnon rocks as Jessa. Noel Wells captures the cadence of Dunham's patter remarkably well. The SNL ladies are doing a sketch starring mostly girls, about Girls. And it's hilarious.
"(Do It On My) Twin Bed"
In my favorite SNL video this year, the female cast members bemoan the fact that they can't find a place to shack up with their boyfriends when visiting their families for the holidays. The solution? Do it on their twin beds. This video is not only comedic gold, but it addresses the fact that a.) female sexuality exists and b.) it does not have to be passive. These are women out to get what they want, no matter how many creaky beds, sleeping uncles, or childhood photos are in the way.
Ultimately, it's been an exciting year for SNL and all of its cast members. Not only have they dealt with the comings and goings of veterans and featured players, but they have been able to successfully collaborate with many celebrities and actors. Lena Dunham was a particularly good fit for the show, and while her episode did play with female nudity more than the average SNL show, she was not the first to show us that, yes, it's great to be a woman. And SNL will support you, male or female, as long as you put in the work to make people laugh.