Michael Che's Sexist Comments Reflect Badly on 'Saturday Night Live,' But What Did We Expect?
It's amazing how quickly your opinion of a person can take a complete 180 in the opposite direction. That's what happened to me on Wednesday when Michael Che responded to the 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman PSA video with the most offensive and anti-feminist jokes — yes, there was a series of them — I have ever had the misfortune of reading. Che is a longtime Saturday Night Live writer who had a brief stint on The Daily Show before returning to Saturday Night Live to replace Cecily Strong as a Weekend Update host. Now we also know that Che is shockingly ignorant when it comes to women's issues. And that's incredibly frustrating.
When Che was hired as a Weekend Update host, I was pleased that SNL was making the effort to diversify. Really, I was. But equally as important to me as diversity is women's issues and the fact that women had been removed from the two person Weekend Update team for the first time since 2000 — not counting when Seth Meyers solo hosted — was unacceptable to me. With Saturday Night Live, it always feels like they move a centimeter forward when pushed, but leave so much space left in the diversity race that you just have to scream, "RUN FORWARD ALREADY!" It's 2014. I shouldn't still have to be complaining about how your show, in its 40th season, represents women and people of color. (Which is to say not very well not at all.)
Now I have an entirely different reason to be upset that Che is replacing Strong at the Weekend Update desk. The antifeminist "jokes" that Che made are, quite frankly, unacceptable. Especially considering he did work on The Daily Show, which notoriously had a segment called "Masters of Sexism" starring correspondent and actual saint Jessica Williams calling out the very entitled attitude that Che presents in his joke. Even worse than the fact that the comedian made the comments in the first place is his utterly unapologetic and flippant attitude toward the number of people, especially women, that he has upset. In fact, he has been very active on Twitter between Wednesday and Thursday to make sure we are all aware that he doesn't care what we think.
I don't want to hold Saturday Night Live responsible for Che's mistakes, but it's incredibly typical that a show that receives so much criticism for its refusal to diversify with more people of color or more female comedians has chosen someone like Che to take over the Weekend Update host position in the same move that pushed a woman out of the spot. SNL has never exactly been friendly to females and it's clear that Che's opinion of them and their silly desire to want to be able to walk down a sidewalk without having a man try to talk to them for no reason aside from they're there, female, and attractive is pretty much in line with the kind of criticism that SNL usually gets.
To be specific, SNL too often values males and the male perspective over females and the female perspective — to the point of Kenan Thompson claiming that there are no good female comedians as a reason for why they don't hire more. In light of that, it's really unsurprising that Che would have this kind of outlook on women and their very real struggle with street harassment. This is exactly the kind of path that SNL opens itself to traveling down when it hires more male comedians than it does female comedians: a path that leads to offensive jokes at a woman's expense without a woman there to tell you when it's okay to joke about something and how to joke about it in a way that won't piss off every single woman tuning in. Hopefully, Che won't bring this brand of sexism to any of the jokes he tells on SNL, but at this point I'm not very hopeful.