It's usually pretty hard to get mad at Tina Fey, because she's charismatic, smart, regularly rocks political skits on America's favorite comedy show, and has a talent for shutting down sexist questions in interviews. However, people are angry at Fey for her "sheet caking" on Saturday Night Live's most recent Weekend Update right now, and the reason why is understandable. For many, the skit managed to be insensitive, downright offensive, and naive about the rise of the alt-right to many viewers all at once. Bustle has reached out to Fey and NBC for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.
Viewers felt that, though the sketch was criticizing the racist segment of the population, it undermined its message by including a racist (and transphobic) joke in the skit. And it wasn't a joke told in the projected voices of the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi marchers. The joke was told by Fey, who stated that she hoped that the Neo-Nazis head to New York City:
Like, I hope they try it and get the ham salad kicked out of them by a bunch of drag queens. 'Cause you know what a drag queen still is? A six-foot-four black man.
Besides the offensiveness of making a sweeping generalization about drag queens, the joke reinforces negative stereotypes in the media about African-American men being pre-disposed toward violent behavior — a stereotype that may form part of the reason Neo-Nazis march in the first place. So, it's no wonder people were angry.
Many Twitter users reacted in disgust to the drag queen joke, which seemed a pretty unnecessary and disturbing part of the skit. Some users argued that this wasn't any great surprise, given her previous show 30 Rock's uneasy relationship with race, as well as the yellowface incident in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
But just as unsettling was the overall message of the skit, which jokingly suggested that the best strategy to fighting rising intolerance was to sit at home and ignore it. For a start, no civil rights progress in the United States has ever been won by constituents chilling on their sofa, overloading on carbs. And, perhaps more importantly, people from marginalized groups don't have the luxury of waiting out prejudice with a nice cake like Fey is able to do.
Sure, showing up at protests is risky; Heather Heyer's tragic murder is just the latest confirmation of that. But, as Dante Barry, executive director of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and activist in the Black Lives Matter movement told the Washington Post in 2015, since Black people are never safe:
It’s important for white co-conspirators or comrades to think about the level of comfort — safety — that is assumed to them by sitting on the sidelines and not actively engaging in the movement for black lives because it seems "too risky."
Now, more than ever, is the time for white people to show up and be useful allies — not to retreat at home behind a wall of sugar.
Some viewers also pointed out that her choice of food to stress-eat also felt pretty spot on, harkening comparisons to another privileged woman in history.
On the other hand, Twitter users are arguing that all of this critique is unfair and that Fey is a comedian, not an activist. But this is as hard for others to swallow as your 14th mouthful of sheet cake. Fey has huge reach (469,000 followers on Twitter at the time of writing, even though she hasn't tweeted since 2010) and influence with liberal audiences. To preach doing zilch, even jokingly, at a time when, more than ever, allies should be coming forward to fight white supremacy feels harmful.