The room goes dark, and you have the sudden desire to slam your face into your plate of food. At least according to the comedic minds at Saturday Night Live, that's the feeling that takes over whenever the Babe.net article about Aziz Ansari comes up. It might seem extreme, but the SNL sketch on the Aziz Ansari controversy captures a key part of the situation: Everyone's just too afraid to talk about it for the discussion to get anywhere.
The sketch starts with an innocent conversation about a dog at a dinner table featuring host Will Ferrell plus cast members Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennett, Heidi Gardner, Aidy Bryant, and Kenan Thompson. It then takes a sharp turn toward the uncomfortable when Gardner brings up the New York Times' op-ed on Aziz Ansari, in which writer Bari Weiss argued that Ansari was guilty "of not being a mind reader" and called the Babe.net story "the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement since it began."
Gardner asked what her fellow diners thought about the controversial piece, and as soon as she said the words "Aziz Ansari," the lights dropped in the room and the camera panned from person to person, capturing their stunned faces, unspoken pleas to the heavens, shaking hands, and even, in Bennett's case, an attempt to hide his face behind his turtleneck. Gardner tried to correct her error and move on to something else, but Ferrell stepped in to say that they can actually talk about it.
"I think we should," he said, as McKinnon cringed next to him.
McKinnon was the first to step up to bat on the issue, but the other people at the table stepped in to urge her to be careful after each of her utterances. "I think that some men have a proclivity—" she said, before Thompson cut her off with a drawn-out "careful!"
"Help me," she said to Thompson, who then jumped in with his own attempt.
"While I applaud the movement—" Thompson began, before Gardner interrupted him with a wary "watch it." The interruptions eventually forced him to give up his effort at expressing a fully-developed thought, and then Bryant also took a stab at it, but she failed again. Bennett finally made his attempt — and despite the rising tension that the other diners made apparent in their words and actions, he succeeded in getting to the actual end of his sentence.
"Okay, um, look," Bennett began, before fighting through various interjections to air his controversial viewpoint in full. "The thing that I keep going back to is it seems like, if she wanted to leave, she could have just left."
This statement then plunged the whole room into darkness again, and each character reacts in his or her own very fitting way. Ferrell repeatedly pressed his face into his food; Thompson stabbed his hand with his knife; Bryant cut off her ponytail; McKinnon hid her face behind the curtain of a stage; and most memorably, Gardner cast a spell to make herself simply fade away.
All of that became small beans, though, when Thompson brought up the racial element of the whole #MeToo conversation. Then came a montage of the most dramatic scenes, from death metal to a stampede of buffalo to Pizza Rat. This is the moment that they finally couldn't recover from — so they did, indeed, move on.
Exaggerated though the sketch was, it captures an essential problem that society is grappling with. How can you talk about Aziz Ansari and the story on Babe.net and really take into account all of the difficulties and subtleties that it brings up? It's hard, and it's uncomfortable, but Will Ferrell had it right in the first minutes of the sketch — it has to happen anyway.