Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday Night Why?

Watched the Sarah Palin appearance on Saturday Night Live like everyone else and, given the result, could not imagine why in the world she would have done it. There were reports over the last few weeks that SNL was "negotiating" with Palin to appear on the show, following the sensation created by the spot-on Tina Fey impersonations. Based on last night, I guess the deal was that Palin would show up as long as they agreed to beat the crap out of her while she stood there, or sat there, and watched.

This is not partisan, because I do not in any way consider myself a fan or supporter ("not remotely qualified for high office" is one of the more charitable lines I've seen thrown her way), but I can't be alone in having found it just unbelievably uncomfortable witnessing what this woman had to endure - basically the equivalent of a Hatfield being marched through McCoy Central just to prove she wasn't a fraidy cat. She got nothing at all out of this, other than the opportunity to demonstrate that she could smile at the camera while a group of people diametrically opposed to everything she stands for, and terrified by what she represents, derisively reinforced all of her core negatives, to laughter, while shooting her the kind of sideways glances worthy of the only one on the scene who wasn't in on the joke.

It didn't necessarily have to be that way. I can't for the life of me understand why Palin's people didn't get a little more aggressive in determining how she'd be used on the show, what she would do and have the opportunity to say. If the SNL brain trust (led by the supremely smug, and allegedly McCain-supporting, Lorne Michaels) wouldn't agree, fine, she's not showing up and everyone can keep on having fun with Tina. She didn't need this, although her side may reasonably feel at this point that they need anything they can get.

Why didn't they negotiate out a skit where she bumped into someone impersonating Barack Obama backstage, up on a soapbox giving a mind-numbingly eloquent and impassioned speech about how important it is for people to keep their shoes tied, but clearly without enough experience to tie his own? Maybe she could have tied them for him, or maybe John McCain could have wandered out of the wings at the last moment to do the job, while saying something like, "wouldn't want you to trip on the way to raising people's taxes."

That didn't have to be the joke, but it makes the point. "Sure, I'll come on your fancy show," she could have said, "but not just so you can beat me up in person instead of through a stand in. If I'm flying to New York in the middle of a campaign I'm going to get to take some shots, too." She didn't.

None of this is particularly profound, I just felt like posting because after taking in the appearance I could not believe that Palin's advisers (puppet masters is maybe a more appropriate term at this point) put her in a situation in which she lost and almost everyone else involved won. SNL scored huge ratings and buzz, the show's liberal writers, cast and guest stars (anyone out there more avowedly liberal than Alec "Here's Daddy" Baldwin?) were able to fire away at will and on message, behind a supremely disingenuous "it's-all-in-good-fun" veneer, and all she could do was play along and hope to score sympathy points by looking like a good sport while waiting for it to be over.

And, unfortunately for Sarah Palin, it's starting to look a lot like that dynamic doesn't only apply to Saturday Night Live.