By Su Waddy, BA Politics and International Relations
SNL has once again drawn attention for controversial jokes; this time featuring their host, Timothée Chalamet. In a skit that many deemed “too soon” and distasteful, the Comedy Trio “Please Don’t Destroy” joined Chalamet in attempting to use a struggling musician’s storyline for comedic relief. The sensitive nature of the topic, involving an ongoing genocidal conflict between Israel and Gaza, that has resulted in the death of 24,000 Palestinians, undoubtedly sparked public outrage. The issue, however, is that public outrage is often never mirrored by much administrative accountability from these sketch comedy shows or the celebrities that they feature. It really brings a new nasty element to “How far is too far?”
( ‘Please don’t destroy’ – Jumper – SNL)
This particular skit involves Chalamet’s character contemplating a trust fall into traffic, with the trio trying to dissuade him. However, the discomfort intensifies when Chalamet’s character makes a tasteless joke, naming his band “Hamas”. The trio awkwardly responds, refusing to promote a band called “Hay-mus.” The timing, the delivery, and the choice of punchline contribute to criticisms of insensitivity, adding to SNL’s history of such incidents. Additionally, the choice to make light of this particular conflict on “SNL” became highly suggestive of media bias when confronting political issues. Especially when we look at the show’s earlier display of respect for Ukrainians, post Russian aggression. Yet, the curtains do not close, the show continues; this is simply the type of rodeo they revel in. From the controversial “Bill Hader’s Blackface” sketch to their culturally insensitive parody of “Aladdin”, SNL has a history of being in the hot seat. Despite this latest incident raising questions about accountability, the response remains elusive. The show and the cast members involved maintain complete radio silence, and Western media appears either ignorant or selectively engaged once again. While Timothée Chalamet seems to bask in positive public attention, notably with his role in the uprising Willy Wonka film, he manages to deflect heavier criticism by attributing the controversial skit to the scriptwriters. However, the fact remains that he delivered the joke, using his platform to bring attention to it.
(insagram : @bellahadid)
“Will SNL continue trivialising real and devastating political events to “this week’s drama”?”
The media industry’s inconsistent response becomes apparent when considering examples like American model Bella Hadid, who faced consequences, losing modelling jobs, brand deals, and connections due to her advocacy for the Palestinian cause. The glaring bias is undeniably obscene, and while efforts to demand accountability continue, it prompts the question: Will SNL continue trivialising real and devastating political events to “this week’s drama”? The disheartening trend of treating serious issues, such as the Palestinian genocide, as comedic relief is not a new occurrence on the show. While it might feel like a concession to label it as their consistent behaviour, redirecting attention through a boycott could be a better proactive step to send a clear message about the unacceptability of such content.
(Bruno, Universal Pictures, 2009.)
Indeed, “dark humour” has dangled its feet into sensitive topics as such before. The irony is that there have been many instances in the media where this has worked, subjectively. In the 2009 mockumentary “Bruno”, there is a scene where the character Bruno attempts a reconciliation between an “Israeli ex-Mossad chief” and a “former Palestinian minister”. The entire interaction revolves around the punchline “why are you so anti-hummus?” This example highlights the use of humour to address geopolitical tensions, albeit in a satirical and potentially controversial manner. Such instances underscore the subjective nature of humour and its potential to be perceived differently by different audiences. This SNL skit, however, was just awkwardly distasteful, crossing the line inappropriately. It also fed into the narrative that Palestinians are the aggressor in their ongoing genocide, demonstrating the way “innocent” humour can be used as propaganda. The choice of subject matter and the timing made it clear that certain issues should never be treated humorously, emphasising the importance of context and sensitivity.