I like Saturday Night Live, even though I’m at an age when it would be more appropriate to call it “Saturday Night DVRed”. Sure, lots of sketches don’t work; some are complete flops; and some make you wonder how the writers ever thought they would be funny in the first place.
But, as they say, “if you’re serving all aces, you’re not serving hard enough”. Good comedy experiments and pushes boundaries; failure is part of the creative process. And, when the writers and comedians of SNL get it right, they can really nail it.
Last week’s show, though, included a truly appalling and offensive sketch demeaning divorced dads. (You can see the “Dad Christmas” sketch, here, beginning at moment 24:55.)
Belittling fathers is, apparently, a go-to solution for advertisers, sit-com writers, and stand-up comedians whose creativity is flagging. But I don’t remember SNL ever sinking to this depth to disparage divorced dads in an attempt to provoke a laugh.
The false and offensive stereotypes flow freely in the SNL sketch: while Mom is a caring, concerned, competent parent, Dad is self-centered, foolish, and completely dysfunctional. His children obviously hate going to Dad’s for Christmas. And why wouldn’t they? The refrigerator has only a bag of restaurant left-overs, ketchup, a carton of eggs and, of course, lots of beer. Dad’s involved with a floozy—apparently one he left his wonderful wife for. Dad is explicitly described as trying to buy the kids’ affection with gifts. Though the kids hate the thought of spending Christmas with Dad, there’s an “uplifting” ending: the kids are told that, when they’re older, Dad will let them do drugs at his house!
I’m sensitive to how fathers are portrayed in popular media but perhaps I was especially offended by this sketch for a personal reason. My entire family, children, step-children, children’s spouses, and grandchildren were just at our house for a holiday my wife and I call ‘Chrisgiving”. We celebrate Chrisgiving as a family during an extended weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas because we never want to create conflict for our kids about whose house—“other parent’s”, in-law’s, or their own homes—they’ll spend Thanksgiving or Christmas at.
It was a full house. We ate together, played together, and exchanged gifts. The refrigerator was stocked with great food which, in fact, Dad cooked (though one wouldn’t believe that possible from media representations of fathers). And it was shortly after the last of our kids left town that my wife and I settled down to watch SNL. What a contrast between fathers’ lived reality and the way we’re portrayed in the media!
One might say that SNL is an equal-opportunity offender—everyone gets demeaned at some point. I’ll believe that when SNL does a sketch where Mom is a selfish, incompetent, lout and Dad is the competent, compassionate, caring parent. Don’t hold your breath.
Shame on SNL for contributing to a demeaning and destructive false stereotype of fathers.
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