Was It Worth It to Put Donald Trump on SNL?
When Donald Trump first announced his intentions to run for president this election, it was collectively seen as a giant joke. Could anything be more ridiculously American than to have a reality TV icon take the highest office in the land? Despite Trump’s persistent appeals to be taken as a serious candidate, life imitated art over the weekend as he hosted the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. This move, for all parties involved, was a highly problematic decision.
First and foremost, the hours leading up to Saturday’s broadcast saw the streets outside 30 Rock filled with protestors, a detail that several media outlets have neglected to share. Latino advocacy groups gathered at Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan to march to NBC’s studios, shaming SNL producer Lorne Michaels and NBC for advocating for Trump’s racist policies against the Latino community. Collectively organizing under the mantra ‘Dump the Trump,’ protestors continued to demonstrate until they were forced off the premises two hours before the episode began filming.
Trump’s racism was addressed head-on during the show itself, albeit in a way that was less serious than what the protestors were doing outside. Shortly before Saturday evening, an organization called DeportRacism stated that they would offer a cash prize of $5000 to anyone who called Trump a racist on air. NBC seemingly took the matter into their own hands, as a clearly planted Larry David took the honor of slandering Trump during his opening monologue. Planned or not, DeportRacism have made good of their promise, tweeting that David could collect his bounty whenever he pleases.
— Deport Racism (@DeportRacism) November 8, 2015
While NBC has as much right to choose their host as the protestors do to voice their opposition, the network’s lack of clarity on the matter is alarming. NBC has continued to defend their promotion of Trump, yet it was only four months ago that the company fired him from his role on Celebrity Apprentice due to his radically offensive comments regarding Mexican immigrants. The fact that these new protests fell on deaf ears is confusing, to say the least, which may be related to the fact that Trump’s episode of SNL were the show’s highest ratings since 2012. “I get the best ratings,” said Trump when asked about his appearance.
Setting aside the scruples of Trump’s racism and media profits, one can’t help but question the ethics of the situation. The New York Times wrote a piece analyzing the “rising value of free political publicity,” and given the episode’s disastrous reviews, it can be seen as little else. Is it fair for a political candidate currently polling to receive such high-profile advertising? In an effort to level the playing field, NBC has announced that every other candidate for president can claim the same amount of time Trump received on the network with no strings attached. Though this only equates to 12 minutes, it’s the least they could do to maintain some semblance of fairness.
Which brings us to our ultimate problem after reviewing the facts—were the ratings for 12 minutes of Trump on SNL worth all of the backlash, the efforts to maintain political fairness, and a rather two-sided impression of NBC’s morality? We can’t possibly know, but what we do know is that an actual Trump presidency would be eerily similar to this weekend’s episode: controversial, made for profit, and for most of it, exceedingly dry.
Imagery via Getty Images, NBC.