"SNL" Tried to Make a Point About White Nationalism—and Failed

Will Ferrell dressed as a Native American for SNL's Thanksgiving episode, and it gets worse.

Will Ferrell on SNL


With Thanksgiving around the corner, 'tis the season for Saturday Night Live to feature skits depicting the potential awkwardness surrounding our family dinners.

During his fifth turn as an SNL host, Will Ferrell was the centerpiece of a skit entitled "First Thanksgiving." He portrayed a grumpy, skeptical man meeting his granddaughter's boyfriend for the first time at their family's Thanksgiving dinner. The only issues with the skit are that his family is supposedly Native American, his granddaughter is Pocahontas, and the visiting boyfriend is John Smith. Melissa Villaseñor, Beck Bennett, Maya Rudolph, and Fred Armisen also star, none of whom are indigenous. Non-Native actors in these roles causes enough concern (and, honestly, is never OK), but even more eyebrow-raising are the additional problems woven in the script.

The skit attempts to flip white supremacy on its head, as Ferrell's character—decked out in a long wig and full traditional Native attire—represents a fervent Republican, full of allusions to President Trump's white nationalist ideals and his policies. When Ferrell suggests everyone around the table share what they're thankful for, he begins: "I'm thankful for our land, and our great and mighty chief. And let's hope he finally builds that wall." When the rest of the family asks where he's been getting information on the "palefaces" invading their land, his response is plain and simple: "Fox" (but a literal fox, get it?) Then he teases Pocahontas for getting her news from "a peacock" (NBC, we presume). Pocahontas defends the European colonizers—or "illegals," as Ferrell's character so distastefully nicknames them—saying, "They're just regular, hard-working people seeking refuge."

The skit doesn't outwardly mock Native people, but in its ill-conceived analogy, it suggests that we're supposed to be on the "Republican" side of this story; white people are positioned as the "immigrants" who are bringing over "diseases and guns." Ferrell's character is supposed to be mocking Trump supporters, but he still makes valid arguments against colonization. As one Twitter user explained, it "accidentally suggested the white nationalist crowd has a point." It's a bad look to say the least.

While this skit was surely well-intended, the execution was very poorly realized. To use the exploitation of Native Americans as a vessel for jokes about right-wing ideals is extremely dangerous and offensive, however accidental. The skit made light of the genocide that decimated Native peoples, not to mention it only brushed over the massive age gap between Pocahontas and John Smith: Rudolph's character points out that Smith is nearly 30 while Pocahontas is 12—close to their real ages at the time—and everyone is just OK with it.

Ferrell attempted to redeem the skit's controversy in the end by breaking the fourth wall to give a disclaimer. "If you're anything like me, you know there's a lot of problems in this crazy, crazy sketch," he said, facing the camera under a spotlight. "I mean, white actors playing Natives? What is this, 2014?"'re telling me the writers knew this sketch was problematic and racist, but they just ran with it anyway? Ferrell's brief monologue didn't address the colonialism the jokes referenced, instead offering a cliche about contrasting political opinions between family members and delivering an anticlimactic punchline about bowel movements.

Making a joke of indigenous people on television only encourages other white folks to do the same, and it's deeply disappointing to see these well-regarded comedians participate in it. If SNL is supposed to exemplify peak comedy, then they should've been able to convey their intended messages without cultural appropriation; if anything, this only reaffirms why we desperately need more diversity in media. So, this Thanksgiving, please enjoy spending time with your families—but don't forget that you're stuffing your face and watching football on stolen land.


Phoebe Waller-Bridge Brings Her Brand of Psychopathic Raunch to "SNL"

The "Fleabag" writer shines brightest (in her usual vulgar way) in her opening monologue.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had a successful past few years, to say the least.

The Emmy-winning writer of Fleabag and Killing Eve brought her brand of unfiltered brashness to the SNL screen this Saturday in an episode that felt like a victory lap. Still, while worth watching for any Waller-Bridge fans, the show wasn't quite able to live up to the level of comedic brilliance we've come to expect from her.

The best part was probably Waller-Bridge's opening monologue, in which she stated that everything she writes has a "grain of truth" to it, discussed genit*lia for several minutes, and definitively explained why Fleabag's "Hot Priest" is so hot: It's because he actually listens. She discussed psychopathy, which is brought to the fore on Killing Eve, and theorized that she herself might even be a psychopath (or at least, everyone she knows is). She closed with some killer lines like, "Back then horny women were to be burned at the stake. Now they're given Emmys!"

Unfortunately, the rest of the show took a slightly downward turn following that monologue. While it might be a bit harsh to call SNL an "aging, decrepit beast that should've been put out of its misery seasons ago," as Vice did in its review of this episode, several of this show's sketches faltered dangerously. Last week's debut episode was promising with its clever depiction of the Democratic presidential candidates, but then again, those jokes kind of write themselves.

At least this episode, despite no shortage of lackluster jokes, we got to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge use many different accents and play a couple of memorable roles, including a psychopathic war wife who gallivants around with Hitler in the sketch "Words of the War." That sketch was possibly one of the episode's best, mostly thanks to Waller-Bridge's excellent deadpan and the scene's escalating absurdity. Weekend Update was also a highlight, featuring Kate McKinnon's lovably aggressive Elizabeth Warren, a well-placed Pete Davidson joke, and a flamboyant Chen Biao, played by freshman cast member Bowen Yang. "Mid-Day News" was also excellent, bringing racial politics and stereotypes to the fore as South Floridian news anchors try to determine whether the criminals they're reporting on are black or white.

Weekend Update: Chen Biao on US-China Trade War -

Mid-Day News -

On the other hand, the odd sketch "Royal Romance" made fun of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry but never quite hit its stride, and its jokes pushed the boundaries between satire and racism. Then there was the painful "Kaylee, Crystal, and Janetta," a sketch which featured four women at a bar. Perhaps meant to be a subversion of the super-feminine, stereotypical Sex and the City type of girl gang, characters portrayed are loud, tattooed, mullet-wearing, totally unfeminine, and frequently violent women. But that sketch doesn't seem to do many favors for any of them, instead asking the audience to laugh off a sequence where they each attack an ex-lover, refusing the kind of self-aware nuance that makes Fleabag such a standout example of how to write a "difficult woman" character.

Kaylee, Crystal & Janetta -

It's hard to say exactly why SNL has struggled so much over the past few years. Comedy writing is incredibly hard, but with all the absurdity in the modern era, we need excellent satire now more than ever to put it all into perspective. Still, the show could benefit from more diverse perspectives, more boundary-pushing and nuanced comedy, and stronger characters—the latter of which, specifically, Waller-Bridge is so good at creating. One has to wonder what would've happened had Waller-Bridge been able to write a few sketches herself.


Andrew Yang's Tweets to Shane Gillis and Bowen Yang Is the Best "SNL" Skit in Years

New "SNL" cast member Shane Gillis has a history of making racist, misogynistic, and bigoted commentary as part of his "comedy." Andrew Yang gave a thoughtful reason why we should forgive him.

Andrew Yang Supporters - San Diego, CA

Photo by Janson George

Update: SNL recently announced that Shane Gillis has been fired a mere four days after being hired.

Keep ReadingShow less

SNL’s Pete Davidson Jokes About Relationship with Ariana Grande on Season Premiere

Comedian "switched her birth control for Tic Tacs" and more LOL moments

Being one of Saturday Night Live's cast members has its perks, one of which is the opportunity to poke fun at yourself in front of a live studio audience.

Keep ReadingShow less

RECAP | The 70th Emmy Awards -  Celebrating TV's Best & Brightest

Colin Jost and Michael Che Make Pointed Cracks and Jabs All Night Long

The 70th Emmys were last night and it was basically a bunch of the same thing — self-aware jabs at the awards show itself, awkward scripted banter between presenters, and one show that seemed to win all the awards.

The introduction was pretty standard for an awards show — celebs Kristen Bell, Kate McKinnon, Tituss Burgess, Kenan Thompson, and others sang a song making fun of the bare minimum of diversity amongst shows. However, they did point us to the fact that Sandra Oh has become the first Asian woman nominated for an Emmy in the Lead Actress category — which is kind of sad.

Then, Michael Che and Colin Jost came out and basically did what they do on Saturday Night Live — take turns telling jokes, bantering, and taking chances with cracks about sexual harassment. I'm not going to lie — some of it was genuinely funny like the gag about a new show called 15 Miles Outside of Atlanta where white people call the cops on the cast of Atlanta.

The first batch of winners comes from the comedy realm — Henry Winkler won Outstanding Supporting Actor and Alex Borstein won Supporting Actress. Borstein went onstage with style, taking off her cardigan in the process, while Tracy Morgan openly stated his support for black nominees.

Amy Sherman-Palladino took home the award for both Outstanding Writing and Directing for a Comedy Series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, beating both Donald Glover and Bill Hader in both categories. From the same show and category, Rachel Brosnahan won Lead Actress — announced by the hilarious Tiffany Haddish and her queen, Angela Bassett. Bill Hader won Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Barry, coming a long way from Saturday Night Live.

Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen then joined Jost and Che on stage in what became a horrible, horrible ongoing skit about the history of the Emmys — full of jokes that didn't land and unfunny faces from Rudolph, we surely could've done without the duo.

The next categories were of the limited series or movie — Merritt Wever and Jeff Daniels won Supporting Actress and Actor for Godless, the first presented by an ever-so-awkward Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. William Bridges and Charlie Brooker won Outstanding Writing for the "USS Callister" episode of Black Mirror.

Next, Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon come out to present Betty White, one of the more interesting parts of the show — White speaks about her tenure with television and how she still feels so loved by the industry. Even though her voice trembled a bit, White still kept her charm and even made a little inappropriate joke.

Regina King and Darren Criss won Lead Actress and Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, leading into a special short by Michael Che called "Reparation Emmys" where he goes back and gives Emmys to all the black actors and actresses who were glossed over for the award. Other than Betty White, this was another high point of the show.

Back to awards — John Mulaney and Glenn Weiss won Writing and Directing for a Variety Special, respectively.

Another very emotional and highly entertaining part of this show was the proposal of Glenn Weiss to his girlfriend. "Do you know why I don't like calling you my girlfriend? Because I want to call you my wife," said Weiss.

Afterwards, Tina Fey came out and presented their yearly In Memoriam montage which included names such as Anthony Bourdain, Jerry van Dyke, Aretha Franklin, John McCain and more.

In the drama series categories, Peter Dinklage and Thandie Newton won Supporting Actor and Actress for Game of Thrones and Westworld, respectively. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg won Outstanding Writing for The Americans and Stephen Daldry won Directing for The Crown. The Fab Five presented Matthew Rhys as Leading Actor and Sarah Paulson presented Claire Foy as Leading Actress for a Drama Series.

An animation of Rick and Morty presented RuPaul's Drag Race as Outstanding Reality Competition Program and Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan presented Saturday Night Live as Outstanding Variety Sketch series to no surprise. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver won Outstanding Variety Talk Series and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story won Outstanding Limited Series.

Finally, the two big ones — Will Ferrell revealed that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won Outstanding Comedy Series and Kenan Thompson revealed Game of Thrones as the Outstanding Drama series.

It seems like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel took most of the awards this evening while shows like Atlanta and Black-ish suffered a bit — perhaps the theme of the night isn't diversity after all.

Amber Wang is a freelancer for Popdust and various other sites. She is also a student at NYU, a photographer and intern at the Stonewall National Monument.

POP⚡DUST | Read More ...

Buffalo Bills Player Vontae Davis Retires During a Game

Highlights of New Games and Announcements from Nintendo Direct

RECAP | 'American Horror Story: Apocalypse' Back to Scaring You with Very Real Scenarios


Roll Out the Red Carpet!

The Emmys are Monday Night

Clear your schedule for the Emmy Awards tomorrow night.

It's the big 7-0! That's right, Emmy looks good for it's age, no? That's Hollywood for ya. And this year, television's biggest night is as exciting as ever, with a star-studded show set for Monday night, on NBC at 8 PM EST from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

The Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by SNL's Colin Jost and Michael Che, bringing the funny to the forefront, keeping the night moving and viewers from tuning out after the show starts getting long.

From comedy to casting, drama to documentary, lead actor to limited series, and much more, the night will have fans and famous folks at the edge of their seats, glued to their sets and the stage, waiting to cheer for winners and watch for looks of disappointment on the faces of those who weren't chosen this year. Oh, but "it's an honor to have been among this exceptional group of talent," right?

But we've got to give a shout out to a few of this year's hottest shows. As per Variety, "HBO's Game of Thrones led the pack with 22 nods, the most for any series. NBC's Saturday Night Live and HBO's Westworld trailed close behind with 21 each." With so many noms, these shows are sure to take home at least something shiny.

So, before you tune in Monday night, get familiar with which stars are in the running for the major categories - that's what everyone is tuning in for, let's get real. Below are this year's best and brightest, all hoping to be recognized for their respective craft and earn even more credibility in their career.

Keep ReadingShow less