TV

"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.

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?" So...you'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.

CULTURE

Versace, Givenchy, Gucci, and Coach Apologize to China

The companies have come under fire on Chinese social media platforms for anti-nationalistic products.

Over the weekend, Versace posted a T-shirt that listed Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries from China.

Immediately, the shirts generated backlash from China's Sina Weibo social media network.

In response, China's Versace ambassador, Yang Mi, terminated her contract with the company. "China's territorial integrity and sovereignty are sacred and inviolable at all times," read a statement posted by her agency.

Following the outcry, the / other similar high fashion companies Coach and Givenchy came under fire for similar mishaps. Both labels have previously released clothing that lists Hong Kong as a separate nation, and a Coach shirt also implied that Taiwan—considered a province by Beijing—was a separate country. Gucci has also come under fire for listing Hong Kong as a separate country on a drop-down menu on their website.

In response, Givenchy ambassador Jackson Yee, a member of the boy band TFBoys, also severed fashion ties with the brand. Today, a hashtag on Weibo calling for a boycott of Coach has been read over a billion times.

All the brands have posted social media apologies, including Donatella Versace, who captioned a picture of herself on Instagram, "Never have I wanted to disrespect China's National Sovereignty and this is why I wanted to personally apologize for such inaccuracy and for any distress that it might have caused."



The backlash comes during a period when China's national sovereignty and unity are under fire. For over ten weeks, widespread and sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests have torn through Hong Kong, resisting a bill proposed by the territory's chief executive Carrie Lam, which threatened to allow authorities to prosecute criminals in mainland China instead of Hong Kong.

Read more about the Hong Kong protests here.

Fashion Mishaps: Symptoms of a Larger Problem?

Though they come at a particularly sensitive time, these mistakes have not happened in a vacuum: They are a symptom of the fashion industry's lack of diversity. In recent months, companies including Chanel and Gucci have appointed their first heads of diversity and inclusion, perhaps at last becoming aware that with the help of social media, racist fashion products can no longer be brushed under the rug. (Chanel has come under fire once again for appointing a white woman as head of its diversity department, leading to even more social media criticism).

Other high-profile gaffes from fashion companies include the time when Dolce and Gabbana faced fire for portraying a Chinese model eating with chopsticks, when Gucci merch resembled blackface, and when Kim Kardashian West's beauty line briefly co-opted the name "Kimono."

Social media accounts such as Diet Prada have helped call out racism that has long been part of the fabric of the fashion industry, which has long cherry-picked styles from cultural stereotypes. "The nationalist sentiment has been rising in recent years. All aspects of the fashion industry need to be thinking about this at every level, that is, this decision, this product, whether this kind of marketing will cause a public opinion crisis related to nationalism," said Joyce Xu, the Executive Editor of Chinese digital business publication Jiemian.

In today's hyper-surveilled social media age, even fashion brands and celebrities must be aware that each of their actions—or lack thereof—is fundamentally political, especially during a time of upheaval like the one that China is experiencing. "In general there has been a bit of a shift from the government, basically saying, 'If you are going to be a celebrity and make money being a celebrity, that's ok, however, you have to live up to the ideals of the [Communist] Party and if you do anything counter to that, we are going to be taking a very close look at everything going on in your life. Celebrities are being extremely careful right now," said Mark Tanner, the managing director of a Chinese insight-marketing agency. It's clear that fashion brands need to follow suit.

Trending

Michael Kors is thisclose to Buying Versace

Valued at $2 Billion, this sale is far from a steal

Fashionistas...take notice!

Fans of fashion are familiar with designer Michael Kors, and Versace is a name even people who prefer sweatpants over sheath dresses have heard of when it comes to their style IQ. And now the two are in talks to become closer than ever, as according to Bloomberg, "Michael Kors is close to buying Versace for $2 billion." Although The Wall Street Journal puts the price tag at closer to $2.4 billion…but who's counting?

Michael Kors cdn4.i-scmp.com

After various parties of interest had their eyes on snagging Gianni Versace SpA, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. ( KORS.N) has risen above the selection of suitors seeking to sign their name on the dotted line. As per Bloomberg, "Michael Kors may announce a deal as early as this week. Donatella Versace, who has helped run the company with her brother Santo Versace since the murder of their sibling Gianni in 1997, has called a meeting with employees Tuesday to announce the sale."

Donatella Versace hips.hearstapps.com

According to Reuters, "Michael Kors, whose namesake label is best known for its leather handbags, has made no secret of its ambition to grow its portfolio of high-end brands after swooping on British stiletto-heel maker Jimmy Choo for $1.2 billion last year." And with a brand like Versace on Michael Kors' "resume," the "high-end" factor gets a major boost. As Reuters notes, "The deal gives Michael Kors a mega-brand and red carpet favorite that is among the most recognizable and followed fashion labels in the world."

Runway looks pmcwwd.files.wordpress.com

Neither party has commented on the rumored upcoming purchase and sale, but the wheels are in motion and this could be one of the most talked about fashion moments of the year. As per Bloomberg, "A representative for Versace declined to comment on the potential transaction. Michael Kors couldn't immediately be reached. A spokesman for Blackstone (Blackstone Group LP owns 20 percent of Versace) had no comment. While talks are advanced, no final agreements have been reached."

Will the everyday "Jane" be sporting Versace on the regular? If she can afford a $2,470 leopard-print sweatshirt, then sure. Otherwise, the lavish looks will live on the bodies of runway models and A-listers as always. "Who are you wearing?" will be a question Michael Kors' will be anticipating being asked at awards shows and celeb-studded soirees. Versace is what will turn heads, but hopefully the ensemble will be paired with a coordinating Michael Kors handbag.


Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G, Understood.org, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.


POP⚡DUST | Read More…

Cannon V. Kanye – And the Beef Goes On

Bert and Ernie, More than "Just Friends?"

The Sweatshirt at the Center of Controversy

Over the weekend, Donatella Versace revealed that her dear friend Madonna planned to donate the money from her new ad campaign to her hospital in Malawi.

As the face of Versace for Spring 2015, Madonna told Donatella, according to her interview with an Italian paper, ‘Yes, I want to be incredibly beautiful.'

Donatella confides further:

In her latest tour she [Madonna] was not well and she knew it. She had some problems. I never saw her this way.

Ooh la la! What is she talking about? Will Madge be pissed?

To make up for this blunder perhaps, the muppet-faced designer insists that Madonna did not want ' a lot of retouching' in the campaign photos.

Her abdomen was not retouched. Neither her arms were smoothed.

Wow. I guess that leaves the face and legs. Let's just move on. As for giving Madge any direction for the shoot, Versace notes:

I told her: You don't have to be only sexy. I want you like I know you: a vulnerable person who is afraid, who suffers from loneliness and yet is strong, determined, and fearless. In these photos, she is.

God bless them both, these strong, vulnerable, injectable-crazed women. All I want to know is, how much money was involved and may we see the check to the hospital.

Is that so wrong?

Designer Donatella Versace and Nicki Minaj stage a crazy-off at the Versace for H&M fashion show in NYC.