Two weeks after the election, in a sign that we may well have entered a post-humor age, supermodel Gigi Hadid was shamed on Twitter for her brief, mocking impersonation of first lady-elect Melania Trump, which she delivered as co-host of the American Music Awards with actor and comedian Jay Pharaoh on Sunday night.
Sporting an exaggerated “duckface” and Eastern European accent, Hadid nodded to Melania’s plagiarism scandal: “I love my husband President Barack Obama and our children, Sasha and Malia.”
While some cheered the model on Twitter, others were appalled by her impression’s apparent offensiveness. One user wrote that she’s “not a Trump supporter in any way but publicly humiliating [Melania] for having an accent? #NOTOK.” Another asked how Hadid would feel “if someone made fun of your dad’s Muslim accent? But making fun of Melania’s accent and face is ok?”
There were, of course, plenty of Trump supporters and other conservatives among the faux-outraged who called out liberal hypocrisy. Greg Gutfeld, former host of Fox News’ Red Eye, snarked: “u made fun of a woman’s eastern european accent! hysterical! so—Africans and Mexicans tomorrow?”
Now more than ever, it seems as if people are viewing any attempts at comedy as excuses to voice their outrage or rant about the injustice of everything—and it’s not just lefty college students who are easily offended.
Take, for example, the conservative hand-wringing over Mike Pence being booed by some audience members at Hamilton on Friday this past weekend, and the cast’s well-phrased admonishment at the end of the show. It was yet another indication that the next four years could see an endless stream of moral signaling and outrage from both sides of the political spectrum over any real or perceived insult.
Trump’s response to the reception of his VP-elect at Hamilton—a tweet that “The Theater must always be a safe and special place” and demand that the cast “apologize!”—was a parody of itself that underscored a disturbing reality: Along with his narcissistic thin skin, the president-elect has a penchant for the authoritarian when confronted with freedom of expression.
The same man who, some have argued, won the election by appealing to a portion of the electorate that is tired of identity politics and political correctness is just as easily offended as the leftists he mocked ceaselessly during his campaign.
After watching Alec Baldwin reprise his role as Trump on Saturday Night Live this weekend, Trump tweeted that it was a “totally one-sided, biased show—nothing funny at all,” prompting a series of rather serious responses from Baldwin on Twitter, who laid out what he’d be doing with his time had he just been elected president.
Some have argued that Baldwin’s opening skit on SNL failed as satire because it was too real (“this joke isn’t funny anymore,” wrote my colleague Marlow Stern). It’s understandable that the idea of a Trump administration is still too soon and too real for many of us to make light of.
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, not even Judd Apatow could stomach the idea of humor in such tumultuous times. There was nothing funny about the fact that Trump, who had consistently been fodder for satire over the past year, was now president-elect—someone we’re meant to take very seriously.
But as the reality of President-elect Trump sets in, replacing political humor with more SNL openers like last weekend’s solemn tribute to both the loss of Leonard Cohen and Hillary Clinton’s loss won’t do us any good.
It’s one thing to seek comfort and solace in art and cultural commentary, but most of us don’t watch SNL because we want to see a teary-eyed Kate McKinnon performing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in character as Hillary Clinton—then telling the audience, without irony, that she isn’t “giving up—and neither should you.”
Lena Dunham, who had broken out in hives the night that Trump was elected, may have thought McKinnon’s performance was “the most beautiful thing ever to happen ever,” but we’re going to need some levity to get through the next four years.
As for the Twitter storm over Gigi Hadid’s Melania Trump impersonation, maybe people are tired of the way that everything has being politicized to death, from their Facebook feeds to their forthcoming Thanksgiving dinners. But the next four years will be much worse for everyone if they’re as bereft of humor and comedy as they’ve turned out to be since the election.
If Gigi Hadid’s 10-second, harmless impression of Melania Trump is a pretext for outrage from both the left and the right, then we can expect the next four years to be very tedious indeed.