This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Apple TV+ vs. Disney+ vs. Your Bank Account
- SNL’s LGBT blind spot.
- Bow down to Jane Fonda.
- A begrudged Halloween post.
- Kelly Clarkson is once again brilliant.
On Saturday night, Kristen Stewart will host Saturday Night Live, the first time the show has had an openly queer host since...the last time Kristen Stewart hosted, in February 2017. (Before that you’d have to go back to Miley Cyrus in 2015. The last openly gay man to host was Jim Parsons in 2014.)
This matters because visibility matters. More, lack of visibility matters, so these are important things to keep track of. (That NBC hasn’t gotten RuPaul to host yet is beyond me.)
But it particularly matters this week, coming after yet another transphobic joke from Michael Che at the “Weekend Update” desk—an inexcusable, lame crack that he himself seemed to know would bait groans and outrage, and still the latest example of inelegant, bordering on phobic jokes about the LGBT+ community from the series. And, specifically, from Che.
On last week’s episode of SNL, Che intentionally misgendered Caitlyn Jenner as part of a joke poking fun at Kanye West’s new gospel album and born-again Christianity. The crux of it was that Che was posturing that West “moved to Calabasas,” the home of the Kardashians, and went crazy. To corroborate his theory, he brought up the example of another “fella” who had the same trajectory, and then showed a photo of Jenner pre-transition and also dead-named her, which means calling her by her birth name, which she no longer uses.
The dead silence the jab was met with was peppered with several audible groans, as Che gave a cheeky giggle, as if admitting that it was the exact reaction he was going for.
This isn’t a cancel-culture call for Che’s head. But it is an exasperated plea of enough, especially for Che, who has been on the receiving end of criticism—and, with it, attempts at education—and how his transphobic comments about Jenner have crossed the line from provocative to irresponsible. In response, he publicly attacked Daily Beast journalist Samantha Allen, a trans woman, who called him out on it. Now, he’s continuing to make the same targeted jokes.
He’s not the only one, of course. “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost caught fire for a 2016 joke about Tinder blaming trans and gender non-binary people for the election results: “The dating app Tinder announced a new feature this week which gives users 37 different gender identity options. It’s called ‘Why Democrats lost the election.’” It’s as if no strides at all were made since “It’s Pat.”
And then there was last season’s tired, seemingly endless regurgitation of the same bad joke: that Trump and Putin were “gay for each other.”
Here’s the thing that doesn’t make sense. SNL is, when it comes to LGBT representation and celebration, actually progressive, as far as cultural institutions go. Yet, despite being educated, time and again, as to why these transphobic and homophobic bits—none of which have elicited many laughs—are harmful and antiquated, they feign ignorance and fire them off still, time and again.
There have been a slew of legitimately excellent queer-themed or specifically queer-appealing sketches in recent years—be it the Dyke and Fats digital short, the RuPaul’s Drag Race sketch, or even this season’s lampooning of the LGBT Equality Town Hall, with a guest appearance from Pose’s Billy Porter—that should be considered massive steps forward to counterbalance the show’s history of gay-panic humor. (Two guys kiss! Hilarious!!!)
Staffing-wise, Chris Kelly, who co-created the brilliant Comedy Central series The Other Two, was the first openly gay head writer in 2016. Julio Torres continues to be a star in the writer’s room, as does Sam Jay.
But the show is cursed in its mixed messaging. More, it’s a curse it seems to have put on itself. The groundbreaking casting of Bowen Yang this season, the show’s first Asian-American and third out gay male cast member, for example, was soured in the simultaneous controversy over fellow new-hire Shane Gillis’s history of racist jokes. (Gillis resigned before the season began.)
The whole thing is so frustrating, because—and here’s the bit that gets relentlessly lost any time someone uses the word “phobia” in relation to comedy—is that it’s not that hard. It’s not that hard to be edgy and humorous and critical and mock the LGBT+ community (and there’s a lot to mock and criticize!) and do it smartly.
But all this, from the “Weekend Update” cracks to the drought of queer hosts, it’s just lazy.
Every Friday these last few weeks, Jane Fonda has been arrested on Capitol Hill while protesting over Climate Change. Two weeks ago, her Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston joined her in handcuffs. Last Friday, Ted Danson beamed as he was carted away by officers.
In what may be the most badass act of celebrity activism and the greatest awards-acceptance moment of all time, Fonda, in a video that went viral, shouted her thank you speech for winning the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film while in handcuffs and being led away by officers. (Watch it here.)
Yes, this happened last week and by the time this publishes Fonda may have been arrested again and this would all be a little old. Except that THIS WILL NEVER BE OLD!!!
I do not have the enlightened sense of self to know why exactly it is that I abhor Halloween, but let it be known that I do, and very much so. I can’t stand the costumes, the decorations, the copious amounts of candy, or, dear god, the enthusiasm there seems to be for it. (I’m not a monster. The photos of your kids and dogs in their adorable costumes are fabulous and do melt my heart.)
One utterly-bizarre thing about celebrity culture has been the undue pomp and circumstance behind their over-the-top, professionally-styled costumes, which is as irritating to me as everything else about the holiday. But given the fact that my social feeds have been flooded with photos of the rich and famous all dressed up, I am in the position to, curmudgeonly, crown a favorite. So congrats to Ciara and Russell Wilson as Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
In any case, while there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that I would dress up this year, if I did I would have put on a T-shirt with a Jojo album cover on it and sported some bunny ears on my head. Jojo Rabbit. Thank you, I know. I’m brilliant.
It requires all the restraint I can muster to not only resist including one, if not all, of Kelly Clarkson’s “Kelly-oke” covers from her talk show each week in this newsletter, but also in every conversation I have with every person, stranger or friend, with whom I cross paths.
But, Halloween Grinch I may be, I would be remiss to not flag for the world Clarkson’s brilliant homage to Hocus Pocus on this week’s Halloween episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show. Watch it here. You’re welcome.
What to watch this week:
Marriage Story: Watch the best-acted film of the year next week in theaters, or wait a month when it is on Netflix.
The Morning Show: Terrible pilot, alright concept, fantastic Jennifer Aniston performance.
His Dark Materials: A generic telling of the fantastical world, but fans will still be swept away.
The End of the F***ing World: Last year’s most underrated series is back for more stealth greatness.
What to skip this week:
See: Or, don’t.
Harriet: A cruel test of how much mediocrity we’ll forgive in support of the divine Cynthia Erivo.
Terminator: Dark Fate: I’ll be back...home on my couch skipping this one!!!