Saturday Night Live hit a home run with this one:

The initial response was along the lines of The Hill, wherein it say that Hanks was “mocking” Trump supporters. But the portrayal is clearly affectionate to at least some degree and it really took some blinders not to see that. Or, it takes the assumption of a blue collar cadence as inherent mockery.

Then there was a round of people saying that it was about unity. Which goes off a bit too far in the other direction, because it ends on a bit of a dour note. After forming passerby-relationships with the host and other contestants, the subject of Black Lives Matter (implicitly) came up. Before we can see what happens, the skit ends. Jamelle Bouie describes the importance of the ending well:

Because the bulk of the sketch is this humanizing back-and-forth between Doug, the black host, the black contestants, and the black audience, it’s easy to read the message as a plea for tolerance and understanding. There’s more that unites us than there is that divides us. You can even add a class analysis: Black Americans share more than just common culture with some Trump supporters; they share common interests. There are important limits to this, beyond the universe of SNL: Because of its roots in the South, black culture shares an affinity with the rural white life that Doug represents. It’s not clear this would exist between, say, a black audience and a Trump-supporting professional from outside Milwaukee. But at this point, the sketch’s argument seems barely implicit: We need to work together instead of pitting ourselves against each other.

Then comes the final punchline, “Lives That Matter.” Obviously, the answer to the question is “black.” But Doug has “a lot to say about this.” Which suggests that he doesn’t think the answer is that simple. Perhaps he thinks “all lives matter,” or that “blue lives matter,” the phrasing used by those who defend the status quo of policing and criminal justice.

The only real disagreement I have (except with some slightly different priors) is that I don’t know that they really went into it wanting to make much of a point at all. It was funny because it was intended to be, as opposed to en route to an explanation of the human condition. We assign meaning to it because (for some of us, at least) it rang true. The humor required elements of truth, and it delivered. But beyond that, I think it was mostly a humorous portrayal of the commonality as well as, as Bouie says, the divisions.


Category: Theater

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

4 Responses to About Doug

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    My question is “When did SNL start being smart and funny again?”

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    You’re going to need to phrase your question in the form of an answer.

  3. mike shupp says:

    What hit me in the gut with that ending is all the discussion lately about out-of-it white guys like “Doug” dying of alcoholism and drug overdoses because their lives didn’t matter. Yeah, he might have had something to say about that.

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