Political satire can be blindingly brilliant or distastefully demeaning. Many readers felt the Obama New Yorker cover went too far. But as of this writing, I haven't found anyone on either side saying anything negative about the incredibly dead-on Sarah Palin impersonation Tina Fey pulled off on Saturday Night Live two days ago.
Paired with Amy Poehler playing Clinton, the two women discussed - among other topics - sexism in media coverage, a subject they'd mined previously with their "Bitch is the New Black" sketch last season.
Over at Fox News the morning after the Palin sketch, one of the commentators called it the "top of the list" greatest impersonation ever seen on SNL; to back up his assertion, they provide a side-by-side comparison of Fey and Palin. A discussion ensued that suggests that like most truly effective political satire, SNL sketches influence media and viewer attitudes:
They're saying of course that this may actually lead to them having a little bit more scrutiny of Governor Palin because she's got all this love heaped on her. Well, what happened when Barack Obama was getting all this love heaped on him by the press, after SNL did their impression of him having that easy go of it in the debate, and Hillary Clinton was seen complaining during that SNL sketch like 'Why is he getting all the attention?" they say that the media coverage then started to turn against Barack Obama and more scrutiny came out of that. You remember that debate?...SNL sets the tone.Both Palin and Clinton are skewered and significant points are made about the candidacy, qualifications, and ambitions of each woman. But there's no bitterness, no finger-pointing, no nastiness. The reponse to this sketch has been very different from the response to Charlie Gibson's interview with Palin last week.
I'd love to see less bitterness and nastiness over this election, and more of that SNL tone - more of that fearless poking at the images of the candidates to deflate the hot air that surrounds them and expose the issues under the caricatures.
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton
Photo courtesy Dana Edelson/NBC Universal