Following the Brett Kavanaugh hearing last month — which included the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who claimed Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school — “Saturday Night Live” did what we all expected it would, and made the week’s biggest talking point the focus of its cold open. Matt Damon entered as Kavanaugh and gave an interesting performance, highlighting Judge Kavanaugh’s love for beer, reliance on the consistencies (or inconsistencies) in his high school calendar, and his generally poor temperament. Damon could also be considered a controversial pick by the television show because of his past history with controversial and heartless comments about women, specifically about the #MeToo movement.
While SNL was generally praised for its take on Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, many were dissatisfied with the sketch and claimed that the situation brought too much pain to women all over the country to be an appropriate subject of satire, especially so soon. Following Dr. Ford’s raw and heartbreaking testimony, thousands of women went to social media to express both their solidarity with her and their own stories of sexual assault that they hadn’t told until now. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline saw its busiest day ever in 24 years of operation the day after the hearing, experiencing a 388 percent increase in traffic in the three day period, subsequently. In my eyes, Dr. Ford’s testimony energized a second wave of the #MeToo movement, empowering women to share their own gut-wrenching stories of sexual assault.
With that being said, I do not feel that SNL’s portrayal of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing invalidated the gravity of Dr. Ford’s testimony, nor its effects on women across the country.
If the television show had covered both Dr. Ford’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimonies, that would have been very problematic. Satirizing the patriotism and courage demonstrated by Dr. Ford in reliving her experiences of sexual assault before a national audience is a line that SNL should never, and I believe would never, cross.
During Dr. Ford’s testimony, both political commentators and viewers at home were quick to draw connections between her testimony and that of Anita Hill, the woman who accused Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing. As we all know, her story fell on deaf ears and Clarence Thomas was later confirmed as a supreme court justice.
With these comparisons in mind, I grew curious as to whether SNL had ever done a skit on Anita Hill, and a little research determined it had. While watching the 1991 clip, I inevitably drew connections between the two cold opens. In it, the senators in the Senate Judiciary Committee — who ranged from Joe Biden to the late Strom Thurmond — acted as if they were in solidarity with Judge Thomas, even asking if his controversial methods of connecting with Anita Hill, like talking about pornography, worked.
Both focused on the poor preparation and conduct displayed by Judges Thomas and Kavanaugh when delivering their testimonies. The cold opens also emphasized the solidarity with Kavanaugh by the Republican senators and for Thomas by the male senators of both parties. What SNL did in both cases was not inappropriate, but quite necessary. It showed that in 27 years, barely anything has changed in America when it comes to the relationship between men in power and women — that in 2018, a courageous woman can come forward about an experience that changed her life in the worst possible way, only for it to mean nothing.
While watching Dr. Ford’s testimony, I shivered and cried as this woman brought to light a traumatic experience that she had been living with for most of her life. Watching Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, I wanted to yell. I wanted to yell because everything he was saying had such little substance to it, and the man himself no composure. His temperament was that of a four-year-old child who was getting punished for pushing a friend on the playground.
And to me, that is why SNL needed to cover Kavanaugh. It delivered this cold open to show its viewers how absurd it is that someone who can cry about his love for beer to the Senate Judiciary Committee can be considered to be a Supreme Court justice, and ultimately be confirmed and appointed to the highest court in the United States.