Presidential candidates have to find some way to appeal to the public. They need to look approachable and in touch — a person of the people. They wish to appear as someone who can laugh at themselves, and be in tune with pop culture. Many go on popular television programs to achieve just that. Whether or not that actually benefits their campaigns or the programme, is debatable. Hillary Clinton tried to appeal to the American people by going on the Ellen show and doing the “whip” and the “nae-nae”. Just when you thought the desperation couldn’t get any worse, Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live.
Trump’s hosting of the show was fraught with controversy from the moment it was announced. Fans of SNL threatened to boycott the show and were very vocal about their distaste for Donald Trump. They bemoaned their show being hosted by a person they considered racist and sexist, and were disgruntled by the fact that SNL was endorsing such bigotry. Petitions against SNL were at an all-time high in the days leading up to Trump’s appearance on the show.
Trump’s actual hosting of the show left much to be desired. The New York Times’ James Poniewozik called it “joyless and unfunny”. Donald Trump failed to actually make jokes at his own expense, which made for a very flat show. SNL played it safe where watchers would actually like to have seen Trump’s egregious behavior being parodied.
While being humorless, the show was considered by many to support Donald Trump’s racism and misogyny, even giving him a platform to freely display his bigotry. Laurence Lewis of the Daily Kos wrote, “By allowing Trump to be its host, SNL producers made explicit that Trump’s behavior and rhetoric are all okay. . . It attempted to trivialize accusations of racism.” He certainly has a point. SNL allowing Trump to host the show gave the impression that Donald Trump’s behavior was okay, and not to be taken seriously.
If Donald Trump thought that an SNL appearance would improve his image to the public, he was sorely mistaken. Saturday Night Live lost a lot of respect from their fan base, social justice advocates, and pop culture enthusiasts. Sure, the episode averaged 9.3 million viewers, and Donald Trump gave SNL their highest ratings in years, with a household rating of 6.6, but at what cost? Watchers were disappointed in a show that avoided being “too risque” and left Donald Trump looking like he couldn’t take a joke at his own expense. It did nothing to improve his relatability, and what SNL gained in ratings, they lost in basic human decency.