Last week, about 100 New York politicians, union organizers, and concerned citizens rallied together to reject what Amazon is delivering to their doorstep.
The monolithic, all-purpose company–which increasingly looks like the villain in every 1980s Paul Verhoeven movie–announced its plans last week to set up half of its second headquarters in Queens. (The other half is slated for Arlington, Virginia.) New Yorkers are typically an opinionated bunch, and many of us have questions—chief among them, why on earth are we reportedly paying as much as $112,000 in subsidies for every Amazon job when our subways are far less reliable than the showtime dancers who perform on them?
As a 40-plus-year-old New York institution, Saturday Night Live seemed poised to be the voice of the people on this issue. On the latest episode, however, the team at SNL made it crystal clear their concerns about Amazon skew far above street level.
Toward the beginning of the show, host Steve Carell appeared in a bald cap as unsettlingly shiny zillionaire Jeff Bezos. The pretaped sketch seized on the idea that Amazon’s two new locations are perhaps not coincidentally near strongholds against Bezos’s bête noire, Trump.
Carell sells the bit with a funny performance, but really, it feels like a cop-out. It’s a way to comment on Amazon’s controversial move to New York without commenting at all on how New York feels about it. Some viewers even wondered on Twitter whether the sketch might have been sponsored content.
Can anyone out there confirm that the Amazon sketch on SNL last night was branded content? If so, I think the foremost satire show in America doing branded for politically connected corporations is, well, bad!
— Brenden Schitt (@brendengallager) November 18, 2018
When Weekend Update hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost offered their official positions on Amazon’s move to the city, though, they made the relatively benign Bezos sketch look like anti-capitalist screed Sorry to Bother You in comparison.
Perhaps upset that The Daily Show’s Jaboukie Young-White ate their lunch earlier last week with a funny take about Amazon moving to New York, Che and Jost settled on serving as de facto PR arm for Goliath. What more could Amazon hope for than to have yacht regatta mascot Colin Jost call objecting New Yorkers “whiny bitches” during #Resistance Twitter’s favorite comedy show?
“A lot of New Yorkers are worried about the impact Amazon will have on Queens, but I’m more worried about the impact Queens will have on Amazon,” Che said, as an over-the-shoulder graphic depicted a package decked out in tacky purple and leopard-print wrapping.
It feels like a betrayal to have New Yorkers’ legitimate complaints reduced to the set-up of a joke whose punchline is that, in addition to being a bunch of Debbie Downers, Queens residents also have hideous taste. Cool joke, Che!
Leave it to the smirking Jost, though, to delve even further into boot-licking territory.
“I know it’s gonna raise housing prices, but it’s a little late for New Yorkers to complain about rent,” Jost said. “I mean, even Amazon had to move to Queens because it couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan.”
He could have stopped at, “I know it’s gonna raise housing prices.” That’s a big deal! The rest of the hacky joke doesn’t even make sense. I don’t know how it can seem “a little late for New Yorkers to complain about rent” when working New Yorkers have never stopped complaining about rent. As Jon Schwarz of The Intercept noted on Twitter, Colin Jost may not be the ideal ambassador for what working New Yorkers think.
Colin Jost is the son of a doctor and engineer, went to a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, went to Harvard, was hired at SNL immediately after graduating and has never had another adult job pic.twitter.com/iXMFEB4Oos
— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) November 18, 2018
At least by going after the New Yorkers who object to Amazon instead of Amazon itself, SNL didn’t leave any chance for searing cultural commentary on the table. Oh whoops, excuse me, they left all of it. All of it is still on the table.
Sure, New York City is getting 25,000 new jobs (again, at a reported $110,000 per), but let’s take a look at what kind of jobs we’ll be getting. The primary employment opportunities in NYC’s HQ2 will be tech jobs, white-collar positions that exist in an atmosphere that the New York Times once described as “bruising” due to “unreasonably high” expectations. But hey, on the bright side, at least New York won’t be getting the kind of Amazon jobs where, reportedly, workers may be monitored with biotech to ensure optimum productivity; the kind where a bathroom break eats up too much time away from the warehouse floor, so a plastic bottle has to suffice; the kind where workers might have to camp in tents close to warehouses to save on commuting costs; the kind where if you somehow pass out in your air conditioning-free work zone and experience injury, you might have trouble getting worker’s comp; and finally, the kind of place that desperately doesn’t want its workers to unionize.
If only there was some cutting humor to be mined from these working conditions! Apparently, it’s funnier to dunk on New Yorkers for opposing them.
It’s ironic that SNL’s sketch about Bezos ended up being a joke about Trump–by siding with this conglomerate against working people, the show is trafficking in the same kind of double-talk they regularly parody him for. What a joke.