A major highlight of this week’s Saturday Night Live was the debut of a hilarious new character–who inadvertently pointed out a glaring flaw in the rest of the episode.
Meet Jules, a foppish dandy who comes from wealth and “sees things . . . a little differently.”
With his carefully tousled hair and jaunty kerchief, Jules is a pitch-perfect parody of a certain kind of annoying, faux-enlightened rich kid. He means well (maybe?), but he’s so proud of his unearned, uninformed point of view that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Weekend Update hosts/co-head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che welcome Jules (Beck Bennett) to talk about–of all things–the economy. All he can offer on this topic, though, are smug, self-congratulatory platitudes that don’t quite add up.
When pressed to comment on GM announcing 15,000 layoffs last week, Jules talks out of his ass thusly: “So, I don’t love taking, like, cars places? Because they’re just so, like, 1984 the book to me. They’re like these Orwellian machines straight out of . . . George Orwell, if that makes sense? So instead of driving a car, I like, like, laying down on a longboard and using my arms the way a dolphin uses his fins. Sure, it takes longer, and I’ve been hit by a couple cars, but the thing about getting hit by a car is that, for just a moment, I get to fly.”
It’s a great commentary on people who are as steeped in classism as fish in water, but don’t quite realize that water exists.
Somehow, Saturday Night Live’s writers didn’t realize the rest of this episode effectively exemplifies the same attitude.
Remember back in 2016 when the show that had welcomed candidate Donald Trump as host the previous year seemed overly confident Trump would lose in the general election? Well, that same show now seems pretty sure that the Mueller investigation is about to make all the bad things go away, so everything can turn back to normal like Cinderella’s pumpkin-coach.
This week’s episode was bookended by a sketch up top in which a lonely Trump at the end of his tether can’t even get his old pal Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) to help him find a way out of sure ruin, and a closing number from the women of SNL, who sing “Mueller, All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
“I just want my life back,” Cecily Strong sings at one point, and on the surface it’s a relatable lyric. Until you consider for whom it’s relatable. This is a sentiment shared by comedy writers and the average SNL viewer and those of us (the author of this post sadly included) who were way more politically oblivious than they might have thought, pre-2016.
Perhaps it was appropriate in those chaotic first months after the election merely to pine for the old way of life that was suddenly gone, but that mourning step should ideally have been followed by some self-reflection. Why were so many people so deeply upset with the old “normal” that this could have possibly happened? Sure, Team Trump did not fight fair, Russia and WikiLeaks had some impact, the electoral college is a wildly outdated institution, and that Comey letter may have sealed our fate, but the mere closeness of the election is undeniable proof that the old normal wasn’t working for a lot of people regardless of their political affiliation.
By alternately projecting a superior confidence that Trump is finished (as though he hasn’t regularly eluded the albatross of consequences at every turn for years now), painting the Mueller Report as some kind of epic reset button, and whitewashing President George H.W. Bush’s complicated legacy in between, SNL seems just as out of touch with socioeconomic reality as Jules is.
If the introduction of Jules was meant as a subversive commentary on the show’s own politics, it would be a triumph of self-aware meta-housekeeping.
Unfortunately, the writers see things a little differently.