It seems an apology is in order. Up until this past weekend, like many armchair news-quarterbacks out there, I had Elon Musk all wrong. Thanks to his unlikely turn hosting Saturday Night Live, however, all those misconceptions have been vaporized, and I’m now sorry I ever thought that he was a wealth-hoarding, egomaniacal troll with a dangerous amount of influence.
“Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works,” the host said during his opening monologue. “To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say: I reinvented the electric car and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also gonna be a chill, normal dude?
I didn’t realize that the “strange things” Musk was known for saying and posting were mainly tweets such as the one he mentions in the monologue, which reads “69 days after 4/20 again haha.” Instead, I was one of the sheeple who got hung up on his antagonizing the concept of pronouns, telling his followers to get red-pilled—a phrase mainly associated with men’s rights or white supremacy—mocking the idea that one of the world’s richest people should pay more in taxes, and aggressively, continually downplaying the danger of COVID-19 well into the pandemic.
What a silly mistake!
Instead, I should have known that Elon Musk is just an un-chill, non-normal guy who blurts out the wrong thing sometimes. Lest my concerns linger beyond the monologue, though, not one but two separate sketches feature the host saying what’s on his mind a little too bluntly. Awk-ward!
Perhaps Musk’s tendency to tell it like it is too hard is just the price he pays for being such a misunderstood messiah. After all, as the episode repeatedly emphasizes, he is mere inches away from colonizing Mars! I could have sworn Musk had a habit of routinely moving the goalposts on his Mars timeline (and every other timeline he sets for any project in his businesses), and that his rockets keep exploding, but possibly I dreamt that? Otherwise, the idea of a leather jacket-clad Musk supervising a SpaceX Mars colony mission might be ridiculously self-aggrandizing. And that can’t be true, when Musk’s appearance on SNL was so obviously self-deprecating. Something had to give, and that something was any doubts that Elon Musk will soon make multiplanetary living a reality.
Another wild fantasy I entertained was that Musk might be so invested in crypto because of his ability to manipulate the market at will and make a mint off of it. His tweets simultaneously hyping his SNL episode and Dogecoin certainly helped raise the price of the latter from $0.256 to $0.655 over the course of one week. After seeing Musk plays a financial analyst on Weekend Update, however, I understand the old version of myself to be a presumptuous crank. Musk’s character calling himself “The Dogefather” and closing with a doge catchphrase, precipitating a massive stock dump and problems at Robinhood, is just part of a broader, mind-bending examination of whether the dollar is actually more valid than crypto, and not, in fact, a scam.
I mean, if it were a scam, why would Musk make a joke about it being a scam? Famously, it is impossible to ever say the truth in jest.
Mainly, though, the episode taught me new ways to look at Musk that I previously had not considered.
“People are so mean online,” the noted tunnel-enthusiast says, in close up, during one sketch, prompting a laugh from the live audience. Ostensibly, he is speaking as the much-memed Nintendo villain, Wario, but he’s also slyly winking at his own behavior online. Prior to that moment, I had been under the impression that calling one of the Thai cave rescuers a “pedo guy” in 2018, in retaliation for the hero characterizing Musk’s offer to help “a PR stunt”, revealed a profound deficiency of character. It turns out, though, it was just a standard case of being mean online. Classic Elon!
Similarly, I thought that someone with as much influence over millions of rabid supporters baselessly peddling COVID misinformation for months on end was inexcusable, dangerous, and morally reprehensible. But then I heard Musk’s side of the story, in the form of one sketch in which a Wild West bandit bears a striking resemblance to Elon Musk. “For a while, I thought masks were dumb,” the character says. “But now I admit: Masks make sense.”
I hadn’t considered that Musk’s COVID skepticism was an adorkable, quirky misunderstanding before, and I apologize for my limited imagination. Thanks to Saturday Night Live—and an unrelated, massive head wound incurred over the weekend—I now know that next time Musk says something outrageously wrong, no matter how many people take him at face value, I will respond like his mother does in the opening monologue: with a laugh and a mollifying, “That’s great, Elon.”