Over the years, Saturday Night Live has been involved in many racism scandals over its four decades on the air. The award-winning sketch series is under fire again after they announced that presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is known for his recent racist comments, will be hosting the show Nov. 7.
The announcement caused people to question whether the show and its network, NBC, truly believes in the racial stereotypes they seem to perpetuate, or if it’s just a ratings game.
Last year, Saturday Night Live came under fire for their race issues after their decision to hire six white actors stirred up conversation about the lack of diversity in the show’s cast. At the time, there were no black women and only two black men on the show.
As pointed out by National Public Radio, the lack of diversity in the cast is representative of the bigger picture.
“It’s true that talented performers can and should be allowed to play characters of different ethnicities and cultures. But there’s a long history in American entertainment of locking out talented performers of color by letting white entertainers play racial and ethnic minorities. In the 21st century, it would be nice to see a sketch comedy show with 16 cast members find a way to allow a Latino or black performer to play such characters, at least occasionally.”
After people began noticing Saturday Night Live’s exclusion of black women, producers decided to hold an audition with a concentration on minority women in early 2014. They hired two female, African-American writers, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
During this same time period, they also hired another African- American woman, Sasheer Zamata, as an on-stage performer and promoted a young black man, Michael Che, to a more important role as the co-anchor on their famous Weekend Update segment.
With all of the racially diverse additions to Saturday Night Live, one might think that would be the end of their racial insensitivity, but their decision to have presidential candidate Donald Trump host the show on Nov. 7 has put them under fire yet again.
According to a recent NPR article, there could be an ulterior motive behind the decision:
“Donald Trump’s upcoming appearance hosting SNL has drawn the ire of Latino groups, who note the show is featuring someone who has made bigoted comments about Mexican immigrants at a time when there are no Latino cast members on the program. This isn’t a new problem for SNL; there have only been two Latino members in the show’s 40-year history.
Trump’s return to the SNL hosting gig comes months after NBC dumped the GOP front-runner as host of its Celebrity Apprentice series and dropped participation in his Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. The reason, according to a statement from NBC in July: ‘derogatory statements by Trump regarding immigrants.’
Before Trump’s SNL hosting gig, he’ll appear in a town hall Monday on NBC hosted byToday show anchor Matt Lauer. There’s a sense here that NBC is mending fences with its onetime star; given his status as GOP front-runner and media magnet, ratings and relevance seemed to have, um, trumped concerns about any past ‘derogatory statements.'”
This poses the question: Are the makers of Saturday Night Live showing racial prejudice or are ratings and fame more important than issues of race?