Remember when Prof. Parham challenged us to try to find places in the media (advertisements, TV, etc) where women were not present? I can’t remember her exact wording, but this article came to mind:
“Why Saturday Night Live could benefit from an affirmative action program” reminds me of a place where we actually don’t see a lot of women: comedy. But it’s not just women in general; it’s actually women of color. This season, SNL has 16 cast members, of which only 6 are women, and only one is a woman of color (Nasim Pedrad). If you actually see the skits Pedrad is in, you’ll notice she’s always made to look light-skinned, and the only seem to play on her Iranian heritage when they need someone with a “heavy accent.”
In the article I linked, cast member Keenan Thompson said that the show doesn’t black women because they just aren’t ready. He also said that he doesn’t want to dress in drag anymore in order to portray black females like Whoopi Goldberg.
This actually reminded me of Meghan’s article, Buffy and the strong female character. In it, she writes,
Therefore I had to accept the glass shattering moment that the representations of women in movies and television are colored by the male gaze, the male perceptions of women, and the constructs of what men are willing to allow women to be.”
Yeah, it can be funny watching Keenan Thompson impersonate Whoopi Goldberg, but after taking into account all the readings we’ve done so far, it is really problematic. As Meghan says, women are still constructed by male perceptions of women. How does Thompson know how a woman acts? Can he ever really portray a woman accurately, despite the fact that he’s a man? By refusing to add a diversity of comedians, it’s like SNL is telling us that they know how to portray women of color accurately (through men) and that there’s nothing a woman of color could possibly add to the show. I know that’s kind of a stretch, but if it were otherwise, I think SNL would be making more conscious efforts to hire people of color, especially women.
SNL recently hired a lot of new comedians in order to fill the gap left by the departure of several of its cast members, but none of the new hires is a person of color.