Bil Browning

Did SNL go too far with bullied boy sketch?

Filed By Bil Browning | October 04, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment

Saturday Night Live's recent show featured a sketch about a small fifth grade effeminate boy who dreams of being a mural artist that's bullied by the other kids at school; his father decides to show the kid how to defend himself. After the past month's constant suicides by bullied gay youth, you'd think that SNL would tackle the topic with some warmth and consideration for those who've been so overwhelmed by the constant violence and verbal attacks that they felt compelled to take their own lives.

Not so, says Projector Landon. He made this video and asked me to share it with all of you to get your reactions as well.

The full SNL sketch is after the jump. What do you think? Did it go too far?

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I don't think the intent here was to make fun of bullied gay kids, but to satirize the expectation that boys in particular should strive to be macho goons ready to fight at a moment's notice, as opposed to allowing them to be themselves.

Still, they don't get any points for being politically correct. It's hard for any of us to have a sense of humor about something so tragic, especially when we can identify with it.

Despite my trouncing SNL (below), I do see that AJD has a good point: Too many fathers (and maybe mothers, too) think that their sons (and daughters) ought to be able to handle bullies by themselves, and that to appeal to the school authorities for intervention is somehow, in itself, weak and "sissy".

I didn't watch these videos online, but I did see the sketch on SNL last Saturday night. (I was watching because I wanted to see what Kanye West would do for his SNL comeback. And to just lust after him. More about this elsewhere, maybe.)

I think the writers were trying to make a joke out of the notion that some fathers do not know how to relate well to their gay and/or effeminate sons, in itself a serious family problem. In their effort to make something funny out of this, they failed miserably. Even worse, the bullied son gets the message from his father that he doesn't have what it takes (raw brawn, plus fighting skills) to discourage, stop, or escape from the bullies. Neither character mentions the possibility of the school authorities playing a role in dealing with this problem.

I think after a rash of school suicides that has gotten national attention, this sketch was the height of bad taste and poor judgment. It is particularly disappointing coming from NBC, after the sensitive news segments about the suicides, separately by NBC Reporters Mike Taibbi [_video_here_] and Rehema Ellis [_video_here_], that aired on NBC Nightly News during the preceding week.

(I hope my video links are correct --- is virtually unusable without a broadband connection, and right now I am on dial-up and unable to check that the links work.)

Shows like SNL jump their ratings when they perform skits on issues that people are currently talking about. Normally, this would be fine but Landon is right, this one went too far.

People in the community are talking about this issue to bring awareness to a problem - not to have it played out as a joke on SNL. Strong voices, like Ellen's are trying to bring awareness to this tragic and growing issue and NBC should be following suit. Had they ended the skit with a PSA from the Trevor Project and how we need to help kids who are getting bullied, it would have made it better becuase it would have shown that SNL cared.

When things like this come about, it makes me wonder exactly how diverse the writers at SNL really are. Did they sit around a table and write this skit laughing? Was there not one person in the room who flagged this as inappropriate. If so, did that person get verbally bullied by other writers for suggesting that it was too much. If this is so, this really upsets me. SNL is written and performed in NYC, one of the most "liberal" and "open-minded" cities around. People who are different flock here to find a place to belong.
Some young LGBT youth was probably watching this skit. They may even have had dreams to move to NYC but now may feel like NYC is not the right place for them because of insensitivities like this skit.

Perhaps my thoughts are too dramatic but honestly, this was a poor artistic decision and poor ttiming.

I can't watch it b/c NBC doesn't allow their videos to be shown outside the US (oddly, MSNBC is fine).

But doesn't everyone know the rule? It's not OK to make fun of soldiers and 9/11 victims and cancer patients who've died because they're sacred - everyone else is fine, especially fags.

Landon Bryce | October 4, 2010 2:07 PM

I want to say thanks very much to Bil for sharing this with you. And I want to emphasize that I really had only problems with the sketch. The first, of course, is timing. A sketch about a plane crash would have been cut, for example, had there been a crash that got the same amount of publicity as Tyler Clementi's suicide got this week.

I also think it was offensive to code the kid specifically as gay-- he's basically Shannon from Planet Unicorn, but his horse has wings rather than a horn. Nasim plays a variation on this character all the time-- they joked about that when they had her dressed up as Amy Poehler's Caitlyn character on last week's show-- but usually it's just a nerdy kid. It's just in the one where he is repeatedly punched in the face that he becomes a nerdy gay kid.

Rick Sutton | October 4, 2010 2:25 PM

I tried to get it, but I didn't. Watched it. Twice. It wasn't funny, interesting or valuable. Frankly, it's like most every otoher SNL skit lately...laboriously Manhattan-esque, inside humor.

Am I hopelessly out of touch, Bil?

Enjoying DC?

Indeed, the sketch is a Rorschach test that many people will interpret in many different ways ... and more than a few won't know what to make of it.

As I watched, I didn't know on the spot what to think, but I knew I was very uncomfortable watching it. Only after several minutes of thinking about it (I muted the commercials that followed) did I form my opinion.

But clearly it wasn't meant to be a Rorschach test, because that's not what SNL is about; it was meant either to just make people laugh, or maybe to convey a sarcastic message about fathers expecting boys to be macho (or whatever other message they maybe had in mind). But in any event, it didn't work consistently for its audience and we can safely conclude that the sketch was poorly written or under-written, not exactly one of SNL's finest moments.

Actually, for me it was painful to watch. My dad put in a standing rule around the time I was 10. Everytime I got beat up at school, when he came home he whipped me or beat me to teach me how to be a 'man'. The only time that I can remember my mom stopping him was the beating I got the 2nd week in high school. Broken nose, dislocated jaw, cracked ribs a concussion... covered in bruises and scrapped everywhere. Even then, the only reason why I didn't get a beating was I sneezed blood all over the wall.... I had over 190 days of absences from high school in the first 4 years.
I managed to get a scholorship to a Art School... but my parents had divorced a few hours before and really, that is the best birthday present to sping on someone....right before they hand you a suitcase and tell you they they're both moving and you don't live there anymore...
yeah... I was laughing all night long it was so funny.

If they wanted to be edgy.... then have the father teaching his son how to be a sniper.

That's what's going to happen, unless we act now.

Not on school grounds, but when they least expect it, and chance of not being caught is highest. Cool and pre-meditated. Because there's no other alternative other than suicide.

I'm honestly surprised it hasn't happened yet. Though it may have. Nerdy kids are bright, and it doesn't take much to create "reasonable doubt". The police may know who did it - but proving it is another matter.

Kids driven to desperation will, if we are lucky, only kill themselves.

Kids driven to insanity may also kill innocents as well as those guilty. That's a danger too.

'God made man and woman; Colonel Colt made them equal' - Anne Coulter. Do we want that kind of equality? Because that's what we're going to get if we're not careful.

We've already had cases of high school and college snipers --- and when the sniper(s) end up shot, or end up shooting themselves (one or the other is usually the case), we never know the full story about their motivations.

it's not funny

I don't think it was Saturday Night lives intention to harm lgbt people but I agree that they got this one way wrong.I don't believe there is a way to make physical bullying funny.Verbal bullying can be made funny but it must be handled with care.Better luck next time Saturday Night Live.