Bil Browning

Stefon Returns to SNL

Filed By Bil Browning | February 14, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: gay characters, Saturday Night Live, SNL, Stefon

Just in time for Valentine's Day, ongoing character, Stefon, makes a comeback to Saturday Night Live. There's been some debate lately on whether or not the stereotypical portrayal of Stefon is offensive - or even whether or not the character is queer.

With so many other SNL skits getting activists' necks hackled, why does this one escape scrutiny? Most seem to take the sketch with good humor and giggle along without any uproar? What makes it different?

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Not a 'Stefan' fan either. There are some things about the character which are mildly funny but there is other schtick connected to it which is really pretty offensive... a lot of comparing Stefan to "normal" people and, at one point, the news guy saying his Stegan's taste resembles "a dying gay man under lots of blankets." Now, to me, that speaks to imagery of dying from AIDs and not acceptable. Again, where are the cancer jokes if EVERYTHING is so funny? It would be less offensive if SNL really had queer people on the show giving their input. As it is now, it's just another straight dude playing make-believe fag and tranny. No thanks.

I like Stefon, and I think Bill Hader's rendition of him is genius!

And no, ginasf ... Stefon may be an effeminate man, but he is not a "tranny" (and you're the one who first mentioned that unmentionable word, not me ...)

I didn't say he was doing a tranny... what I was trying to suggest is that this character's bits spring from the same homophobic place where straight dudes playing trannies comes from... especially in the newscaster's reactions to him.

OK, I mis-read you and I see where you're coming from now.

BTW, SNL doesn't have any out staff writers and/or performers that I know of -- but from time to time they do have guests who are out, such as Ellen, Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Martin (who is officially out now, but may not have been when he appeared on SNL) and Adam Lambert. (And there may be others I've missed.)

ALSO: The "news man" for "Weekend Update" that some commenters mention is Seth Meyers -- and I make a point to identify him because Meyers is also Head Writer for the show ... so he, along with producer Loren Michaels, probably has say-so regarding what gets aired and what doesn't.

I think I am the only "commenter" who used the expression "newsman". I only am able to attach Hader's name with his face because his name appears within this thread. I only watch SNL occasionally. I remember the first episode with George Carlin. That was back in 1973 or '74. I remember being upset that late night t v on Saturday had been taken over by people who were stereotypically normal, even Carlin. I was hoping for revolution through cultural evolution at the time and was hoping for more countercultural entertainment. Whatever energy was injected into society in that regard had petered out by that time but one needed a little bit of perspective to appreciate that. I have to admit after the show became the hit it did w/ Radner, Belushi, Newman and Ackroid, I loved it but I don't find Stephon's character offensive in anyway, whatsoever. Geez, live and let live. I have known a lot eccentric people in my time. A lot of them were not gay, lesbian, transsexual or transgender - all different realms and not mutually exclusive, either.

I went back and read a little about Caroline Cossey and Aleshia Brevard. Aleshia has a new book out and appears in a video with her partner which I find pretty down to earth and interesting. Caroline Cossey lived a private life as a woman. She was born with three "x" chromosomes along with the presence of a "y" chromosome. She was outed by a tabloid newspaper. She appeared in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only and modeled for a number of fashion magazines including Vogue as a women. Her story is legendary. I don't see how accusations of separatism apply to her at all. Her privacy was violated in the worst way. It turned her into a caricature of someone she was not. It is interesting that there were and probably still are women who are intersex or transsexual in fashion and entertainment who are not subjected to crude characterizations such as the ones in the Estromax thing.

I didn't know Seth Meyers also wrote for the show. I was under the mistaken impression that Jenny Boylan, before she went through her transitions, wrote for the show. Apparently, she didn't but was the managing editor of American Bystander (American Punch) which is described as being founded by members of the cast of SNL. On one of her blog pages she has a picture of Will Forte doing a caricature of her on SNL. I have never seen it, so I will reserve judgement. Boylan seems to have taken it in stride, however.

I don't know how much I would care to speculate about the sexuality of the people involved with Saturday Night LIve. Because sexual orientation most often does not involve stereotypical behavior. The situation is different for transsexual and transgender people. Stereotypes are not the issue but the issues of changes that become visible to others is involved with coming out, whether it is merely a matter of expression or actually secondary sex changes that become difficult to conceal or changes in primary sex characteristics which inevitably become apparent combined with the secondary ones. It isn't a joke.

Definitely remember the original George Carlin show, not only because of Carlin himself but it also had on Janis Ian singing Society's Child and her classic, haunting ballad In The Winter ... and a hot, hot, young, bouncin' 'n' smokin' Billy Preston singing Willie Go 'Round In Circles ... That show got re-aired in recent years when Carlin died (and it made me feel ancient! ...)

Edith, ginasf also mentioned "the news guy" in her first comment, above.

Edith, ginasf also mentioned "the news guy" in her first comment, above.,/blockquote>

Oh??? Nevermind! :)

I see a lot of Andy Warhol in this portrayal by Hader, not as sophisticated, so on top of things or as inaccessible but a bit more splashy with the florid colors and hand jewelry. I don't think Hader could do a Candy Darling, an Aleshia Brevard from her Red Skelton days or a Caroline Cossey "Bond Girl". I never watch Saturday Night LIve. For some odd reason the T V happened to be on when the Estromaxx faux commercial aired. What a hack job. At least this character is a little bit subtler and almost endearing. The newsman even seems to have a warm affection for him.

I me, this seems like more a mockery of club kids and the club scene in general. Having once been a club kid myself, albeit a very different kind (I was a punk in the early 80's), I'm not really offended by this character. All the poseur stuff is nothing new, just what's been going on for decades but seen through ever-changing musical and cultural filters.

Well, now that you mention it, it reminds me of Jimmy and Tom on their way down to the Mirabar, circa 1983, complaining about what a bore this town is and me thinking, I may be uptight but, oh my god, I could never wear that. Why don't they shave their legs before they put those nylons on? Actually, I think Hader's outfit is fairly well put together. Those club videos were interesting. Must have been fun to be young in the nineties

I was waiting for the skit to end with a seg into a voice over saying "this portion of the news brought to you by the makers of Estro-maxx".

Even though he's rather stereotypical, I can't help but like Stefon. I can tell you why I think he's funny - it's because of the way Bill is trying so hard not to laugh at the over-the-top, silly dialogue he's been given to read. It's not unlike the Carol Burnett show, when Harvey Korman would break character and giggle behind his hand, or into his sleave. Stefon is not at all my version of an ideal gay character, but his obvious obsession with the freakish denizens of the nightclubs he trills about nearly requires that he be a bit freakish himself.

I wish I could watch Hulu in France! You know, there are only a million Americans living abroad and millions of non-Americans like American TV anyway, so it's not like we're a big market or anything.

Alex, can you watch YouTube? ... There are multiple copies of same skit there, here is one of the higher quality ones:

Also, here's an interesting YouTube vid where Bill Hader talks about coming up with Stefon:

And finally ... how can there be any doubt that Stefon is gay when he openly flirts with Seth Meyers the way he does? Do we think Stefon wants Seth to do "a total one-eighty" by switching from Pepsi to Coca-Cola?

Sorry, the video was up last night but now they've blocked it -- plenty of others, do a YouTube search using search string "SNL Stefon Valentine's Day" ...

I am just worn out at the moment.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | February 15, 2011 7:39 AM

I'm usually pretty sensitive to and negative on these kinds of stereotypical presentations, but for some reason Stefon really doesn't bother me, and I found the skit funny. I don't know exactly why, maybe part of it is that he's ready to burst out laughing (and sometimes does), a reason why I really like out-takes where the actors break up and they have to reshoot the scene.

I wonder sometimes if the reason we feel the way we do about these things is because there are still all to few shows that portray less stereotypical LGBT folks in day-to-day situations. If they, did, more people would realize the vast diversity in our communities, as is the case with human beings generally.

That about sums it up for me too, Don. I don't find the character offensive either even tho he deals in stereotypes mostly. With so many others citing Hader's giggles as a reason why they don't take it seriously, I wonder how that would effect the other skits if the actors had been laughing thru the skit.

I dunno. He just doesn't bother me that much. I mean, he's pretty stereotypical, but it seems more like light-hearted parody at this point than vicious gay or trans bashing like the estro-maxx skit.

My feeling is... what's the show's context/market? If it's a context of true diversity then I give people a lot of slack with their snarkiness. Unfortunately, SNL has precious little queer (and certainly no trans) diversity in its history. How many queer cast members have they had in their 35+ years... Terry Sweeney, who was pretty much a token, on for a very short time and given little chance to do much. We're supposed to believe it's somehow filled with ironic, hip, progressive humorists but all I see is a show geared towards smug, white, middle-class, male-centered a-holes... therefore I give it very little slack.

Parody and satire within the context of non-diversity is nothing more than cheap-shot ridicule.

I don't watch SNL, so I cued up a couple of Stefons to see what all the hoo ha was about. I laughed a couple of times. I didn't make it through to the end of either clip. Who cares about this stuff? Not "acceptable" humor someone said? Yawn.

Stefon is a caricature of a gay NYC club kid, and Hader is brilliant at bringing him to life and making him very funny, and the relationship between Stefon and Seth Meyers in the skit is sweet.

Yes, one commenter on YouTube speculated that Stefon is not only a NYC clubber, but maybe also a heavy crystal meth user -- and that so computes, since Stefon's elaborate gestures suggest that he's tweaking on crystal or cocaine or something ...