The Bakersfield Californian
By Esther Cepeda
October 21, 2015
In an ideal world, it wouldn't matter that "Saturday Night Live" has decided to give its weekly platform to a tin-eared jerk who fans the flames of hatred toward immigrants, minorities and women.
"SNL," once a vanguard of pop cultural relevance, veered off the tracks years ago and has been struggling with ratings ever since. Lately, "SNL" has garnered nearly as many headlines for its missteps in the diversity department as it has for its comedy sketches.
Last year, after "SNL" hired its first female black ensemble member since 2007 and only the fifth in the show's 40-year history, U.S. News and World Report's Danielle Kurtzleben noted that the show's paltry ratings "suggest that 'SNL' simply doesn't have the culturally central place that it once did. It's not simply that people aren't watching as much TV; among those who do, far fewer are watching 'SNL.'"
Kurtzleben went on to ask, "If 'SNL' has indeed shrunk as a cultural force, the phenomenon then raises a question akin to the age-old problem of the tree falling in the forest: If 'SNL' pushes for more diversity and no one is there to watch, does it matter?"
Unfortunately, it does.
People don't need to tune into 'SNL' to see the best bits from the show -- the video clips start making the rounds on Sunday mornings and are shared widely. At the beginning of this week, it seemed like you couldn't go onto any major newspaper's website without running into at least one clip of former cast member Tracy Morgan's first appearance since his horrific car crash in 2014.
Ordinarily the best reaction to 'SNL's' decision to invite Donald Trump onto the show on Nov. 7 would be to ignore the spectacle rather than feed into the publicity machine that both 'SNL' and the Republican presidential candidate are banking on to make the episode a success.
But it's not enough to simply declare that if Trump is on, Hispanics should boycott 'SNL' and NBC. The headlines and attention the episode will garner will make the absence of whatever paltry Latino viewership the show might currently enjoy a nonissue.
So far, action alerts containing contact information of top 'SNL' and NBC executives, and impassioned statements from Hispanic advocacy organizations, have begun circulating via email. A MoveOn.org petition sponsored by the immigration reform group America's Voice is asking NBC to dump Trump.
At the heart of their complaints is that, in June, NBC stated it was ending its business relationship with the candidate after Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "murderers."
"At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values," NBCUniversal's press release stated.
So why, aside from a windfall of PR, did this stance seem to disappear just three months after it was announced?
I can't say because, when contacted, NBCUniversal's press relations department told me they are "not commenting" on the matter.
Whether Trump reprises his hateful rhetoric on the comedy show or harmlessly buffoons his egomaniacal persona in an effort to burnish his "straight-talking" brand matters little. What's at issue is that unless 'SNL' disinvites him, it is effectively giving a stamp of approval to his hateful views.
Odd, considering that 'SNL' creator Lorne Michael's global media company, Broadway Video, in conjunction with NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, recently announced the launch of a digital comedy channel aimed at English-speaking Latino audiences. "We constantly look for new ways to connect with Hispanic audiences," said Peter Blacker, NBCUniversal's executive vice president of digital media.
The National Council of La Raza's Janet Murguia called 'SNL's' Trump invitation a "slap in the face" to the Latino community, but that's not quite right.
A slap in the face could be seen as a passionate outburst -- an intimate gesture implying an affront within a relationship.
'SNL's' paltriness in the Hispanic ensemble member department -- two Latino males in 40 years -- and a complete dismissal of Hispanics' complaints over an offensive 2014 skit featuring a white comedienne portraying a ditzy, overly accented Latina sexpot tell you all you need to know about 'SNL's' relationship with Hispanic audiences.
If 'SNL' and NBC choose to continue their plan to have Trump host SNL we should see the gesture for what it is: A big "[expletive] you" to the overwhelming majority of a 55 million-strong community who have clearly articulated their disgust with The Donald.
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