As I mentioned the other day, I am having issues with the way shows run by Lorne Michaels apparently feel free to fling the T word and its equally (or more) offensive synonyms around like candy, with nary a peep of protest from GLB groups or anyone. So I am appointing myself media watchdog on this, because I have about had it.
On 30 Rock, which everyone LOVES, the T word or some similarly offensive slur against trans women is used at least once per season. In addition, in season four, the show introduced a recurring male character who dresses up as one of the female stars of the show-within-a-show, TGS with Tracy Jordan, that provides the frame for 30 Rock‘s weird little world. This would have been acceptable, given that the point of the character is to mock both the celebrity culture in which we all exist and particular characters within the 30 Rock universe, except that Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and other major characters continually refer to this person as “shim,” a “shman,” etc.
I realize that everyone is all “It’s satire, get over it,” but in fact it’s not. 30 Rock has a history of skewering a) white people and how they deal poorly with race, ethnicity, and terminology, and b) being generally snarky about everyone, and sometimes in fact IS a show built on satire, but this is different.
According to my dictionary, satire is 1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing,denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. or 2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
Under either of these definitions, it could well be considered satire when Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) falls for a Puerto Rican woman played by Salma Hayek, and an entire episode is devoted to white characters like Jack and Liz commenting on the fact that she’s Puerto Rican, and then saying OMG I can’t call you that! It might be considered satire when an entire episode is dedicated to unpacking who can and cannot use the N word, especially when the word in question is ostentatiously bleeped every time it occurs.
It is NOT satire when Liz Lemon is mocking a man she’s pretending to be over and says something about the t****y he’s going to pick up. It’s NOT satire when Liz and her colleague Pete refer to the cross-dressing character as “shim” or “shman”, both of which are equivalents to N****r, F****t, or similar slurs against Asians, Jews, Hispanics, and others.
Further, in more than one episode of Saturday Night Live, the recurring character Stefon, the super-fey “city correspondent” on Weekend Update, often refers to clubs owned or managed by people named “T****y” Something (Griffith, Oakley, etc). This is throw-away humor, a cheap shot, and again, not satire.
Why doesn’t GLAAD address these ongoing problems with Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, and the shows they make? Am I really the only person who has noticed that in an environment where the T word continues to be both hurtful and controversial, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock use it all the time?
It’s time they stop. If I’m the only person trying to make that happen, fine. But I would appreciate your support, and that of GLAAD especially, to make this change.
I will post a full list of 30 Rock episodes with insulting or derogatory language shortly.
LIST OF STEFON APPEARANCES WITH T WORD
Season 35, ep. 20, April 24, 2010 a club named Crease, run by “T****y Oakley.”
Season 35, ep. 22, May 15, 2010, a club run by “T****y Griffith.”