You May Be Missing the Point of the Sheetcaking Bit

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/186758715770833417/
It’s almost too pretty to tear into. Almost.

To say that the last 9 days have been a little crazy is an understatement on the order of calling the BP oil spill an “oopsie”. I’m not going into all that’s happened, we’re all aware. If you don’t know, you must be living under a rock. Get the fuck out and google some shit. I’ll even wait.

Up to speed? Okay, let’s move on. A few days ago, Tina Fey returned to Weekend Update for a bit that was pure genius. But, don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself:

I love Tina Fey; no one does the snarkyfunnynerdycool thing better. Unfortunately, some folks didn’t find Fey’s sheetcaking sketch funny. While most people liked it, some of the more activist-oriented voices on the internet were not amused. Amy Zimmerman of the Daily Beast said that “Tina Fey’s ‘Eat Cake’ Strategy After Charlottesville Is Bad Advice“, while another writer felt the segment was the “epitome of white privilege”. Megan Garber, writing for The Atlantic, used a witty variation of “Let them eat cake” (She wasn’t alone. That line has taken a beating since Thursday). There are others, but they all suffer from the same fatal flaw: they completely miss the point.

Each of these articles come at the bit from the same angle, namely that Fey is literally encouraging people to stay home and eat cake instead of standing up against the racist shitheels that are under the impression that the rest of country is on board with the disgusting gibberish that falls out of their mouths like so many turds from a diseased asshole. Even some of the pieces I’ve seen that are taking up for Fey don’t really get it. This article from the Village Voice’s Lara Zarum defends Fey by saying  she’s just a comedian and not your elected representative. Zarum sees the bit as speaking to the despair and exhaustion so many of us are feeling just 212 days into the 1461 days of this deranged Oompa Loompa’s presidency. And, yes, it does that. But, it does so much more.

It is worth noting here that the majority of the criticism I’ve seen leveled at Fey for her sheetcaking “advice” has come from liberal white women. It’s worth noting because liberal white women were the real target of Fey’s satire. For example:

  • She spouts inane platitudes like “Love is love” while shoving cake into her mouth at furious pace. God knows, we progressives love our inane platitudes. And, while studies show no correlation between gender and emotional eating, who does society normally associate with this kind of behavior?
  • At one point, after Fey mentions that there are more rallies planned around the country, Colin Jost tells her, “Well, you know, they’ve already cancelled some of these new rallies.” To which Fey replies, with tongue firmly in cheek, “You see, it’s working already.” Just like those online petitions that are so popular these days. Okay, so maybe women aren’t the only ones who love them, but there’s more than enough burn to go around.
  • Fey’s comment that “Sheet-caking is a grassroots movement, Colin. Most of the women I know have been doing it once a week since the election” isn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s nod toward the fact that marginalized groups in this country have been living on tenterhooks since Tangerine Hitler won the presidency. And, it’s a barb flung at the white people who tend to stay home when shit gets real.
  • Perhaps the best part of the entire bit is the cake itself: it is a metaphor on multiple levels. She tells Jost to scream his frustration with racism into a cake decorated with an American flag. And, as Tom Carson says in this piece for Playboy, “(W)hite liberals should have winced at the literal demonstration of how we can eat our cake and have it too.” Hmm, maybe that’s why some folks on the internet didn’t like it. It hurts when people step on your toes. It hurts even more when your heroes do it.

This isn’t the first time liberals have gotten their panties in a wad over something Fey has written. She has caught flak for “insensitive” portrayals of race on both “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (links in Atlantic article referenced earlier). It seems to me that both of those incidents were also satirizing race and, while they may have pushed the boundaries a bit, that should be obvious to anyone with a brain and sense of humor what they were trying to do. But, that brains and a sense of humor seems to be in short supply these days.

I believe Fey’s problem is that she is smarter than her audience. Honestly, if she made a mistake on the SNL sketch (or the other ones, for that matter), it wasn’t falling back on her white privilege, it was overestimating the American ability to understand satire.