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Terry H. Schwadron

Sept. 19,2017

From Stephen Colbert’s opening moments of the Emmys, you got the idea of why American is suffering from culture wars.

There was no doubt that the glittery event reflected strong political views, and that the overwhelming vote in the awards ceremony hall was to poke fun at the President, even going to the point of a cameo appearance for an obviously lying Sean Spicer to share in the joke.

But there was more. The awards commentary through the night picked up on themes of diversity and inclusion for women and minorities, and there was liberal use of parody and pointed sarcasm about serious stuff from North Korea to Charlottesville.

In other words, it was comfortable, fun and sparkly — — for half the country, my half, for sure.

From the other side, however, things looked different. Headlines in Breitbart News shouted, “Total Irrelevance: Trump-Hating Emmys Hit All-Time Ratings Low” and “Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda Draw Cheers for Calling Trump ‘Hypocritical Bigot.”

Even The New York Times noted, “Of course, there is a risk in going political at an event that’s supposed to celebrate television. The Emmys have set ratings lows for two consecutive years, and there are plenty of viewers out there who do not want to be lectured by Mr. Colbert or anyone from Hollywood about President Trump. And, from the opposite side of the political spectrum, there were many on social media who expressed anger Sunday night at what they saw as an attempted redemption of (Sean) Spicer.”

I don’t think this is about attacking or protecting Donald Trump. I think it is about a much wider mindset, the one that Democrats and Hillary Clinton missed discovering during the 2016 election, and which has been growing for decades. It is about that me-first, anti-political correctness (or perceived political correctness) path, an identifiably socially conservative, outwardly churchy, anti-liberal thinking that we recognize today as Trump support. It is about a mindset that wants to pull up the castle gate against both immigrants and science, and disdains a broad view of government regulation, non-dogmatic education and public support for the arts.

The only problem with the night, besides being an award show, was that it was its own echo chamber, with political thrusts shared among those already in agreement. It is a mark that in pursuit of humor, we may sometimes lose some of our sense of appropriateness (Kathy Griffin and the head of Trump) along with our sense of proportion. No, Mr. Trump, retweeting a fake golf shot hitting Hillary and knocking her over wasn’t funny, just odd.

Don’t get me wrong. Stephen Colbert was good, and funny, in his sarcastic jokes about the President, declaring Mr. Trump the biggest story in TV last year, and spoofing Mr. Trump’s failure to win an Emmy during his years as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.’’ “Unlike the presidency,’’ Mr. Colbert said, “Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote.”

Breitbart harped on the low ratings, tying that fact to anti-Trump content from presenters and awardees alike. The numbers “prove that even young people are tired of watching rich elites publicly work through their inability to come to terms with losing the 2016 presidential election,” said Breitbart. “What has to be especially galling to Colbert and his fellow social justice glitter-warriors, is that in a country of 330 million, fewer than five percent tuned in, cared to watch even a minute of the show, was not in the least interested in their Big Thinks on issues n’ stuff, including President Trump who, despite the unrelenting hate campaigns from the media and Hollywood, still holds (if you believe the polls) a 40% approval rating. We all know it is higher, especially in the only states that matter. As Hollywood has gotten more political, more divisive, more bigoted towards Normal People, and more hateful, take a look at the nuclear fallout. America is more red, more Republican-led than at anytime since Reconstruction. On every level, Democrats have been wiped out of electoral office.

Hollywood is a total liability to its own cause.”

A Washington Post blog was one of many voices that criticized the Spicer appearance as trying to normalize him. “Spicer got a turn on one of Hollywood’s glitziest stages Sunday night. And he used it to laugh about the falsehoods he told the American people in an attempt to rehabilitate his image. I’m all for a good laugh. And I’ll add up front that there are political issues on which people have extremely strong feelings and unfortunately can’t see the other side — we all have blind spots and should be mindful of that. But inherent in Spicer’s appearance Sunday night was an acknowledgment that he sold the American people a bill of goods from the White House lectern.”

Please. The great thing about humor is that it is humor, not necessarily a social contract with voters. Some political humor is funny — Emmy winner Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of President Trump because of the parody, not the actual content — and some falls flat. What stayed with me from the Emmys is that we can’t even agree on when to laugh.

Sad, as 45 would say.


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