Since the results of Tuesday’s election, the coverage of popular media has been limited. Basically, the only thing anybody cares to talk about are the reactions to unexpected President-elect Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton’s staggering loss.
Saturday Night Live, aware that at least half of the country is aggrieved after Trump’s stunning election win, and that just as many (if not more) are mourning the recent death of Leonard Cohen, chose a rather somber opening for last night’s show. The cold open featured Kate McKinnon in full Hillary Clinton garb, sitting at a piano and performing a cover of the late Cohen’s beloved song, “Hallelujah.”
The performance is moving — whether you frame it within the context of Clinton’s loss or not. And for many viewers, the uncharacteristically serious performance was cathartic, and an accurate reflection of the heartbreak that many voters are experiencing.
However, many viewers were not on board with SNL‘s emotional response to the election results, and felt like it was hypocritical for the show to not take some responsibility for making Trump more likable in the public eye, particularly when they had him on as a host during the Republican primary.
Cosmopolitan‘s Laura Beck says that she believes the cold open was, essentially too little, too late. “This is an empty gesture — and, frankly, hypocritical horse shit,” she writes. “SNL has repeatedly made light of Donald Trump’s myriad terrifying ideas and actions, and even had him on to host the show last year, normalizing his behavior to their millions of viewers. Sorry, but you don’t get to help elect a pile of trash and then cry because your house smells like garbage.”
SNL featured skits throughout the election season which essentially presented both Clinton and Trump as equally flawed, and were quick to dismiss Trump’s racist, sexist, and misogynist remarks as harmless — moves which, in retrospect, seem especially careless. In the last episode before the election, the show even depicted Trump and Clinton holding hands and becoming friends.
However, criticizing the show for their “Hallelujah” cold open might be a tad harsh. SNL is one of the oldest comedic institutions around, and they earned their position in network history by appealing to as many viewers as possible. It might be a little unfair to expect them to publicly take a partisan stance, especially when they would stand to lose a significant number of viewers as a result.
But, at the same time: is it worth maintaining middle America viewership at the risk of simultaneously alienating sexual assault survivors, minorities and members of the LGBTQ community?
I’m not Lorne Michaels, so I can’t answer that.
But, regardless of whether the song enrages you or brings you comfort, at least we can all come together to agree on one thing: damn, Kate McKinnon’s got a nice singing voice!