Forty years into its run, Saturday Night Live is like an old tiger at the zoo: A fierce creature reduced to tame lethargy by a steady stream of attention, captivity, and surreptitiously thrown hot dogs. But as it turns out, there are still a few special souls in America capable of being driven to ire by the show’s tired pokes at hot-button topics, getting their dander sufficiently up to tell the government about what Lorne Michaels and his associates are doing to tarnish this once-great country called America. Those brave folks are the focus of a recent article in The Atlantic, in which author Adrienne LaFrance picked through the hundred or so complaints the FCC has had lodged against the show since 2012 to see if any patterns emerged. (The Commission purges complaints after three years, presumably throwing them into Washington D.C.’s whining-powered electric generator to keep the lights on at the Smithsonian.)
Most of the complainants self-identified as white and Christian, which might explain why so many of them lodged protests against “DJesus Uncrossed,” a Django Unchained parody that managed to take a few lethargic but effective swings at Quentin Tarantino’s recent reinvention as the cinematic avenger of history’s greatest crimes. (It also featured Jesus Christ blowing holes in people with machine guns, as inoffensive an image as one might hope to see on network TV.) More than one commenter pointed out Saturday Night Live’s deep hypocrisy in only mocking the dominant religion of the country it’s produced in, asking, “Would NBC dare create a similar video of the prophet Mohammed?” Their considered conclusion, arrived at after long hours of theosophic study: “Likely not.”
In a similar bout of Django-spawned outrage, several people took issue with Jamie Foxx’s December 8, 2012 monologue, in which the actor gleefully talked about killing “all the white people in the movie.” Some viewers, presumably unaware that they were tuning into a late-night comedy program upon which a black man once sang a happy song about killing all the whiteys he sees, were very upset by Foxx’s “racist rant,” saying, “This has me very concerned for my safety and many others.” One can only assume the authors then descended back into their anti-black-actor bunkers, watching every shadow for signs that Jamie Foxx might soon emerge and beat them to death with his Oscar.
But the most persistent target of complaints, it seems, was perennial FCC nemesis Justin Timberlake, whose propensity for catchy rhythms, charming dance movies, and aggressive nipple-revealing have long made him the Commission’s white whale. Commenting on the digital short for The Lonely Island’s “Dick In A Box,” co-starring Timberlake, one writer utilized the tried-and-true “basic description” form of complaint: “It was the Christmas show suggesting that men should give women their penis in a box as a present.” Another pointed out that this isn’t the first time Timberlake has strayed from the righteous path, saying, “It was not funny and it was beyond vulgar. The segment even includes Justin Timberlake whom was involved in the Janet Jackson superbowl stunt.”
One complainant took extended umbrage with another JT performance, saying of an episode where the “Suit & Tie” singer served as the musical guest:
Last night’s airing of Saturday Night Live … was the most filthy, obscene and objectionable program I believe I have ever seen in my life. For a 69-year-old, who has seen a lot on broadcast and cable TV, that is saying a lot … Overtly smutty skits and songs … I found it necessary after a very short while to tune out and switch to PBS, where our still civilized British cousins provide decent and enjoyable programming.
(It’s true. No one at Downton Abbey would give such a ribald gift on Christmas, instead saving it for the more traditional Dick-In-A-Boxing Day.)
Other subjects of complaint: Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle character and his “several vulgar and inappropriate statements regarding breasts,” the use of the phrase “son-of-a-bitch,” which shows “that we are allowing our culture to devolve language that is not uplifting and only reduces the quality of communication,” and this description of the content of one episode, which is honestly funnier than most of the sketches the show has aired in the last few years: “Simply put, an actress portraying a porn star made a direct reference to manually stimulating a horse. The term ‘Jacked off a horse’ was used.” There’s no word yet on whether Michaels has moved to add the author of that last complaint to the show’s writing staff.