Last night at the Emmys, Sean Spicer did a “bit”. Rolling out on his podium in the spirit of Melissa McCarthy-as-Spicer, he proceeded to make fun of the lies he used to tell the American people on behalf of their President. He claimed it was going to be the biggest Emmys in the world, and blah, blah, blah, and he was shouting, and Melissa McCarthy looked like she wanted to walk into the sea. (See: the universal expression for, “What the fuck is happening right now?”)
But then something strange happened. Dude was applauded. Spicer was met with not just a shocked, but a warm reception, as notable allies (and grown-ass adults) laughed at his jokes and just, like, could not even believe that he was up there, poking fun at himself.
Which, I mean, neither could any of us. And while shock can do bananas-level things to people (see: some of us laugh when we’re scared), it is certainly not responsible for making you put your two hands together and clap, nor pose backstage with Sean Spicer (a la James Corden) like he’s pop culture’s new bestie. Laughter or even idiot-level grinning can be an effect of shock and disbelief, handing someone your phone to ensure you get a good photo is another. That — selfies, staged photos, warmth, friendliness — those are symptoms of either not caring about Sean Spicer’s previous role as the face of an administration built on lies and cruelty and hate and, and, and, or caring, but caring — just not enough to pass up the opportunity to hang with a guy McCarthy made tragically funny on SNL.
Because that’s the first thing: we laughed when Melissa McCarthy made fun of Spicer. We laughed at her interpretation of his bravado and his falsehoods and his complete disinterest in questioning authority. We laughed at her take on him. We were not laughing at him. He (Spicer) scared us. He was a fool, but also a willing participant in the Trump administration. And one so trusted — albeit briefly — that he was the mouthpiece. That’s some high-ranking shit. It’s not like he came in on weekends to water the plants, contracted by another company who just happened to service the foliage at the White House.
One is satire. The other is a grown-ass man who lied to the very citizens who clapped for him last night. And if you can’t tell the difference, that’s a conversation for another day.
What’s more, is that Spicer’s presence undermined last night’s historical, wonderful, diverse, and well-deserved wins: The Night Of’s Riz Ahmed, Atlanta’s Donald Glover, and Master of None’s Lena Waithe — (pictured at the top of this post with her co-writer Aziz Ansari) — all made history, and in addition to their wins, series like Big Little Lies (a show about domestic violence) and The Handmaid’s Tale (about a patriarchal dystopian future) cleaned up, too.
But how is any of it supposed to mean anything when the institution doling out the awards is also enlisting a man whose career took off when he aligned himself with a President who doesn’t care about people of colour, about women, about equality, about the LGTBQ community, about any religion outside the window of “Christian for the sake of it, I guess.” On the one hand, the Emmys are finally getting it right in terms of who they’re honouring with actual trophies. But on the other, the production chose cheap laughs over the fact that Spicer was complicit in relaying messages that fuelled racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynist causes.
Ultimately, the Emmys chose a gag over the well-being of its honourees and guests and viewers. And what’s worse? Enough of those guests laughed to make it quite clear that when it comes to allies and those who define themselves accordingly, some obviously aren’t very serious about that. The thing is, we all saw you. And now we see you. Let’s just hope no one brings Bannon out for an Oscar segment.