Sunday, December 14, 2008

SNL's portrayal of Gov. Paterson comedy or cruelty?

I know that NY Gov. David Paterson, who is legally blind, has to take whatever is dished out by comedy shows because he is a politician in the public eye. But "Saturday Night Live's" parody of him in its Dec. 13 Weekend Update segment made fun of his blindness, not his policies or behavior as a politician, in my opinion.

I am all for comedy, parody and skewering incompetent politicians, but as a daily NY Times reader, I have not seen stories about Gov. Paterson not being able to do his job because of his blindness, his inexperience, or even his admitted drug use years ago. The skit made it seem like Paterson is a buffoon blind man who does drugs and has affairs. The skit painted Paterson with a kind of Blagojevich brush, which I personally think he doesn't deserve.

The skit got loud laughter from the studio audience, who seemed pleased to be able to laugh at Gov. Paterson's blindness. During and after the skit, Gov. Paterson, played by Fred Armisen, wandered in and out of shots and toward the camera. And Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers talked to him like a child, trying to direct him out of the shot.

It made for cheap laughs to guffaw at a blind man wandering about. Please, if you want to attack Gov. Paterson, stick to his policies, his rhetoric or gubernatorial behavior, not his blindness. His blindness is something he can't change, just like his race or gender, and I doubt SNL would try to get laughs with racist jokes. And their jokes at the expense of Paterson's blindness are ableist jokes, which are just as inappropriate toward the disability community as racist jokes directed at the African American community are.

You can see the clip of Gov. Paterson skit on The Huffington Post Web site.