Did y’all catch Saturday Night Live last weekend? Single ladies who were out on the town – don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of Saturday nights to stay in and watch TV once you’re married. So, if you missed the show, here’s the scoop. The folks at SNL put together a parody commercial for “Xanax for gay summer weddings.”
The skit featured hapless straight people stressed out at the prospect of attending spectacular, over-the-top and “flawlessly executed” gay weddings. The solution, the commercial suggests, is popping a “Xanax for gay summer weddings.” As a newly married gay person and someone who writes about gay weddings, I perked up when the skit began.
The mock commercial shows two impeccably dressed gay men, played by Jason Sudeikis and Taran Killam, getting married with a gaggle of dapper groomsmen lined up on either side of them. The couple stands beneath a canopy surrounded by flowers and releases doves into the air at the end of their fake ceremony, and then a lavish wedding reception ensues. Meanwhile, their “anxiety-ridden” hetero guests divulge their fears about not measuring up to an impossibly stylish crowd of gays.
Bill Hader, as a nerdy straight dude with no rhythm says, “Usually at weddings, I’m the best dancer there. But at gay summer weddings, everyone knows a choreographed dance to a Beyonce song that hasn’t even been released yet.”
Cecily Strong, playing a straight girl expressing mock shame about her own ho-hum wedding, quips: “At my wedding, we gave guests Cheez-Its and a mini bottle of water. Keith and William gave us two tickets to Italy and $40,000.”
I was amused – until the last scene. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, dressed in dumpy pantsuits, portray a couple of lesbians quickly tying the knot in a park. No stunning flower arrangements, no beautifully decorated mile-high cake, no invitations bedazzled with ribbons, no doves, no choreographed dances – and certainly no stressed out straight people. Just two dykes and their pack of bulldogs (because, you know, all lesbians live in households where animals outnumber humans). A voiceover cuts in: “Xanax for gay summer weddings. Not necessary for lesbian summer weddings.”
As Seth Meyers asks in his “Weekend Update” sketches: Really?!? Really, Saturday Night Live? Really?!
Is anyone else sick and tired of being depicted in the media as unattractive and devoid of any style? How played out is the stereotype of the Birkenstock-wearing lesbian with a bad haircut and no makeup? Amirite?
I get that comedians have to paint with broad strokes and sometimes rely on cultural stereotypes to get a laugh. I am also not a humorless, man-hating feminist (that phase ended years ago). I don’t think the SNL skit was mean spirited. I’ll even say it was entertaining. But, I also won’t deny that skit was troubling because, just like in so many other media portrayals of “gayness” that have come before it, lesbians are misrepresented and/or ignored altogether.
Here’s the thing: Same-sex marriage is gaining more momentum every week (yeah Minnesota and Delaware!), and the reality is that both gay men and lesbians are hosting weddings of all of all kinds. Some of us have big budgets and know how to orchestrate memorable, over-the-top parties. Some of us prefer smaller, private ceremonies with some DIY decorations on the beach. Some of us don’t give a crap and we let our mother-in-law choose the menu. Just. Like. Straight. People.
Newsflash: Being a gay man does not mean you’re born with a gene that gives you good hair, chiseled abs, innate fashion sense and the ability to effortlessly coordinate lavish parties. I know I’m not the only one who’s ever suffered through an overcooked steak at the home of a gay man who didn’t give a damn about his wardrobe. They exist! And similarly, being a lesbian doesn’t mean you have no sense of style and no interest in throwing a beautiful wedding with all kinds of attention to detail. I know, because I’ve been to some pretty spectacular lesbian weddings – and I threw one of my own. Also, duh – Ellen and Portia. Custom-made Zac Posen duds and three-carat Neil Lane diamond rings just scream lack of style, don’t they?
My wedding budget was a smidge smaller than Ellen and Portia’s, but the shindig was pretty fabulous nonetheless. For my save the dates, I sent out miniature snow globes with a picture of the Chicago skyline inside to get my guests excited for my winter wedding. I hand tied lace ribbon around my invitations, which were printed on the most beautiful textured ivory paper. My wife paid a pretty penny for a custom tuxedo and I dropped about $400 on designer shoes.
Take that, SNL.
It’s the same old story, really. Think about how the gay community has inched its way into acceptance over the last couple of decades. All you had to do to be tolerated, and later embraced, by the heterosexual majority was be a trendy, urban, wealthy gay man with a knack for interior decorating, pastry making or hair styling. Bonus points if you were in the market for a ditzy fag hag who could rely on you to be the man in her life in between boyfriends. I’m looking at you, Will and Grace. Ditto for Charlotte York and Anthony Marentino on Sex and the City. Carrie Bradshaw and her gay sidekick, Stanford Blatch, had at least a little bit of depth and nuance that deviated from the stylish gay man/clueless straight gal stereotypes.
Translation: It’s a-OK to be gay as long as you have something to offer the straight people in your life, as long as your identity exists solely in relation to theirs. And now that marriage equality seems like it is a real and imminent possibility, the message we’re being sent (by SNL and others) is that a gay wedding means a comically over-the-top, color-coordinated three-ring circus thrown, of course, by gay men so stylish they strike fear in straight people.
Just like it was okay to be gay 20 years ago if you stuck to the script (fashionable, witty, well-groomed, excellent host – and male), now what I’m hearing is: “Alright, we’ll let you have your silly little gay weddings as long as you amuse, dazzle and inspire us with your exquisite taste.”
All the while, lesbians remain nearly invisible in this whole charade. And when we are portrayed, it’s in a most flattering manner that relies on tired stereotypes – with precious few exceptions like Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy.
I’m glad gay marriage has become a big part of our cultural dialogue. And, I’m happy to see same-sex weddings being depicted on TV. I hardly think the good people at SNL are homophobes, but I do think they can do better. Because if the best way they can come up with to portray lesbians in 2013 looks like footage plucked out of 1982, that doesn’t feel like progress. It feels like a setback.
I’m a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic: SNL’s “Xanax for gay summer weddings” – hilarious or harmful? Discuss.