The 'SNL' effect

March 13, 2008
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Much is being made about the impact of “Saturday Night Live” on the presidential election. For the latest New York Times story, click here

According to the argument, the way “SNL” characterize the candidates is the way the public will perceive them from that point on. Think of the robotic Al Gore, the “strategery” of George W. Bush, the bumbling Gerald Ford and, now, the media-loved Barack Obama.

The implication: A group of humorists can sway an election with a few comedy sketches.

Weigh in on that … or consider a bigger question: If our voting can be influenced by “SNL,” doesn’t it follow that other aspects of our behavior are influenced by what we see on TV? If we believe that voters will be affected by what “SNL” presents, doesn’t that imply that violence and sexuality on TV or in video games have an effect on our actions?

Your thoughts?
  • I'd like to dismiss this out of hand as preposterous . . . then again, plenty of people admit to getting their news from The Daily Show. (I'd argue that one could actually do much worse.) But still, SNL's been out of the game for a long time in this election cycle because of the writers' strike. Hopefully most folks will already have formed some kind of opinion of the candidates by now. If you're only now starting to pay attention to the campaign, and don't have any prior impression of these people who have been all over the media for months, maybe you deserve to have your opinion influenced by actors playing broad parodies of the candidates.
  • perception is reality and SNL paces peoples perceptions.
  • I think the SNL stuff is worth millions in free advertisement for their preferred candidate. This season itheir candidate is Hillary. Not only did they harp on a media bias but they also characterize Barack as being an empty headed child. He can only stare at the camera in the first few skits... last week he was in a childish panic. That may be SOME people's impression of him, but SNL makes those images stick. At some point, people begin to adopt the characterizations as their own impression. Again, that is the equivalent and the objective of all the political advertising by the candidates. Because it comes from an impartial 3rd party, it is easier for people to accept and adopt. I'm not sure who or which ones of their staff members are the Hillary supporters... or if it is that they are in the state she represents, NY. But, it is clear they (as a show) are supporting her. Yes, it does have a huge impact on the election. I believe it definitely swayed voters prior to the mini-Super Tuesday.
  • Art imitates life and it has done so pretty acurately here. Obama has been treated like a golden boy by the news media for months. Glad to see someone is bringing balance and a bit of reality to this contest.
  • I know this goes down a slippery slope when you debate politics as clearly biases for candidates come into play. But here goes...

    Yes, I do think the media has been less tough on Obama than Hillary. I would also say that is due to her front-runner status, which she enjoyed as a former first lady. She later became senator, but again, I believe her name helped her get there. It doesn't mean she's not a good senator or can not do a good job. I don't know seriously the media took Obama's candidacy (as a serious contender). How much media scrutiny did Mike Huckabee get? Romney and McCain have been vetted in the campaign because they had both been front-runners.

    It IS amazing how much the media does form our perceptions of people. It has been hotly debated regarding coverage of crimes on our local news, for years. For those that spew the cliche that art imitates life, art also distorts and underlines prejudices. Through the '80's there were accurate protests and complaints about the media's portrayal of minorities on TV (dramas, sitcoms, etc.). That has changed over the last 20 years... finally. The media is very powerful... whether intentionally or not.

    Are they bringing balance? I don't know. I can only observe that they are being more critical of Obama. Does that mean it's balanced or does that just mean they are being critical? Some of it will be unfair and inappropriate. Where do you draw the line? What's balanced? When your candidate is being criticized, then it is unfair. When it is the other candidate, then it is being balanced. Ironically, we say the same thing about media coverage of sports teams. Many swore the national broadcasts of Pacers vs. Knicks playoff games was biased towards the Knicks because of the announcer saying YES when the Knicks made a play. Does politics imitate sports?!! I think we all want to like our candidate/team and we don't like it when others disagree with us. Even uncommitted voters (or impartial sports fans) are in fact partial. They become decided when something confirms their hidden beliefs. THAT is the concern both campaigns must feel. If you're on the Obama side, you don't want race to be a negative factor in the campaign. If you're on the Clinton side, you don't want past Clinton indescretions and her (rhymes with itchy) perception to be a factor.
  • I've said before that I am much more concerned with depictions of violence than depictions of sex in terms of entertainment. To me, violence is much more of a problem in today's society.

    I think SNL is just entertainment but people are clearly influenced by what they see. It might not make them into serial killers but it will and does set new paradigms for what is accessible. It is not news that a politician receives favorable treatment when they appear on a program. Plus she is a NY'er.

    I think the article is clear in showing the connection between the skit and recent results and trends. Good for her. At least the skit did not insult my intelligence.

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