In my opinion, very few television shows encapsulate American culture quite as well as Saturday Night Live (SNL). Thus, when I became aware of the assignment to find a youtube video that encapsulates American culture my mind jumped directly to SNL. Some critics of SNL claim that it can be problematic at times as it often makes light of serious issues and is partisan. However, I counter that there is a lot to be said about a show that gets a wide range of people to reflect on many of the issues that exist within American society through comedy- which has a universal appeal. I feel as though one thing SNL does exceptionally well is that it gets people- and, more specifically, white people- to reflect on race relations within the United States, and on the injustices, inequalities and inequities that Black Americans face.
The skit that I chose for next class is representative of the latter, and is entitled “Black Jeopardy with Chadwick Boseman.” In the skit “Black Jeopardy with Chadwick Boseman” three characters Shanice (Leslie Jones), Rashad (Chris Redd) and T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) compete on a game show entitled Black Jeopardy, which is hosted by Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson). Shanice and Rashad are presumably Black Americans, while T’Challa is from the African nation of Wakanda. I chose this skit because I feel as though it is a good example of how SNL skits often shine a light on pertinent issues regarding race relations, such as the systematic oppression and unjust treatment people of color face within American society (especially at the hands of the police force and criminal justice system).
Another reason why I chose this skit is because it features Chadwick Brosnan, who appears as his Black Panther character T’Challa in the skit. Brosnan portraying his Black Panther character brings an interesting component to the skit- as- at the beginning of the skit- T’Challa is clearly not on the same page regarding race relations in America as his fellow contestants, who are Black Americans. For example, at the beginning of the skit, one of the Jeopardy questions is: “the policeman says there’s been some robberies in your neighborhood and asks if you have any information” to which T’Challa replies “not only do I tell this man what I know, but assist him in tracking down the offender.” T’Challa’s response is comedic as it accentuates just how naive his character- who is not American- is when it comes to his knowledge of race relations in the United States, and to the tensions that exist between Black Americans and the police force as a result of the many injustices that have been committed against the former by the latter.
Thus, I argue that SNL does not only encapsulate American culture, but that it gets audience members to acknowledge the multitude of racial injustices, inequalities, and inequities that exist within our culture- and- in doing so- to question what their role is in a system that is rooted in a racist history, and that continues to impede people of color in a vicious, cyclic nature to this day. I also assert that- in doing so- SNL brings us one step closer to a society where white people refuse to turn a blind eye to race and to the ways in which our racist history as Americans carries over to the modern day systems we partake in.
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzMzFGgmQOc