Whether it’s Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin or Jason Sudeikis’ depiction of an out-of-touch Mitt Romney , “Saturday Night Live’s” parodies have been drawing viewer’s attention to current political issues for years.
President of the Penn State College Democrats Drew McGehrin said he recognizes the benefit of the show’s appeal to a wide-ranging audience.
“I think it succeeds in getting people aware of certain aspects of the candidate, which could, in turn, promote research of that particular candidate,” McGehrin (senior-religious studies and history) said.
But Chairman of the Penn State College Republicans Jordan Harris (senior-history) said he worries the show provides a one-sided view of the presidential candidates.
“The show has a heavy liberal lean,” Harris said. “They try to make fun of the other side sometimes, but it’s not very effective.”
Penn State communications professor Matthew McAllister said he approaches the issue from a different perspective. McAllister said he believes the show’s producers are simply concerned with boosting ratings, not pushing a political agenda.
“TV generally has a ratings bias,” McAllister said. “They go for the humor. Right now, the fact that Romney comes across as out of touch or stiff, that’s the easier joke than something about Obama .”
No matter the reasoning behind it, the sketches tend to present overly exaggerated versions of candidates, Harris said. He said these exaggerations do impact voter opinion.
“The satire becomes reality,” Harris said. “It becomes a definitive part of either side.”
Harris referenced a common misconception from the 2008 presidential election. Many people think Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house, when, in fact, Tina Fey was the one who actually said this , Harris said.
It becomes a serious problem when a portrayal on the show has that big of an impact on how people view a candidate, he said.
But McGehrin said he does not think the show has a significant impact on voter opinion.
“I like to think that people realize it’s an entertainment outlet, and they wouldn’t take it as a serious representation of each candidate and their stances,” McGehrin said
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with an individual to do further research and form educated political opinions, Harris said. He reminded students to take the show for what it is and nothing more.
“Take laughs,” Harris said. “Do not take political positions and ideology.”