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December 5, 2010

SNL’s “Cold Opening” Goes Wild on Hillary’s “Private Parts”

Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live seems to think that a pixilated crotch shot of the U.S. Secretary of State is a good metaphor for the State Department’s “overexposure” in the WikiLeaks controversy. Riffing on a parody of the paparazzi tabloid show TMZ, Saturday’s SNL cold open lumped Hillary Clinton in with the likes of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and other second-rate celebs who have famously been caught going commando.

Sadly, it’s no surprise that the “commando” joke was humorously paired with this one-time Commander-in-Chief  hopeful. During the 2008 presidential primary campaign, Clinton’s “ladyparts” were invoked by GOP strategist Roger Stone, who created  a very real 527 organization called “Citizens United Not Timid: a 527 Organization To Educate The American Public About What Hillary Clinton Really Is.” In case voters missed the less than subtle implication suggested by Stone’s slogan, the organization’s acronym was helpfully bolded in this image, plastered on t-shirts and websites:

It’s not just conservative zealots and late-night humorists who revel in conflating the Clinton persona with a word like “cunt.” This image went viral during the 2008 campaign:

In addition to revealing (pardon the pun) the coarsening of American political culture, images like these suggest the challenge that female political leaders continue to face. Certainly, the “private parts” of male politicians have served as punch lines for late night comedians, but those jokes typically lampoon something that the male politician did. These jokes about Hillary Clinton make fun of something that she is—her very nature as a female triggers depictions of her personal and political vulnerability. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that even before the most recent WikiLeaks dump, Clinton announced her intention to step down as Secretary of State after the conclusion of Obama’s first presidential term, citing the effects the grueling pace of the position has had on her health.

That’s not soon enough for some Clinton critics. WikiLeaks founder (and international man of mystery) Julian Assange told Time magazine that Clinton “should resign” in the wake of the WikiLeaks revelations—that charge came after Time managing editor Richard Stengel observed that Clinton was beginning to look “like the fall guy” in this controversy. Make that “fall gal” because although Clinton’s gender is certainly not the only hurdle she’s had to (repeatedly) clear on her journey from the Arkansas governor’s mansion to the U.S. State Department, it’s certainly a persistent one. I doubt that U.S. political culture would have as much tolerance for, say, repeated jokes directed at President Obama that invoked crude stereotypes of African American male endowment. It was tough for me just to write that sentence! And yet, with last night’s episode of SNL, invocations of Clinton’s “c***” have entered the mainstream of U.S. political culture.

It’s time for critics and citizens to call out examples like these and subject the misogyny that we (all too often) tolerate or ignore to some overexposure of its own.

SNL Assange, TMZ, Hillary Clinton opening video.

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