SNL Writer's Social Media Beef Exposes Hard Hollywood Truths
Hollywood is hard to break into. It's even harder when there are people at the top who are watching you.
Social Media changed the way we view Hollywood. For many of us, it gave us an inside look at the day to day lives of countless writers, directors, producers, and actors. It also opened up a direct line of questioning where we could get unfiltered answers.
And it let us shit on the things we didn't like. Throw tantrums when tentpoles didn't satisfy us, and bully creators whose ideas didn't sync with our own.
For every great thing Social Media seems to do, there is an ability to offset that thing with something awful.
Take the general idea of speaking out.
In the #MeToo era, Social Media is where a lot of victims find each other, organize, and stop abusive behavior. It's amazing to see that happening in real-time.
But aside from the necessary social action and awareness that Social Media has fostered, there's a darker side.
Backlash and bullying.
The internet, to quote The Social Network, is written in ink. So you should think carefully about what you say. Because if you have a problem with someone or something, and they see it, that problem might not go away...
And that's exactly what happened when Jack Allison tweeted his disapproval of a clause within the Saturday Night Live writers' packet that allowed them to view potential applicants' Social Media presence and take from anything they had written in the past.
While this seemed like an innocuous Tweet, it was soon the focus of an online feud between its author and its target: SNL writer and performer Michael Che.
Che took to Instagram to disparage Allison's remarks, saying that if you want a job on SNL, you probably should not crap on SNL publicly. While that might be common sense, Jack Allison thought that this practice of mining for jokes was terrible. So he said something.
He also called SNL the "worst show on TV."
What has followed has been a seemingly endless amount of trolling on Che's part. Here's how Allison describes the situation:
"There was the time we bickered about the function of the applause sign on SNL. There was the time he dunked on me for offering tuition-free slots in a class I was teaching. There was the time I posted about making Campbell’s tomato bisque wrong (I am not smart), and the next day Che spent the afternoon making fun of me for eating soup and saying that I must be “saving up for a gun.” He mocked a podcast I appeared on because the Patreon only costs $5 — between this and the large block text Instagram Stories, I’m forced to conclude that Michael Che is an early-onset Boomer. He spent the Friday afternoon before the David Harbour-hosted episode of SNL posting that I was “miserable” and also noting that I’d made a pie that afternoon, which to me just feels inherently contradictory."
Okay, that incessant trolling would drive me a little crazy too. Luckily for Allison, he's not trying to get a job in comedy. Because if he was and this came up when he was Google searched, it could be a problem.
You can read the whole account here. It takes you for a wild ride.
While Allison's career seems okay from what he's said about his goals and how this affected him, you have to wonder what was going on in Che's mind. Why did he think this was an okay thing to pursue?
Allison ends his piece with this notion:
"But there’s a flipside to this saga: If these comedians are so eager to stamp out criticism, they’re admitting that they’re paying attention. Ten years ago, there was no real way for someone like Che to seek out and reply to criticism like mine, which at the time might’ve run on my personal blog, with no organic way of reaching the outside world. Now, those walls have come down, which is why I can say the following words with full certainty that they’ll eventually find their way to its intended target: Michael, SNL still sucks, and you are weird for caring that I think it sucks. Once again, thanks for reading."
At this moment you might be on Jack Allison's side...
...But just last year he was guilty of MANY of the things he accuses Che of doing when he harassed and then blocked a female writer on Twitter for calmly suggesting he stop trashing other people's TV shows.
It got so bad lots of other people had to block him too...
Sometimes it's not about having a thick skin, it's about being a goddamn human being and knowing when to shut up.
Backlash in Hollywood is real.
Look at how many people are coming forward, showing how Harvey Weinstein attacked them over and over again. He was a monster and got away with it for decades.
I'm not comparing what Che or what Allison did to Weinstein, but it does feed into a bullying culture. There's certainly a network behind the scenes where people share experiences. Almost all my work can come from someone higher up, recommending me, and saying I did a good job.
That means when I see a movie I hate or watch a TV show I think stinks, I think twice about ripping it to shreds on Social Media, mostly because this is a small town and you never know when you're going to meet or work with the people behind it.
I also know the quality of the end product rarely has to do with the talent of the people involved.
It takes so much effort to make a TV show or a movie that having any of them be good is a miracle in and of itself.
I try to keep my comments on the quality of something to myself, mostly as learning experiences for what I try to do day in and out on the page. Still, when I see oppressive practices I also need to find the courage to speak out. I need to acknowledge my privilege within the industry. As a straight, white male, I am aware that I have it pretty easy inside the world. And a lot of my peers look like me. I also know that things get better every day for creators because people are speaking out.
So when it comes time to raise my voice, I think that's important too.
There's a humungous difference between saying a movie stinks and calling out an abusive practice that needs to be shut down.
So when we see bullying or punching down, everyone should feel safe enough to call that out.
It's how things get better.
The general moral here is, "You don't have to comment on everything you've seen," I know that in the real world, that's not possible anymore. And I don't want just to say "Treat each other better" because there's no plan of action there either.
There's some good news
We saw in the past year that when we rally around people dealing with these issues, things can get better. Harvey Weinstein is currently on trial, assistants all over are getting raises (hopefully more to come), and you have to hope that diversity will continue to be championed at every level.
Things are not as dire as they seem, and all of these changes only happened because of unified voices within the industry.
Oh, and because someone on the top heard the complaints of the lower-level people, listened, and enacted change.
The way Hollywood changes is from the top down. We need the people in power to lend an ear, even if it's uncomfortable.
We should talk about our sensitivity.
Creatives are notoriously sensitive people.
We clam up when we get notes, watch and read voraciously, and spend our days working to manipulate an audience into feeling the right emotions at the right time.
Social Media amplifies that to an eleven.
But I think we all need to acknowledge that speaking out against things is incredibly important. Because every time injustice is buried, so are the careers of so many vital voices who have never had the chance to shine.
Critique and criticism are fair play.
As long as you're not bullying, you should feel safe airing an opinion and letting your voice be heard.
If we're all a little more civil now, the future will be bright.
With that said... Have at me in the comments!