STORY BY CLARE VANECHAUTE
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
Shows like Saturday Night Live and popular TV hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and Steven Colbert have a history of bringing to light the political climate and happenings, as well as hosting those politicians who are in the limelight.
As the primaries continue to heat up in the race to get party nominations, candidates are relying on these platforms to connect to the public.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, specifically, are using shows of this nature to meet their targetted agendas. Both have years of being in the public eye and subsequent public opinion to combat as they attempt to create a fresh image to win their party’s nomination.
Most recently, Clinton, playing an everyday bartender named Val, appeared in a light-hearted SNL skit alongside actress Kate McKinnon, who played Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I enjoyed it,” said Aaron Menick, a junior Environmental Science major. “But, I was wondering the whole time who wrote it and how much influence Clinton’s team had on the script.”
Strategic Political Communication professor Jennifer Glover Konfrst has a sharp, analytical view of the recent trend for candidates to appear on sit-down talk shows like Jimmy Fallon and on SNL.
“It can hurt. And it can help,” she paused. “Ish,” she added. “I don’t think it’s going to be a game changer.”
Trump has been all over the news for his brash comments and the major waves he is making in the political world.
“I still don’t really know what to make of Trump as a celebrity trying to be a politician,” said Amy Sands, a senior BCMB major. “I can’t believe he’s actually running and that he’s still polling as high as he is.”
His high polls may be a result of his appearances on Colbert and Fallon, where a different side of Trump comes out. These two versions of Trump may not seem to add up, but according to Konfrst, they are a strategic part of his campaign.
“Debate stages by design are confrontation, while a Colbert interview is conversational,” Konfrst said.
She argues that if Trump were to approach an intimate sit-down interview with the same tactic as he would a debate setting, he would not get the desired reaction.
“He’s introducing himself to a whole new audience,” Konfrst said.
While Trump is a celebrity who is battling to distinguish himself as a legitimate politician, Hillary holds a much different set of established public opinion to overcome.
“She is trying to appear as human as possible, as celebrity as possible,” Konfrst said.
SNL has parodied Clinton for years, notably including the 2008 opener with Tiny Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary. Comparing the two reveals a major shift from this recent portrayal on SNL and her accompanying appearance.
“They skirted around the issues that people tease her about but they didn’t hit them,” Konfrst said.
In the Poehler/Fey parody, Poehler’s Clinton is all but frothing at the mouth with desire for the presidency and rage against all those who stand in her way. While in the recent one, McKinnon’s Clinton is much more toned down, stating that she is first and foremost a grandmother and entrusted to protect the Earth.
Views on why Clinton appeared on SNL are split.
“I think that (Clinton) is doing things to appeal to a younger demographic,” said Sands.
Menick, however, believed her primary goal was to “use the platform to get some of her ideas out, to show where she stands on some issues.”
Konfrst believes that this move is significant for Clinton’s attempt to rework the public’s opinion of her.
“Its definitely a big part of America’s political socialization about her. Who is she? It adds to her story. Because it’s people who might not pay a lot of attention to anything else but are watching Saturday night,” Konfrst said.
If this was Clinton’s goal, it was achieved as far as Aaron Menick is concerned.
“It does remind me that she is a human being,” Menick said.
Whether it is appearing on Jimmy Fallon or on SNL, it seems this season’s political candidates are using these shows to gain traction in their campaigns, and in Trump and Clinton’s case, to rework their public image.
“Any publicity for them is good,” Menick said. “But I think it helps to see them in different environments.”