After titillating audiences with her salacious star turn in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Dakota Johnson doubled up with a second serving of controversy on “Saturday Night Live,” spoofing a car commercial where a dad drops off his daughter to enter the U.S. military. Instead of joining the Army as in the Toyota ad, the sultry starlet played a young woman ready to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Those offended by the “SNL” skit quickly blasted Johnson on social media, but they should get a grip. The sketch wasn’t offensive; it used humor to deal with the unexplainable, and it didn’t make fun of the real issues involved, so people need to chill.
It’s actually a positive and healthy way to digest an extremely bitter and toxic pill. How else is decent society to explain why any rational, sane person — with freewill — could choose to forgo their freedom and life in a democracy to go live in a cave somewhere under the cruel boot of ISIS?
Or maybe the sketch haters just didn’t get the joke? There are definitely topics people just shouldn’t joke about — rape, assault, slavery, the Holocaust are a few that come to mind — but a sendup of a stupid advertisement is not one of them. This is not the same situation as in shows like “Family Guy,” where jokes are often made strictly for shock value. It’s vitally important to carefully choose what to censor or what is offensive. Otherwise, any daring humor can be killed by the never-ending “I’m offended” game to no end. In this sense, it’s not about identity politics, but legitimate free-speech issues.
The sketch made fun of the absurdity of the decision to join the militant group, not the violence and hatred propagated and spread in the name of Islam. It also slyly spoofed the idea that the United States military is the best and safest option for a young person, which I applaud. It’s quite daring, given this country’s obsession with defending the military.
The entire subtext of the original Toyota commercial assaults us with the same old hogwash about how everything the ingénue will do in her entire military career is, and always will be, heroic. Reasonable people know that’s not true. There are heroes in the military, but simply joining is not heroic. Surely this is not a popular position, but whew, I’m glad to get that off my chest and will now just sit back and watch the hate roll in.
It was brave and audacious of “SNL” to make this sketch. Inserting humor into an unexplainable situation is comedy at its best — and what the show does well and has done well for the past 40 years.
Would I be proud of my son or daughter for joining the military? Sure. But here’s the more important question to answer: Would I rather they be getting ready for college or planning a career path where shooting at people or risking your life is not required? You better believe it.
I wonder if a similar sketch with a young person joining another militant group of a different religion or background would cause nearly as much controversy. Somehow, I think it would not.
In the skit, the ISIS militants are clearly crazed — they drove away shooting machine guns and screaming — and are not to be taken seriously, and neither should the sketch. After all, it was a satire.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.