Bad in every way that bad can be, beginning with the fact that “Fatal Attraction” parodies have been stale since before I was old enough to drive.
The sexism is obvious enough. They took the president’s most prominent woman advisor and spokesman, who conducts herself in interviews professionally (if not always ethically), and turned her into a leering sexpot with a screw loose who can’t bear to lose the interest of a male reporter and his audience. The joke is that the ubiquitous Conway could never tolerate being deprived of airtime, which is what allegedly happened last Sunday when CNN rejected her for Tapper’s show due to “serious questions about her credibility.” But that’s another way in which the sketch is bad. It gets Conway’s motives all wrong. She does a lot of TV, I’ve always thought, not because she craves exposure for its own sake but because she knows it’s the best way to impress her boss, which may lead to more important roles for her away from the camera. Politico has a story about that out just this morning, in fact:
[W]hile critics may squawk, what matters most to Conway is that Trump sees her defending him on national television.
For Conway, the prize for loyalty is eventually landing a spot as chief of staff, becoming the first woman ever to hold the role and cementing her spot at the center of Trump’s inner circle…
Had she wanted it, Conway could have a more defined role already. Trump favored Conway for press secretary over Sean Spicer, the long-time aide to Reince Priebus who currently holds the position. But Conway says she turned down the job because she wanted a role in setting policy, not just communicating it.
It’s been reported before that Trump wanted to name Conway press secretary and that she passed, something completely incongruous with the spotlight-hungry caricature of her in the SNL clip. If SNL wanted to pick some low-hanging fruit in goofing on her this week, they had two easy options available in her “Bowling Green massacre” snafu and her bizarre on-air endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s product line (which earned her a scolding from Ivanka herself, if you believe Politico). They could have written an interview between her and Tapper in which she begins referencing increasingly absurd imaginary terror attacks, or they could have written fake commercials to scatter throughout last night’s show in which Conway interrupts important interviews or news briefings to plug Trump products. Both of those jokes are really obvious concept-wise — they did do the “Ivanka commercial” idea, in fact, by adding it to a skit about Sean Spicer — but at least they’d be somewhere close to the mark as satire.
The odd thing is, SNL has done clever satire of Conway before. One of their best skits of the presidential campaign was “Kellyanne Conway’s Day Off,” in which a beleaguered Conway is forced to interrupt a vacation day repeatedly to do damage control on CNN because candidate Trump can’t go two hours without saying something stupid, offensive, or patently untrue. That skit worked because it captured her actual role within the campaign — the smooth, unflappable spin doctor stuck with a wildly undisciplined candidate and forced to clean up ever more absurd messes. That could have made for some funny turnabout last night in the hands of a smart comedy writer: The irony of Conway’s Bowling Green and Ivanka miscues is that suddenly she’s the one making messes while Trump is busy trying to stay on message about his travel ban. Instead they phoned it in with a bit about Conway threatening Tapper with a knife because he took her camera time away. As you watch, compare the skit below with the actual confrontation between Tapper and Conway on CNN this week, in which she was cool, conciliatory, and slippery as ever. (Tapper was the one who was agitated at times in his frustration at the White House demagoging the media.) If you want to parody her effectively, goofing on her slipperiness and unflappability no matter how ridiculous the circumstances is obviously a better play than this sort of smear. Better luck next time.