If you saw the Jim Carrey/Iggy Azalea episode of “Saturday Night Live,” you saw the Halloween sketch in which Carrey and Kate McKinnon parodied Sia’s “Chandelier” music video which features an intricate contemporary modern dance routine. Don’t get me wrong: Their performances were great, but my favorite part of the sketch happened before those two even showed up on stage, when Vanessa Bayer’s character is trying to figure out what her coworkers’ costumes are supposed to be.
We’d all love to think that we don’t treat people differently based on their race, or gender, or body shape, or whatever — but the unfortunate truth is that we all do it a little bit sometimes. Halloween is supposed to be a time when we can all dress up as other people, characters, objects, and/or really bad puns.
The beginning of this sketch really shows how, even when it comes to Halloween — or any costumed event (shoutout to Comic Con and Purim!) — things like race, gender, age, and/or body shape become the things that we have trouble letting people shed even though they’re pretending to be someone or something else.
**JUST TO BE CLEAR: I think this sketch is fantastic. It is not offensive. It does not make fun of stereotypes, it makes fun of people who stereotype other people. In the comedy world that’s called “punching up.” **
So what did I mean by that? In this sketch, Bayer’s character isn’t a cartoonishly evil racist or maliciously fatphobic. She doesn’t intend to offend anyone. But she does make some accidentally offensive assumptions about her coworkers’ costumes. First Bayer assumes that Sasheer Zamata is dressed as Rihanna or Beyoncé because she’s wearing a long sparkly dress and long blonde wig, but more significantly because she’s black. Aidy Bryant is assumed to be dressed as a meatball or a marble — not because she’s wearing a meatball or marble costume, but because she happens to be wearing a red dress, and more significantly, because she’s fat.