[CN: Intersectional classism and sexism]
So Will Ferrell closed the Emmys Saturday night in a truly amazing way. And when I say "amazing," unfortunately I do not mean "an amazingly witty and satiric act." I mean "an amazingly shitty snicker-fest at the lives of people less privileged than Will Ferrell":
You stay classy, Will Ferrell. The funnyman -- and dad of three! -- took to the stage to close out the Emmys on Sunday, Sept. 22, and brought out the biggest laughs of the night from the audience by trekking onstage in nothing but an old T-shirt, shorts and sandals.
"It is indeed an honor to be presenting the last two awards of the evening: best comedy series and best drama series," he began his speech as his three sons with wife Viveca Paulin -- Magnus, 9, Mattias, 6, and Axel, 3 -- stood by dad in soccer uniforms and sneakers...
Ferrell, 46, jokingly explained that Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith had dropped out of their presenting duties "literally 45 minutes ago" and the actor had to bring the kids along because he "couldn't find child care, OK?"
"We had a soccer game, there was a neighbor's birthday party, a nut allergy," he listed off. "I didn't have time to do my hair! It doesn't matter, it's great to be here."
Wow, that is certainly a hilarious routine, Mr. Ferrell! No doubt based on the many times you have been afraid for your job because you couldn't get child care! Because you knew that if you showed up less-than-perfectly groomed, your boss might chide you for being "unprofessional"! Because even if you can bring your kids to work, you know that you'll be judged "unfocused" for it! And if you're super-duper lucky, you'll be the subject of pitying/disapproving remarks about how you really shouldn't have even had those children if you can't magically provide for them without it interfering with your availability to work! How irresponsible of you.
Oh, no, WAIT. Your routine is definitely not based on those experiences. Because you are pretty completely insulated from them based on your class and gender! HOW NEAT FOR YOU!
Honestly, I can think of about a million ways for Ferrell to do his patented "I fuck up in increasingly exaggerated ways" routine without inviting his audience to laugh at the (mostly female) working people who have to bring their kids to work. The people who might lose their jobs over this. It's particularly gross because Ferrell's usual punchline is the bumbling incompetence of whatever character he's playing. But the perception of incompetence isn't funny for women who know that they are granted far less freedom to fail than their male peers. Those woman understand that bringing children to work will heighten the perception that they are less smart, less capable. Childcare is work that women are supposed to do effortlessly and invisibly; should the kids have the audacity to behave like....well, kids... then the woman has failed in that "simple" task.
Let me be clear: if people who actually have the experiences Ferrell mimicked were able to identify with him, and laugh along with this routine, then GREAT. The fact remains that there was huge privilege gulf separating Ferrell from the subjects of his comedy, and his routine showed no awareness of that. As Liss said to me in a private communication (shared with her permission):
And of course the audience, none of whom themselves want for childcare, roared with laughter. Which is to say nothing of an audience of people in hugely expensive and often borrowed clothes selected by people who get paid to dress them laughing at the idea of not having "the right" hair and wardrobe for a professional event, when not being able to afford professional clothes and styling for interviews is a Real Thing in the World. Especially for abused women who seek refuge in shelters with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Yes. Appropriating the economic anxieties of working women as TEH FUNNY to further your own profitable and secure career? That is some real French Revolution shit right there.