What about Samantha Bee? The Lack of Feminist Coverage for “Full Frontal”

Hey, y’all. So, remember that story from a year ago or so when Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, and many, many people were outraged that Trevor Noah, the south African comedian, replaced Stewart’s seat instead of a woman? Remember the hashtags directed at Jessica Williams, then one of the long-standing Daily Show correspondents, to “lean in?” Remember the criticism of the Vanity Fair feature titled “Host-to-Host Sensation,” in which the featured photo provided nary a female host in sight?

Did you also know that there is a show called Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, another Daily Show alumn, during the late night hour on TBS?

If you said yes to all of these things, meaning you had both the knowledge of the response to an all-male late night lineup AND you knew about Bee’s show, then maybe you’re as confused as I am.

 

If you don’t know the story, Jon Stewart announced his retirement from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in August of 2015. After the fact, he announced that a new host would be chosen before his final show, and many people of the feminist origin were stoked. We all mourned the loss of Jon, but many a feminist, including myself, were excited about the possibility of a woman taking over the Daily Show. We had just lost Chelsea Handler, so we needed at least one woman to come forward and keep that passageway into late night open for other female comedians. When the news came out that the equally diverse and qualified Trevor Noah would be taking over, these same people (including me, won’t lie) were outraged. Once again, a woman had been passed over for a job in the late night realm. Like a weird, sad vampire novel, women would have to contend with the day but the men would claim the night as their own.

Some time after that, a new show premiered on TBS. Samantha Bee, expert Canadian and comedian, created her show Full Frontal in the style of the Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, and other political comedy late night TV shows. Again, I was super stoked. Finally, a woman in late night TV talking about politics and analyzing them in a comedic, fun fashion. By the way, this show is hilarious. Samantha Bee was never my favorite Daily Show correspondent (praise be Jessica Williams), but I always thought she was funny, and her show only proves how funny she really is. She tailored the show to her sense of humor, and she is the angry inner feminist that we all need. She rants in the most constructive way possible, and goddamn, I love a good rant (see clip below).

 

So, then, why is no one in the feminist community promoting her show? You would think that the same people bitter and angry over the Daily Show replacement would be promoting Bee’s show with all the passion and resources they have. But, no. There’s been nothing. I have yet to see a story about this in any of my social media feeds and even in activism news like Bitch or Jezebel. Okay, fine, there was some coverage. Laura Berger, a journalist of Ms. Magazine , did post one article about the replacement of the show, and Salon writer Steve Almond also wrote a thing specifically about how Samantha Bee should have replaced Jon Stewart. However, Almond wrote his article as a plea for Bee to host the Daily Show, ignoring the fact that Bee’s new show has already garnered success and a fan base.

So, what gives, people? You asked for a feminist, female comedian with a late night show, and you have received one. True, the ratio of male late night hosts to female late night hosts remains just as tragic as Congress’s ratio of male to female representatives, but this is our one shot. If this show gets cancelled, we will revert back to putting a “boys only” sign on the door of late night TV’s clubhouse. Not only that, the many nay-sayers of women’s equal opportunity in the TV industry will point to this one measly example of a failed show (it won’t fail because it kicks ass) and say, “See, we told you! Women just can’t compete,” undermining the integrity of the entire concept of women’s rights. So, why are you not promoting it? Why aren’t you even talking about it?

In response, many privileged, cis meninists will probably say something overdone such as, “That’s feminism. They just want to rant about injustice but not change anything because they realize there isn’t anything to change.” These would also be the same group of people making the comments about women’s fabled inability to compete in late night TV. In addition to this sad justification, they would proceed to tell me about white racism and how rape culture is a myth. If you couldn’t tell by the overwhelming levels of sarcasm, these types of responses are to be ignored at all costs.

It’s a serious question, though: why aren’t we talking about it? When I searched in the digital labyrinth known as Google, the focus remained more on the fascination with Bee’s distinction as the “only woman in late night tv.” But no one connected the dots between our outrage about this last year as compared to the general reaction to this current feat for women in political entertainment. More so, I’ve heard crickets from prominent feminist news outlets that were the same sources contributing to the collective outrage of Daily Show staff hiring Trevor Noah over a woman.

Because there’s not a lot of internet answers for this question, that means the story is open-ended. However, it wouldn’t be the internet if I didn’t throw my unqualified opinions into the mix of what this discrepancy means, so here it is:

I think people like to focus on what’s wrong instead of promoting what’s right, and I think variations of our current feminist movement have fallen into this trap.

I’m not saying this method of identifying flaws in networks of power and social structure is unimportant. In fact, it’s the first step, because how would you know something is wrong if you never question the flaws in how something is already done? But we seem to not move past this step. Instead of increasing this type of change through actively supporting this positive change, we prefer to write about what things are missing. The important thing is that this type of preference creates the discrepancy we’re noticing. You need to both identify the problem and then put action and support behind something that’s working. You can’t linger on the first step and assume the change will automatically happen because you called it out. Also, the reason this won’t work is because you need both actions to create real social change. It’s kind of like tweeting #BlackLivesMatter with a sepia-toned picture of your white self posing in the middle of some random field. You may have used the hashtag, but I doubt you’ll find an active way to support #BLM via reposting your “artsy” senior picture.

There may be other reasons for this discrepancy. Maybe Samantha Bee’s whiteness makes feminists of color feel even less represented, which is a legitimate concern. Maybe there are some serious fractures in the feminist movement that need to be reexamined, such as who decides what is or is not feminist? Or, maybe because TBS is not a favored network, people just don’t watch it. Since more youths watch TV on a computer instead of actual TV and this show is on cable, it may be possible that those who wrote about a lack of late night representation may just be unaware of this show. I don’t really believe that increased use of streaming services is the sole cause of this discrepancy, but these potential reasons may answer for a lack of views or general awareness of this program. In short, I am not certain why this discrepancy exists, but I know it exists. So, please, continue the conversation and ask yourselves what other factors may cause this discrepancy in supporting positive change.

And give Full Frontal a try! I promise, it’s worth your time and support.

 

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