FEATURE: SASHEER ZAMATA
It was announced yesterday that Saturday Night Live has cast Sasheer Zamata as their newest players after criticism were made (from the show’s very own Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh) over the lack of diversity amongst its female cast after the departure of Maya Rudolph in 2007.
This decision, quite rightly, has not gone unnoticed. As Bim Adewunmi stated in The New Statesman, it seems a bizarre misstep to neglect the black female voice in a decade which hails Beyoncé and Rihanna as its Queen’s of Pop, Kerry Washington as a vital voice in drama and Michele Obama as literally the First Lady of America. How are we still talking about this? How is this STILL as issue?
Is it that there simply were no black women funny enough for the show year? A question which seems particularly poignant given that there were six new cast members initiated this year, giving producer Lorne Michaels plenty of opportunity to make a move. And if that is the case, has Zamata been hired for the wrong reasons entirely? To fill a unorthodox quota? Sadly, their attempts to level the playing field this late in the game are about as convincing as my Granddad pretending he’s cool with Gary marrying Phil from next door.
Regardless of the answer, it certainly puts Zamata in a very odd position – having to prove her worth, which comes to every newcomer, whilst also knowing her own necessity on the show.
It’s no secret that Saturday Night Live has always struggled to find a voice for its black cast members, with Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock both speaking out about their uneasy relationship with the show, but it seems unthinkable that it’s taken 7 years and a shit load of pressure to force this move. Instead of seeing talent which has clearly been out there for a long time, the show has instead appeared to publically struggle. God, it’s such a bloody effort finding funny black women, am I right? Guys?!?
For a show to make national news over hiring a black woman is sad. To do it in an era where black women are at their most publically influential is baffling. So, instead of whole heartedly celebrating Zamata’s achievement, there is instead a sense of unfair belligerence or scepticism awaiting her arrival. Having to constantly defend your position as an example of meritocracy rather than racial convenience is no way to start your mainstream career.
Anyway, it so happens that Zamata is ruddy good and hopefully all this dodgy circumstance can be quickly forgotten, and instead be replaced with appreciation towards a person who can create something as clever and funny as this…