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Why Tina Fey’s ‘Weekend Update’ Cake-Eating Stunt Sends a Mixed Message of Inaction and Privilege

The “SNL” alum also took shots at white supremacists, Trump, Ann Coulter, Paul Ryan, and even Thomas Jefferson.

Tina Fey, "Weekend Update"

Tina Fey, “Weekend Update”

NBC

Three “Saturday Night Live” alums returned to the “Weekend Update” desk for NBC’s special summer edition of the show on Thursday night, but it was Tina Fey who stole the show with her rant/performance art.

The proud University of Virginia grad wore a UVA sweatshirt to reveal just how shaken she was about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in the murder of a counter-protestor. “It broke my heart to see these evil forces descend upon Charlottesville,” she said. “Donny John comes out and he says that he condemns violence ‘on many sides.”… I’m feeling sick because I’ve seen ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and I wasn’t confused by it…Nazis are always bad.”

Riffing on how blame is almost always shifted away from what’s being critiqued and back onto either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, Fey pointed out, “Who drove the car into the crowd? Hillary’s emails?”

Throughout her nearly seven-minute rant, she addressed the various hypocrisies and outright racism demonstrated in the country that included Trump, Standing Rock, Thomas Jefferson, calling Ann Coulter a “yard sale Barbie,” and pointing out Paul Ryan’s inability to properly use Twitter (ironic since Fey doesn’t have a Twitter account herself).

During this whole spiel, she dug into a sheet cake decorated with the American flag to demonstrate her version of a grassroots movement: “sheet-caking.”

“I don’t want any more good people to get hurt and I know a lot of us are feeling anxious and we’re asking ourselves, ‘What can I do? I’m just one person. What can I do?’ Fey said. “I would urge people this Saturday, instead of participating in the screaming matches and potential violence, find a local business you support: Maybe a Jewish-run bakery or an African American-run bakery. Order a cake with the American flag on it like this one and just eat it.”

At the end, she wrapped up her tirade with, “In conclusion, I really want to say, to encourage all good sane Americans to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads; Don’t show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air.”

Watch the full segment below:

Fey used the action of shoveling the pastry into her mouth to reflect her own and America’s mounting anxiety, fear and frustration with each day’s reports or the latest tweets by the President. For many, it was a hilarious and cathartic act that gave voice to much of what they were feeling. Many took to Twitter to proclaim her a “national treasure” or their “spirit animal.” Even Lady Gaga got in on the action:

While it’s safe to say that the alt-right and Trump probably didn’t appreciate Fey’s stunt, a good chunk of liberals did not either. What it came down to the most for this divide was race. Those who appreciated Fey’s comments the most tended to be  white. Daily Beast and GQ Magazine writer Ira Madison III noted:

Fey’s bashing of Trump and his most racist followers were not the biggest takeaways from her monologue though when it came to some people of color. While she couched the cake-eating as a way to relieve stress and stay safe from possible attacks at rallies, it also read as inaction and acceptance of status-quo racism.

This reveals the double-edged sword of speaking out politically for actors and comedians, who are giving a voice to the feelings of many Americans, but may not be any more clued in on intersectionality, especially when it’s other people’s rights and safety are at stake.

Fey encouraging staying home was motivated by saving lives, which is a commendable message that has gotten lost in the furor. But advocating no sort of action, no sort of protest at all — even for the sake of satire — felt like a letdown for many with their eyes trained on her. Fey is not a political activist, but a satirist, as many have pointed out. Speaking out, however, does put her in the spotlight and that has in turn drawn criticism. This is yet another example of how the country is divided even among those who are supposedly on the same side.

“Weekend Update” airs more episodes this summer on Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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