I was offended by Saturday Night Live’s decision to portray Governor David Paterson as inept because of his visual impairment. While elected officials are certainly fair game for comedy routines, SNL opted for cheap, grade-school style mockery over the clever commentary and creative spoofs it has often used to great effect in the past. Sadly, the SNL skit perpetuates the ridiculous stereotype that blind people are incompetent and unaware of their surroundings. In Paterson’s case, as in many others, the exact opposite is true.
The irony is that David Paterson is widely respected for his deep experience in government and his calming presence when he took over the governorship under challenging circumstances. In sharp contrast to the SNL caricature, Governor Paterson impresses nearly everyone he meets with his uncanny ability to read a room or evaluate a situation. He has an incredible memory, an engaging persona, and a tremendous knowledge of how government works. Even those who disagree with particular policy proposals would not question Paterson’s ability to serve as governor of New York State.
Comic impersonations work when they exaggerate something about someone that is inherently and evidently true. In the case of David Paterson, SNL manufactured a trait that did not exist, dusting off a tired, old stereotype, and gave license to anyone who would like to continue believing, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that people with visual and other disabilities cannot handle complex jobs. Fred Armisen and the cast of SNL are wildly talented; it is too bad that their talents were not put to better use in this instance.
Mark S. Weprin
Member of Assembly
24th Assembly District