Saturday Night Live skit sparks discussion on how we handle controversial topics

Recently, Saturday Night Live performed a sketch about the scandal of Aziz Ansari’s alleged sexual misconduct. The show has never been afraid to discuss and poke fun at controversial issues, and this is no exception. The sketch depicts a group of couples eating dinner at a restaurant, and they are unable to discuss the controversial issues which were brought up by the Aziz Ansari situation. This particular sketch pokes fun at the idea that most Americans are unable to talk about controversial subjects for fear of offending one another.

This raises one major question: Why do we feel the need to disguise our beliefs when they go against what is socially accepted?

To refresh your memory, comedian Aziz Ansari, best known for his role as Tom Haverford in the show ‘Parks and Rec,’ went on a date with a woman, and after dinner, they both went back to his apartment. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.  Ansari and the woman were not on the same page, and the woman was uncomfortable with the situation. Rather than doing anything about it in the moment, the woman confronted Ansari the following day, to his surprise. Although she felt wronged, both parties say everything that happened was consensual, and, in the court of public opinion, the situation was judged to be a misunderstanding.

When an article from the New York Times about Ansari is brought up during the sketch, the conversation immediately becomes tense and none of the characters are comfortable sharing what they think about the article or the situation. The actors on set make this scene very funny, and the drama that is added when they can only utter a few words before panicking and having someone else talk is great, but that isn’t what happens in real life, is it?

No. What happens in this situation is almost worse.

First, most people try to avoid topics like the “Me Too” movement or even topics like abortion and transgender rights when they have viewpoints that are even slightly critical. Second, if someone is thrust into a conversation about one of these or any other controversial subject,   they must do one of two things: pull punches or lie. If they do not do one of these two things, they will be accosted, for any number of reasons, instead of being countered with logic.

Obviously, there are people who say horrible things just to get an emotional response, but that is not who I am talking about here. I am talking about someone who challenges an idea with another thought out idea. When we accost these people for thinking outside the box and challenging the norm, we get generations of people who refuse to think for themselves, fearing they will be shunned from their community if they do.

How do we fix this problem?

The answer is a multi-step process.

First, we have to listen. Not listen in order to form our next argument, listen in order to understand what the other party is actually saying and where that idea is stemming from.

After we listen, we must judge what was just said based on the logic of the statement rather than the emotions that it might have brought out in us.

Once the logic is understood and we have had a chance to set aside our emotions and weigh the idea against our own beliefs, we can respond with an equally well thought out statement of our own.

This is how we grow as people and as a society.

The sketch about Aziz Ansari, while funny, shows a portion of what is wrong with American society. While some people are afraid to voice their true opinion, it is mainly because they have experienced unwarranted backlash in the past and do not wish to feel that again. If we are able to set our emotions aside and let logical arguments preside in our discussions of controversial issues, we can use the experience to grow, rather than turn it into a meaningless, degrading situation for both parties.