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Elon Musk’s appearance on an unremarkable SNL episode was a masterfully orchestrated bit of cultural creation

  • "By being there at all, SNL and Musk both got to benefit from a cultural uproar, which is not all that hard to re-create — identify a high-profile cultural third rail and then announce that two weeks from now, you will be gripping it with both hands," says Kathryn VanArendonk. The really impressive part was the show itself. Musk’s SNL capitalized on all that cultural Sturm und Drang by proving SNL’s continued cultural cachet, but the show and Musk’s performance then neutralized all the sharp edges and potential criticisms his appearance had seemed to invite. At every moment when he could have come off as awkward or cruel or inhuman, the show humanized Musk instead. It preempted criticism, flattening legitimate concerns about Musk into small-scale social-media complaints and advertising for Musk’s business interests while also building in a prewritten shrug if they do not work. (The most direct and incredible of these came near the end, as a jokey sketch imagining a death on Musk’s future Mars colony ended with Musk saying, 'Well, I did say people were going to die,' and then walking away unbothered.) The initial goal of Musk’s hosting role on SNL may have been to build more conversation around both Musk and the show, but its real achievement was to take all that conversation and then funnel it into an episode so mild and unremarkable that it felt as though nothing much had even happened. It could have built to a furious backlash for something Musk said or did; it might have alienated some of Musk’s audience or turned Musk agnostics into anti-stans. Instead, SNL cleared the hurdle by giving itself a bar so low it barely cleared sea level, and the only memorable image left over was Musk, scowling in a Wario suit. There’s not that much to say about it, and that is Musk (and SNL’s) chief accomplishment." ALSO: Musk allowed SNL to distract its viewers amid its aimlessness in the post-Trump era.

    TOPICS: Elon Musk, NBC, Saturday Night Live