I’m a social scientist and an author. I like to explain things with numbers and words. In some ways, though, my Explainer-in-Chief hero is Jon Stewart. To me, there is nothing quite like great humor – especially Daily Show style – to make a point in a way that sticks. At its best, humor knocks down your defenses and leaves you on the floor laughing before you can muster any personal outrage or indignation. (Of course, it helps if you agree with the point of the humor.)
My favorite recent example of this is an awesome Daily Show send-up of pundits’ attempts to explain the voting proclivities of single and married women in the 2012 Presidential election. Unlike single women, who favored Obama over Romney by a huge margin, married women favored Romney.
Here’s the clip of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show’s Senior Women’s Issues Correspondent Kristen Schaal: The married vs. single woman vote. If you want to generate your own reasons why it is so good at myth-busting (if you agree that it is), then watch it first, then read on.
The clip runs through some of the stereotypes about single and married women, making it clear that these kinds of beliefs are caricatures. Or, as Jon Stewart said in introducing the clips of the pundits praising married women, “please feel free to paint this demographic in the most positive light you can.”
Much of the power of the in-their-own-words clips from The Daily Show is that the clueless bloviators get to speak for themselves. That technique is unlike that used by, say, Saturday Night Live, where the dialogue of the skits is totally fabricated (except that once when Sarah Palin’s words were used verbatim). The skewering is all the more effective because it is a self-skewering.
Even better than the mocking of the caricatures of single women as obsessed with abortion and birth control, and totally uninterested in the future of the country or acting responsibly, was the ridiculing of the magical marital transformation, the belief that the act of marrying instantly turns pathetic single people into saintly married couples. Or, as I put it in the chapter on single men in Singled Out, it is
“the notion that a man can walk up the aisle a homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted, woman-groping thief, rapist, and murderer; pause at the altar long enough to say ‘I do’; and return an upstanding citizen and CEO.”
When Jon Stewart tells Kristen Schaal that she seems to be the same person as she was before she got married, Kristen indignantly objects:
“How dare you, Jon. As soon as a groom – my groom – carried me across the threshold, I felt something new exploding inside of me. It was concern for America’s future.”
[Note: Thanks to Spinsta-at-large, UpperWorks, and everyone else who sent me links to the Daily Show clip. To everyone: Whenever you send me blog-worthy links, let me know if you want to be thanked and if so, how I should refer to you.]
Newlyweds photo available from Shutterstock