The former host of The Daily Show has a new political-themed movie coming out called “Irresistable,” starring Steve Carrell as a Democrat campaign operative who convinces a military veteran and farmer to run for the mayor of his small Wisconsin town in the hopes of creating a politician who could turn around the Democrats diminishing appeal among rural voters. I confess, the set-up seems a little weak, but the trailer provides a few laughs at the expense of both the Left and the Right.
Fim critic Christian Toto reports, however, that towards the end of the film, Stewart, who loves to pose on occasion as some sort of elder statesman of non-partisanship, lets his ideological freak flag fly at the expense of gun owners. Mild spoilers ahead:
The sequence in question shows activists trying to persuade last-minute voters. We see several special interest groups greeting passers by with their pitches.
- “Build a Wall” voices
- Pro-coal activists
- A group of Antifa-like anarchists
- Tiki torch bearers talking up “white power” (you have to strain to hear those words)
There’s zero chance the latter group would assemble in such a family-friendly setting. Still, one could argue Stewart frames all the activists in a neutral manner.
Then the camera zooms in on a gun rights table.
We see several gun owners, all white, inviting strangers to grab a free pen and hear their sales pitch. Again, nothing unusual there. Pro-Second Amendment groups are part of the political fabric.
We then see a group of Black Lives Matter activists approach the table. The white gun owners suddenly pull back the pens as if they don’t want to even share them with the men. Next, the black activists approach, with one extending a hand for a shake.
You can probably guess what happens next; The rural, white, gun owners end up talking about the best caliber for the AR platform with the Black Lives Matter activists, while a Shannon Watts-esque gun control advocate looks on in horror.
Actually, that would have been far more amusing that the cheap and predictable joke Stewart offers instead: the white gun owner refuses to shake the hand of the black activist. As Toto says, the scene is a reminder that “Stewart’s Comedy Central reign set the template for the late night’s current, sorry state,” but more than that, it’s also a reminder that to Stewart and The Daily Show, conservative gun owners were always the butt of the joke.
I’ve got a pretty thick skin, and as a rural white dude with a bit of a belly and a lot of beard, I’m used to the whole “dumb redneck” stereotype. Heck, it’s made comedians like Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy wealthy men! I can also take a joke, so my issue isn’t with Stewart predictably trying to make guys like me out to be a racist buffoon.
I just find it sad that Stewart is so uninterested in portraying American gun owners as they actually are; a cross section of society. Stewart will make fun of NRA members, but what about the National African American Gun Association? He’ll mock “right wing gun nuts,” but would he ever make the socialist John Brown Rifle Club the target of one of his jokes? I suppose it’s possible, but Stewart was apparently able to resist the temptation while filming “Irresistible.” In fact, Stewart is content to pretend that the lives of gun owners who don’t fit his stereotype simply don’t exist, much less matter.
I’d say if that interaction between Black Lives Matter activists and rural gun owners played out in real life, there’s as good a chance that the members of the two groups would end up having a good time talking about guns than getting into a political argument or gun owners giving them the cold shoulder.
I don’t think Jon Stewart will ever be a fan of the Second Amendment, but does he have to be so lazy in pushing his point of view? It’s bad enough to rely on a stereotype for a cheap laugh, but by refusing to acknowledge that Americans across the political spectrum (as well as those who’ve tuned out of politics completely) exercise their right to keep and bear arms, Stewart’s guilty of the same kind of political manipulation he’s targeting with his latest movie.