Monday, October 25, 2004

The Jon Stewart backlash has begun. In this New York magazine article, Ken Tucker takes a critical look at John Stewart and The Daily Show. According to Tucker:

"Stewart’s persona implies a more ferocious attack than he actually launches. No matter that his Manhattan-liberal studio audience laughs harder at his ridicule of Bush; to these eyes, Stewart has bought into network news’ most pious belief—the debilitating notion of “evenhandedness.” As with most hip satirists, Stewart’s underlying message is that both sides are square (Bush = bumbling warmonger; Kerry = garrulous equivocator). Thus, The Daily Show may actually undermine the sober message Stewart seems intent on beaming out between the lines of scripted jokes and in interviews: that this time, it’s really important to get off our asses and vote."

Tucker concludes by writing:

"All these months, Stewart has been coming from a good yet na├»ve place; he seems to truly believe that if his show so rigorously parodied and pilloried these ethically corrupt news and analysis shows, the Crossfires and the Hardballs would have a revelation—they’d do what Stewart was begging them to do: conduct true conversations, without the squawk and the hyped-up false alarums. But now he seems rattled by his own power, and unsure how to react. When he stepped over the line, he demonstrated that the line still exists.

So this is the dilemma Jon Stewart now finds himself facing: Is he the Emmy-winning “monkey,” idol to millions of young couch-skeptics, or the thoughtful partisan satirist who’d like to be a player in the national discourse? It would take a genius comic to pull off both roles. But for the moment—his moment; his make-or-break moment up until the election—I’m sad to say, my money’s on the monkey to win out."