Real talk refresher: Hillary lost. Mary Tyler Moore is dead. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, bell hooks, Dorothy Pittman Hughes, and Gloria Steinem have already done more than their fair share over the last half-century. Until Michelle Obama surfaces from a well-deserved vacation, we're in a little bit of a leader vacuum at the moment. Luckily, Samantha Bee is stepping to fill that void — and she's doing a damn fine job.
There are viewers who flip the channel from TBS when Samantha Bee comes on: something about her being too aggressive, too fiery feminist, too unable to completely conceal a simmering rage. But what those people don't realize is that Bee, the currently reigning First Lady of Late Night, is channeling exactly the level of anger we need right now.
This is not a moment to mince words or play nice: Now is the time for women, particularly those among us who have recently become out-and-proud political, to say what's on their minds and loudly advocate for their values.
If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention, as the saying goes. And Bee is more than paying attention. She's like brightly be-suit-jacketed air traffic controller, directing our attention to current events that might otherwise fly under the radar.
Take, for instance, her Wednesday show this week, which was dedicated to coverage of the Women's March, as well as Inauguration Day on January 20. Though Bee and her merry crew of correspondents decided to protest "as civilians" last Saturday, they did manage to pass through the perimeter into Trump's ceremony circle on Friday.
Bee speculated that they made it in solely because no one recognized them as members of the media. Another theory? By the time the Full Frontal folks showed up, security may have realized it was time to start padding the crowd. But they got more than they bargained for with this gang. Correspondents sought out Trump supporters to discuss why they made the trek to Washington, D.C. that day — why it was so deeply important that they were actually on site to witness this little piece of American history.
But the brilliance of Bee's show — and one of the many ways in which it might actually be outgrowing Jon Stewart's shoes — is that, while Full Frontal absolutely leans left, it also does its due diligence to draw out humanity across partisan divides, humorously but honestly.
Comedy has a unique way of cushioning serious cultural critiques so that the people they're aimed at can actually hear them.
For example: The interviewees who made the final cut of Inauguration coverage definitely looked the part of Trump voters — draped in America flags or donning over-the-top national pride apparel, every one of these folks could have been characters in a cartoon about conservative values. (My personal favorite moment? When Ashley Nicole Black asked a fellow person of color, simply: "Why?" He didn't appear to have an answer, at least not in the awkward silence that made the final cut.) But Full Frontal coverage on Inauguration Day wasn't cruel, or mean-spirited. All joking aside, the interviews themselves had a sincerity to them that felt like an attempt to really understand what drove Trump voters to the polls.
Which isn't to say all the subjects came off with their perceived sanity intact: Perhaps the most surreal interview of all centered on a woman who insisted that we don't know about all the good things Trump has done because he's a humble man who doesn't brag about his successes. Err... Good luck with that.
The beauty of Full Frontal is that — apart from swings targeted at POTUS himself, of which there were many — it never feels like it's punching down. It hits straight across and up, reminding us of where we should be aiming: toward bogus policies and the edifice of alternative truths.
Nor does the show spare its bread-and-butter viewership from the burns: When riffing about the Women's March, Bee made a point to skewer white women for skipping out on causes not their own. Call the next Black Lives Matter protest a craft-based knitting event, she noted — that's apparently the best way to get nice white ladies to show up. Comedy has a unique way of cushioning serious cultural critiques so that the people they're aimed at can actually hear them. That's one of the ways in which Bee shines brightest.
She's not afraid to cede any of that spotlight, though — and last night, Full Frontal truly starred a group of young women who made headlines at the march for their flashmob performance of an original song that has become the unofficial anthem of the moment. "Quiet," performed by Los Angeles-based musician MILCK and D.C.-based a capella groups, is a haunting melody about the social pressures and restrictions women carry on their shoulders; the Bee team left tissues on the seats of the studio audience during the live-taping performance — and we overwhelmingly needed them.
A political program that makes you laugh and cry, brings your blood up to boiling temp and also brings you up to speed on the most pressing issues of the moment? It's a lot to pack into 30 minutes.
But the Full Frontal team isn't afraid to press all your buttons — the whole point is to fire you up about the things that should make Americans, all of us, furious; or, at the very least, to keep the conversation moving in a forward direction.
So if you're looking for someone to call bullshit, consider flipping the channel to Samantha Bee. If you're outraged, she's a likeminded party. And if you are not — well, then you're not paying enough attention.