I often like to imagine myself as a comedian. Maybe standing on stage in some swanky night club, people laughing along, a single stool propped beside me, a bottle of water on top, a microphone in my hand as I recount the exaggerations of funny events spun into an hour or so long show. It’s a dream that’s been pocketed away for another day. But, for Kathy Griffin, her dream has always been comedy--and undoubtedly she worked hard to get to our TV screens and to become a household name--but at what price?
The comedienne, worth approximately $20 Million, has had two HBO specials, and 18 Bravo Specials. Yet, with each special, a slew of controversy usually occurs. Her comedy is centered around the Hollywood gossip and detail, while giving us an insiders peek on the “who’s nice” and “who’s a jerk” of Hollywood. Her bawdy stories often center around a sort of humor that can bring the viewer into the world of socialites and actors for the hour special. But sometimes, those inside peeks into Hollywood can cause quite a stir in the media--and not in a good way.
Griffin is no stranger to controversy, finding herself in hot waters multiple times over the past two decades, notably in instances such as in 2007, while during an acceptance speech she offended the Catholic church by stating, “Now, a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. He didn't help me a bit. If it was up to him, Cesar Millan would be up here with that damn dog. So all I can say is suck it, Jesus, this award is my God now!”. Another instance that warranted an apology is during 2005 during an appearance on E!, Griffin stated that a then 11-year-old Dakota Fanning had entered a drug rehabilitation facility, sparking outrage from both the network and fans. These are just two of the examples, but now, and perhaps most notably, is the incident in which Griffin held up a depiction of current president Donald Trump’s decapitated, bloody head.
The photo was done for a shoot, shot by Tyler Shields, and warranted one of the few apologies Griffin has given over her career. Trump himself tweeted that Griffin “should be ashamed of herself” and that his children, particularly 11-year-old Barron Trump, the President’s son, was “having a hard time with this”. But why was what Griffin did this time, so offensive? Griffin’s humor has often depicted celebrities in a not so pleasant light, but what made the response over the image President Trump, who is no stranger to public ridicule (even during his time as President, in which the ridicule seemed to reach new heights), so drastic by the public? Was it the grotesque depiction of our nation’s president? Was it the sort of initial blase deliverance by Griffin? Or was it a combination of high tension and emotions due to the current political climate the US has found itself in for the past few years, perhaps even decades?
The US is no stranger to political tension--but that tension often causes a lot of words and actions to be said and done in anger. Some have argued that with the Trump Administration, America has taken a step backwards, due to the high amount of hate-crimes the US has seen since his election and subsequent inauguration. With protesters marching in the streets, Trump’s rampant Twitter tirades, talk of missile firings and the rise of terrorist groups and hate groups, America seems to be a burning playground in the Western world. So I raise the question again: why was Kathy Griffin’s piece so offensive to many Americans--enough for her to lose a hosting position at CNN, public damnation by her peers and fellow Americans--and the answer lies within her status of the world today.
With the rampant threats of nuclear war coming from countries like North Korea, questions regarding America’s involvement with Russian politics and politicians, terrorist threats and attacks occurring more and more frequently, the environmental issues, the idea of the figurehead and leader of the free world, being beheaded, is rather scary. No matter your feelings regarding President Trump, the idea of a president or any world leader dying in such a shockingly horrific and grotesque manner is not something many people would like to contemplate. Adding chaos ontop of chaos is something that would send the world and country as we know it into a complete and utter tailspin--something that we might not recover from easily.
Another issue many seemed to have with the image was simply Griffin’s deliverance of it. In the picture, Griffin wears a blank expression--eyes seemingly saying, “Yes, it’s done.” Whether or not you believe the implication to be that Griffin herself decapitated the President is up to you, but many found the image to be even more upsetting when Griffin herself stated that she knew it would create controversy and that “[She] made a horrible, horrible call...Trust [Griffin], if [she] could redo the whole thing [she’d] have a blow up doll and no ketchup”.
Regardless of political affiliation, Griffin’s photoshoot raised questions perhaps unasked in previous presidencies. With the rise of social media and the internet, Trump’s own affection for his Twitter Handle, how do you balance what is right and what is wrong? Griffin wasn’t making a direct threat against the president (as she says), but she was using her first amendment of free speech. But so were the people that vigorously tweeted, called, wrote and emailed her. Griffin, it seems, felt threatened repeatedly, even stating during her press conference, “"It's hurtful to [her]...There's a bunch of old white guys trying to silence [her] and [Griffin’s] just here to say that it's wrong." She further went on to say that President Trump and his family “systematically mobilized his armies against [her]”.
The crux of the matter lies within morals, politics, and quite simply what and who you believe. Griffin expressed tearful remorse during her conference, and many people seemed to truly forgive her, but another majority seemed to condemn her further. Take it for what you will--Griffin’s brand of comedy isn’t new, not for her at least--and she has been in the public eye for it for many years. Have we become a too politically-correct society? Or perhaps, are we starting to wake up to the new rules of this tech-savvy world and it’s Twitter wielding president? Either way, and no matter your side, formulating a solid opinion can be hard, especially with thousands of opinions and varying facts rushing in. A new message has been posted on the Forum of our country and it simply states this: The American people are in a state of panic, and any little thing can set them off.