The show finally got satire right ... with the help of Hello Kitty.
Earlier this week, Merriam-Webster announced its 2022 word of the year: gaslighting. The dictionary’s selection of the term—defined as “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for one’s own advantage”—was in part a response to public demand: Searches for gaslighting rose by 1,740 percent over the past 12 months. That interest might reflect the fact that gaslighting describes so much, so efficiently. It emphasizes the emotional consequences of lies, capturing the destabilizing feeling that can set in when someone or something keeps telling you that your perception of reality is wrong.
Many recent works of culture have tried to give shape to that feeling. The latest attempt, appropriately, found its articulation through a mouthless cat. Last night’s Saturday Night Live, hosted by Keke Palmer, displayed the show’s usual mix of topical humor (the night’s roastees included Herschel Walker, Mitch McConnell, and Ye) and broad observation. But one sketch, in particular, managed to capture this dizzying political moment by thoroughly conceding to its absurdities. The setting: an employee training at a Sanrio store in New York City. The players: two store managers who were familiarizing four new hires with Sanrio’s “official Hello Kitty story.” Among the facts that the managers insisted on: Hello Kitty is “a human little girl.” She has a boyfriend named Dear Daniel, who actually is a cat. She is in the third grade. She is also, somehow, 48 years old.