By Liv Jordan
A year ago, Samantha Bee’s late-night show Full Frontal premiered on TBS. Prior to Bee’s arrival to the late-night scene, the genre was dominated by a bunch of indistinguishable men with “fun youth-minister” vibes. There was James, Jimmy, the other Jimmy, a few with foreign accents, a ginger, and overall a lot of testosterone. From the very beginning, Samantha Bee came out swinging, breaking up the late-night sausage fest and showing the boys the right way to wear a power blazer. She’s distinguished herself from her ratings competitors in a way that isn’t contingent on her gender, but on fearlessness and audacity.
Samantha Bee emerged as perhaps the most biting critic of the Trump administration, responding to the terrifying decisions with the anger and ridicule that they deserve. Unlike other hosts who pad their criticisms with diffusive humor, Samantha Bee gets angry, loud, and calls out hypocrisy and corruption wherever she sees it. She openly denounced NBC after they “tacitly condoned a race-baiting demagogue,” in reference to Jimmy Fallon’s hair-salon episode prior to the election. She exposed “faithful husky” Paul Ryan’s complete lack of integrity and repudiated Republican moral-baiting with the simple words “partial birth abortions are not a thing.”
Her show delves into overlooked women’s issues, exposing rape kit backlog, sexual assault in the military, and tearing down a Kansas senator’s proposals for a blatantly sexist legislative dress code. She and her incredible correspondents also asked RNC attendees if Black lives do in fact matter, went ugly sweater to ugly sweater in a bizarre show of bipartisan civility with (former?) conservative lunatic Glenn Beck, and looked deeply into the exhausting visa process for Syrian Refugees.
Sam Bee proved herself to be an invaluable voice in the resistance.
Representation on television is something that is extremely important, but is the feminine “shrillness” of that voice holding her back in the late-night boys’ club? Samantha Bee, being the only current female late-night host and one of the few hosts with a 50/50 gender split in the writers’ room can no doubt provide important insight on so-called “women’s issues” that don’t seem to register with many male hosts and writers as “people issues.” Samantha Bee’s show is not just important for women to watch, just as Bill Maher’s Real Time, a show that employs no female writers, is not only for men. If Samantha Bee’s bravery in the face of the demagoguery is any indication of what can happen when we will allow women to be sharp and biting and funny, we absolutely need more women late-night hosts, and perhaps fewer “Jimmys.”
Full Frontal gave the American people more perspective and a healthier dose of reality in one year than The Tonight Show did in its entire history. As we continue to see hatred and challenges to basic human rights in the tweets composed by the President’s delicate, nimble fingers, we need well-researched content—not an orange wig and a vaguely decent vocal impersonation. We need escapism in comedy, but Samantha Bee’s cultural influence seems to be overshadowed by boyish charm and softer comedic responses. Someday, Full Frontal will be looked upon like The Daily Show for shaping our political climate. We need more women in late-night so Bee will be known as the one with unparalleled integrity, bravery, and ferocity, instead of as the only one with a vagina.