By Shirin Ahmadpour
When is it appropriate to make fun of a public figure? One would think that any public figure is susceptible to jokes, criticism, attacks, satire, scandals or anything the public can think of so long as it’s not libelous. But do broadcasts like The Daily Show on Comedy Central have free rein? And how mindful should they be about the audience and their possible reactions?
The Daily Show probably should have thought twice when making an edgy comment that seemed to reference a specific member of the iconic, heavily-adored boy band, One Direction. In a skit talking about war and terrorism, comedian, Jessica Williams joked, “Just as you were talking, a new terrorist group just formed, with one member each from ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaida, Hamas, One Direction, and the Zetas drug cartel.”
Immediately following the skit, One Direction fans took to social media believing that the skit referred to band member, Zayn Malik, who is Muslim. Viewers and fans tweeted with hashtags such as:
These hashtags were top ranked on Twitter’s trending list. In addition to these hashtags, fans shared their frustration with The Daily Show as well as pictures of Malik engaging in kind, humanitarian deeds. One Direction fans proved how incredibly protective they are of their beloved boys. This was a great way to demonstrate the loyalty and popularity of the band. It also highlighted the band as influencers of their time.
The Daily Show has made fun of countless celebrities and other public figures knowing that some of their material may be offensive, but that is the nature of the program. In response to the outraged fans, The Daily Show tweeted:
This tweet was a justification, not the apology many fans were looking for. It was written as if they are making fun of the intensity of the band’s fans. How should have The Daily Show responded? Would an apology establish the show as wrong or would it shine a light on the program’s heart for the public to whom they appeal?