People tend to care about what others think of them, right? So when we have the opportunity to learn about outsiders’ perspectives of Maine, it piques our interest. We’re used to hearing people from other states romanticize Maine’s “quaint” towns and laid-back “locals.” But is a different stereotype taking shape? Is Maine … funny?
Should we assume that Maine is simply of interest and is not becoming a national punchline?
We’re not referring to the standard national media outlets. This is a matter of comedy. “Saturday Night Live,” we’re talking about you.
First there was the skit about the two gay lobstermen, which had context because Maine had just voted to legalize gay marriage. “This is how it’s going to be from here on out. People are realizing that it’s not their business who marries who or what they do behind closed doors. Or below deck. Or that one time in the lighthouse,” one of the actors said.
They dressed in thick sweaters, hats and orange rain pants and said “oh, yeah” a lot, though they may have meant “ayuh.” (The accents were definitely not from this state — or country? — but the Maine accent is difficult to pull off if you’re from away, so SNL gets kudos for trying).
The skit got a fair amount of attention: It prompted more than 600 “likes” on Facebook and more than 300 comments on the BDN website — which devolved into people calling one another immoral, bigots and sore losers. (If SNL wants another skit idea, it might find one in our comments section).
Maine should be fairly used to gay-marriage-themed humor. In 2009, Daily Show host Jon Stewart did a segment called “ Can’t get queer from here,” about how people who oppose gay marriage “want to be tolerant of gays, but, unfortunately, they weren’t born that way.”
But on Dec. 8, an SNL skit (another one!) made us a little uncertain about whether Maine was being laughed at or was supposed to be laughing with the audience.
Called “ Maine Justice,” the spoof of a court TV show was set in Maine, where everyone except the extremely confused defendant came from Louisiana. It opened with a photograph of Bangor and reportedly aired on WLBZ channel 2. The Southern staple “When the Saints Go Marching In” played, and there was an animated green alligator.
“Get it? Get it? Yeah, I didn’t either. I’m not sure I’ve found anything less amusing on SNL all season,” wrote Michael Slezak, senior editor at TVLine.
We also were a little confused, since there was no reference to any current event. Was it a commentary about Maine being a very white state? Was it a reflection on Maine’s criminal justice system? Was it a depiction of Maine as the “Deep South of the far north”?
We called NBC to find out but didn’t get far. “No one is going to be able to help you,” Senior Press Manager Lauren Roseman said. “They’re all writing and in the middle of production. I’m really sorry.”
So for now the reasons behind the spoof will remain a mystery — unless, of course, we’re thinking about “Maine Justice” the wrong way. What if the skit wasn’t a reflection of Maine at all but the people of Louisiana? What if it was a spoof of the reality TV series “ Cajun Justice” — where “the sheriff is like a king, and voodoo is practiced” in the swampland 45 miles south of New Orleans?
If so, the joke’s on us.