On Oct 3, 1992 Sinéad O’Connor did the world a big favor and tore up the picture of the pope on “Saturday Night Live.” This show is supposed to be the home of artistic license, anti-establishment sensibilities, progressive ideas and a virtual venue for the liberal-minded literati and glitterati. The show failed miserably on that night on all these indices. They switched off the applause sign and banned her from the show forever. It was compounded by Joe Pesci’s vile statement on the following week’s show of committing violence against a woman for tearing up a piece of paper basically. This was met by loud applause (the sign was switched back on obviously) and showed the ingrained codified casual threats to women for speaking out.
Madonna jumped on board mocking Sinéad’s action – there is no artistic integrity or solidarity there from a fellow singer whose whole repertoire has not one ounce of feeling or authenticity. Kudos to Kris Kristofferson for supporting her.
Some of the sketches on “SNL” cut deep but they can’t cope with a young artist tearing up a picture of the head of an organization that had ingrained misogyny and the suppression of women and children as an implicit creed whether acknowledged or not. Child abuse was rampant in Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. There is a lasting legacy of shame in Ireland over historical abuse by religious orders and the clergy.
Even if none of this was true about the real enemy being the Catholic Church Sinéad O’Connor was entitled to tear up any photo she liked. We look in horror at reprisals for desecration of photos or images in another religious tradition, but the reaction of “SNL,” the audience on the night, Pesci, the cheering of his audience and the audience at the Bob Dylan tribute concert is on the same spectrum but just lower on the scale. No wonder liberals are regarded with such disdain. Their education and privilege are just facades. We love the artist as long as we love what they say. It is gross hypocrisy.
Pesci or “SNL” or Madonna have not apologized and it's about time they did. The #MeToo modus operandi demands accountability for threats to and acts of violence and abuse against women. Where are the concerted calls for Pesci and SNL and Madonna to make amends after all these years.
Seamus Scanlon is a writer of fiction, drama and poetry. On Oct. 11, he read from the Irish-language version of his prose poem “The Long Wet Grass” at the Americas Multilingual Poetry Festival of New York, a first for that event now in its 10th year. [Photo by Carlos Aguasaco]