The joke is that it’s hard to say. Well, it’s hard to say (or, hell, even type) if you’re not the sort of person who is prone to spouting off insulting and derogatory terms about people based on their sexual orientation or weight or race or whathaveyou with ease. But the joke is also that it’s about reclaiming words, ideas, prejudices, and the sort of things that liter the kind of commenting sections that no one should ever read. It’s Dyke & Fats! They’re the best cops in Chicago! And they are here to reclaim some loaded words, okay?
On this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, repertory players Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant unveiled the sort of project that sure seems like it’s close to their heart – a send up of seventies cop shows that also niftily subverts the genre and combats the kind of hate speech the duo might often be the victim of (the sketch even featured an end credit that proclaimed that it was “Created By Kate McKinnon & Aidy Bryant,” a rarity in the SNL world0. In the skit, McKinnon is fake actress Dutch Plains (who, in turn, is playing the “Dyke” in Dyke & Fats: “Les Dykawitz”), while Bryant is her own fake actress, Velvy O’Malley (the talent behind “Chubbina Fatzarelli”). Tongue in cheek? You bet. And better.
The skit is relatively straightforward for most of its runtime – Dyke and Fats are the best cops in Chicago. They punch! They kick! They are tough as nails. They are serving justice. They are unstoppable. They are, also, a pretty damn fine parody of what people might think when they picture a lesbian cop and a chubby one. One of them hits on a hot lady bartender! The other hits on a cheeseburger! (Guess who is who.) And then, well, take a look:
As their cop boss, host Louis C.K. plays into what we think is the accepted way to address the duo – except he’s wrong.
“You don’t get to call us that!” “Those are our words!” “No! NO!”
And that’s a little lesson in something called reappropriation. McKinnon is, notably enough, an out and proud lesbian. The actress and comedienne hasn’t kept her sexuality a secret – after all, her biggest gig before SNL was on The Big Gay Sketch Show – but she also hasn’t made it some huge selling point in her talents, though she was the first out female cast member to join SNL when she first came aboard in 2012 and that fact has been pushed by the media plenty. It’s nothing special, it’s just an element of her life that doesn’t need touting or spouting, and at least McKinnon seems to know that.
Bryant, similarly, is bigger boned. The adorable actress and comedienne has had her own share of “firsts!” when it comes to her casting on SNL, as the Observer noted back in 2012 when Bryant joined the cast that she was “the first-ever plus-size female performer” on the show. New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser (who, quite infamously, makes it her business to pen hateful, bizarre pieces) commented on the hiring also, using such terms as “morbidly obese” and “monstrously dimpled caboose” to describe Bryant.
Guess what? McKinnon knows she’s gay. Bryant knows she’s fat. And those are their words now. And if what springs from presumed prolonged public teasing is something as funny, subversive, and clever as Dyke & Fats, that’s good news for all of us. McKinnon and Bryant ended Saturday night’s show during the “good nights” portion of the episode by beaming on stage, arms wrapped around each other, clearly basking in the very positive reception to their new baby – and we only want more.