Why that John Krasinski-Pete Davidson kiss was no win for the LGBTQ community

Live, from New York, it’s a gay spectacle – again! 

At least, that’s how I felt watching John Krasinski and Pete Davidson share a smooch on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend.

The joke went like this: During Krasinski’s opening host monologue, cast members kept interrupting to ask him about “The Office” – including lots of probing questions about Pam. That’s when Davidson appeared onstage beside him.

“I think they really need for someone to be Pam,” Davidson told Krasinski. “I think we’ve got to give them what they want. Jim, I think you have to kiss Pam.”

So they kissed.

Mixed reactions have flooded social media since. “I didn’t know that I needed to see Pete Davidson and John Krasinski kiss until I saw Pete Davidson and John Krasinski kiss,” @gracewindu25 wrote on Twitter. @carlyduke24 wrote: “if you missed pete davidson and john krasinski’s kiss on SNL well… you missed a cultural reset sorry.”

The Daily Beast writer Kevin Fallon feigned sarcasm: “SNL this week, last week, every week, always and forever: ‘The joke is it’s two guys! They kissed! Get it?!?! It’s hilarious! THEY’RE GUYS! Hahahahahaha.'” 

“The John Krasinski / Pete Davidson kiss feel an awful lot like (expletive) performative queerness,” @MsJLHarper wrote.

To be clear: There is nothing inherently wrong with Davidson and Krasinski kissing. In non-pandemic times, as a gay man, I too enjoy kissing men. 

Making a big deal about John Krasinski and Pete Davidson kissing on "Saturday Night Live" is not the same thing as accepting gay people and couples for who they are.

But ending a comedy bit with two straight men kissing is not the same thing as accepting gay people and couples for who they are. When something that should be seen as “normal” is seen as “spectacle,” we’re moving in the wrong direction.

I’m sure there will be some young member of the LGBTQ community watching “SNL” who feels great that two men could kiss on national television to fanfare. But another kid could sit there and pick up on the subtext that this isn’t something “normal,” and that’s why there’s so much attention being paid to it.

The moment reminded me of how I felt when I watched Andrew Garfield and Ryan Reynolds kiss at the Golden Globes four years ago. 

A lot can happen in four years. Kids graduate high school. Presidential administrations give way to new ones. LGBTQ protections appear in the workplace. But there’s still progress to be made on “SNL.”

That’s not to equate “SNL” as an indicator of our overall culture. No single show could bear all of that responsibility nor should it. But the series remains an institution that people regularly watch and discuss, even if it’s simply to gab about a YouTube clip of one of the sketches. That impact seeps into our culture, prompting tweets and Instagram DMs and Google searches for all the world to see.

“Saturday Night Live” may have recently warmed up to LGBTQ culture – its Harry Styles “Sara Lee” sketch in particular, starring gay cast member Bowen Yang from just last year, is a triumph – but the show’s homophobic and transphobic tendencies during “Weekend Update” hardly go unnoticed.

Here’s hoping that this time around, the conversation around the kiss can go beyond viewing it as a gimmick, and lead way to a conversation about why people thought it was outrageous in the first place.

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