While hosting the Halloween 2020 episode of Saturday Night Live, stand-up comedian and former SNL cast member John Mulaney made a joke that might have been unpopular with a lot of Americans. Basically, he said he wasn’t sure if he wanted his 94-year-old grandmother to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Some might say this was a cynical joke from Mulaney, but for many parents, this is exactly how we feel about our children’s grandparents’ vote, too. Essentially: Yes, everyone should vote, but if your parents or grandparents are embittered racists, you probably don’t want them to head to the polls.
In Mulaney’s words, people in their 90s deciding the outcome of elections is kind of like “ordering food for the table when you’re about to leave anyway.” Does this joke seem tasteless? Is Mulaney fanning the flames of another “Okay Boomer” generational war, only this time, attacking “The Greatest Generation?” Well, yes, but if your child’s grandparents (your parents) are perhaps voting not the way you’d like them to vote, then this joke is super-freaking relatable.
But beyond the practical problem of someone’s grandparents casting a vote for a candidate you don’t like, Mulaney’s joke pokes a stick at a taboo many parents grapple with: We’re taught to respect our elders. And yet, whether it’s Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, or your real-life parents spouting racist bullshit, the truth that all young parents face is that it turns out, that at least half the time, grandparents are assholes. This may not be a popular viewpoint, but for many parents, keeping their kids away from the grandparents is not only easier but sometimes, the only reasonable thing to do.
Mulaney’s hyperbole might not be everyone’s cup-of-tea, and certainly, nobody would actually advocate taking away the grandparent vote. And yet, if you’re nervous about seeing — or Zooming with — some grandparents this Thanksgiving, the fact remains that some of us live on totally separate planets than the people further down on our own family trees.