How much can we hold Ivanka Trump responsible for the actions of her father?
Ivanka is theoretically not a member of Donald Trump’s presidential administration, but she has attended multiple diplomatic meetings with him. She’s considered by many to be an influential voice behind the scenes at the White House. And her polished, poised, unthreatening-but-vaguely-feminist-if-you-squint persona helped sway the 51 percent of white women who voted for Trump in the general election.
But all the same, she’s not an official member of the administration. And she’s so elegant, so intelligent, so respectable. During campaign season, it was a popular liberal fantasy that Ivanka might be a sleeper agent, secretly sabotaging Trump’s presidential hopes from within.
Saturday Night Live took part in that fantasy often. Not all that long ago, it positioned Ivanka, like the other women in Trump’s inner circle, as an eternal straight man, a woman who was sucked into her father’s orbit against her will, who longed for freedom but would never reach it. “I’m supposed to be the brains here,” Emily Blunt sighed as Ivanka during SNL’s Melanianade sketch in October. “What the hell have I been thinking?”
But since the inauguration, SNL has moved away from that narrative. It’s begun to think of the women of Trump’s inner circle as active participants in his presidency, mostly looking out for their own self-interest. A few weeks ago, the show positioned Kellyanne Conway as a power-hungry megalomaniac. And this week, it turned its focus to Ivanka in a new perfume ad: “Complicit: for the woman who could stop all this, and won’t.”
Host Scarlett Johansson played Ivanka in the ad, which saw her looking into a mirror and putting on lipstick while her reflection turned into Alec Baldwin as Trump. It informed us that while Ivanka might watch Titanic and think she’s Rose, “Girl, you’re Billy Zane.”
SNL is still figuring out how to deal with Ivanka — it hasn’t even settled on a consistent actress to play her yet, and has mostly just slapped a blonde wig on the host of the week — but it appears to be done treating her as a straight woman. Whether that’s fair or not is up to the viewer to decide.