Late night hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers couldn’t resist poking fun at PETA’s efforts to revise some common sayings.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a relatively well-intentioned organization that wants to see improvements in how animals are treated. The organization also has some pretty strong opposition to wearing fur and eating meat so that can rub some people the wrong way. Their latest efforts led to criticism by some and ridicule by others.
Criticism and ridicule are sweet spots for late night hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers. Whereas other hosts like Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon lean more towards the silly and absurd, Colbert and Meyers are much more focused on biting social commentary and satire.
So when PETA suggested that phrases like “beat a dead horse” needed to be changed in the wake of social justice awareness, it wasn’t surprising that Colbert and Meyers were ready to offer their thoughts. PETA supplied plenty of material with this graphic on other “anti-animal” phrases:
On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert is usually the first one to call out any behavior that diminishes other groups. Colbert is perhaps the most outspoken liberal in a late night field full of outspoken liberals. But even he wasn’t onboard with PETA’s call for language change, sarcastically offering more phrases that need to go:
Colbert’s bit focuses on just how ridiculous the effort by PETA seems. A lot of the phrases they have issue with aren’t even that common any more. On top of that, most people probably don’t think twice about the actual animals used in the phrases. It just seems like a weird thing to point out and even Colbert had a hard time keeping it together.
Seth Meyers and his writers at Late Night took a different angle at calling out the problem. Like many others, the issue was more the comparison to racist, homophobic, and ableist language. As much as PETA wants the world to see animals and humans as equal, it’s not a sentiment shared by most. Among them are Late Night writers Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel.
Ruffin and Hagel point out how PETA could have got the message across without dragging in racism and homophobia. Whether or not people would take the initiative any more seriously is debatable but a big part of the criticism against PETA would have been avoided. It’s just difficult to understand what the organization expected the reaction to be by making such comparisons.
The two writers go on to explain how these phrases aren’t hurting any animals. For one, they don’t have feelings so it’s the PETA people who are being sensitive. Second, it is quite a leap to assume that if you say “beat a dead horse” then you would be more accepting of actual animal beatings. Again, it’s hard to understand what the goal was here.
A lot of people were probably glad to see Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers go after something that wasn’t Donald Trump. Those people are not likely to be huge PETA supporters, either. So if PETA accomplished anything by calling out “anti-animal” language, it may have been that they brought the country together to ridicule PETA. For that, we can be thankful.