November 20, 2015
CSUN Journalism Department alumna and part-time broadcast instructor Ana Kasparian is no stranger to controversial topics in her role as the co-host of online news program “The Young Turks” and as host of YouTube show “The Point,” among other projects.
This was again the case earlier this month, when she debated the recurring issue of offensive Halloween costumes alongside actor-comedians Bob Saget and Mike Yard during a panel discussion appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”
“The Halloween costume controversy comes up every year, so the story actually gets on my nerves quite a bit,” said Kasparian. “No one has the right to not be offended. People do stupid and offensive things all the time, and we can’t expect to be shielded from it.”
Questionable costumes presented to the panelists included a depiction of Caitlyn Jenner, a baby dressed as notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar and an ensemble blatantly poking fun at the ongoing Bill Cosby sexual assault saga, one to which Kasparian took particular offense.
“It really depends on what people are sensitive to,” said Kasparian during her segment on the show. “The Bill Cosby one I didn’t really like because, look, if he was in prison right now I’d (say) it’s kind of clever, but he’s getting away with rape and we’re here having a conversation about a funny costume.”
Kasparian later remarked that making this point was her main goal to accomplish within the brief but lively discussion, and one that paid off, as the studio audience instantly reacted with an eruption of cheers and applause.
This type of reception was well worth the extended wait for Kasparian’s “Nightly Show” debut. After once appearing as a guest on a Wilmore-hosted “Showtime” special, Comedy Central producers had wanted to book her on his new show for several weeks. However, conflicts with the show’s location
in New York City forced postponement until she could be in the area for a television taping.
The time restrictions common to television tapings were unfortunately the enemy preventing Kasparian and her fellow guests from any further conversation about the topic beyond their allotted six minutes of commentary.
Accustomed to digital media platforms, she said she is “not a fan” of the panel format, which by nature became chaotic at times with four people fighting to make a point, occasionally all at the same time.
“There were several intelligent and opinionated people who had things to say, and in the end we all had to interrupt one another to get our points across,” she said. “But that’s exactly how TV works. There are certain constraints that limit dialogue, and that’s what I experienced on the panel.”
A panel pitting the traditional spirit of Halloween, a day in which society generally allows a free pass on certain sensitive material, against issues many feel should not be commercialized on any day of the year has sparked this same sort of passionate expression every fall.
Kasparian pointed out this underlying gray area during her time on air, saying that while many criticize the days of dressing up as “monsters” becoming a thing of the past, Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were technically real-life monsters.
So, does this make people dressing up as them acceptable?
The panelists were not afforded much time to respond to this complex matter, however Kasparian later elaborated that regardless of one’s personal opinions, it is definitely time for us to stop ignoring the controversy at hand.
“We’re never going to ban offensive Halloween costumes, nor should we,” she stated. “With that said, there are many that I disagree with, and we should have an open and honest dialogue about it rather than recycle the same old story every year.”
Having risen through the professional ranks since graduating from CSUN with a master's degree in 2010, Kasparian has clearly stayed true to her beliefs while at the same time maintaining journalistic integrity.
When asked during an interview, she advised aspiring journalists to do just the same, saying one must first “genuinely want to be a journalist” above all else.
“It’s a challenging and competitive field to succeed in, and if you’re not passionate about it, you won’t succeed,” said Kasparian. “Also make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. If you think money or fame is the end game, you’re in a world of trouble.”
By Daniel Martindale