What exactly does it mean to be living in the age of umbrage, which is how a PR “fixer” described our society’s current state on last night’s Survivor’s Remorse? If you ask Clint Eastwood, it means that we’re “really in a pussy generation,” with “people accusing people of being racist” and all kinds of outrageous stuff that he didn’t have to deal with back in his day. But the fourth episode of Season Three, “The Age of Umbrage” (written by the show’s creator and showrunner Mike O’Malley) taps into a real issue that Eastwood and so many others are blinded to—the difference between outrage for the sake of activism, and outrage for the sake of outrage (or worse, outrage for the sake of media attention).
All Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher) wanted to do was help kids with “fucked up noses” (AKA “Frozen Nose Syndrome”), but in trying to do so, he gives an interview that wasn’t approved by Reggie (RonReaco Lee, continuously delivering my favorite performance on the show) and ends up in a PR nightmare. An opportunistic sports journalist “informs” the public that Calloway has offended the masses by referring to the disease as “fucked up,” and from that point on, everybody and their mama has an opinion.
We know that Cam is going to apologize in the end—in spite of the ridiculousness of it all, and in spite of the fact that—as M-Chuck so eloquently put it, it was God—and not Cam—who actually fucked up, in creating kids with fucked up noses. But the public and media outrage gets problematized in a new way when a woman—let’s just call her… Becky—approaches Cam’s mother Cassie (Tichina Arnold). What follows is one of the most accurate and powerfully-delivered curse-outs in TV history. Of course it’s funny, because it’s never not going to be funny to hear Tichina Arnold call someone a bitch and then threaten to “fuck up your nose worse than those fuckin’ kids.” (Sidenote: I must now crown Cassie the Beyoncé of Clapbacks on Survivor’s Remorse.) But like so much of the comedy on Survivor’s Remorse, there’s an added layer of social commentary amidst all the f-bombs, and it refuses to be ignored.
Becky with the good hair is more than just a punching bag for Cassie’s legitimate anger; she’s the pinnacle of well-meaning whiteness, and anybody who’s currently outraged at America right now—outraged because, if you’re paying attention, there’s really not much else to feel towards the policies of this American government, particularly where black lives are concerned—knows that there’s no evil quite like the evil of well-meaning whiteness. I’m not one for so many Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, but one of my personal favorites is his takedown of white moderates: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice.”
The woman who approaches Cassie, with her sweet smile, blonde hair, blue-green eyes (appropriately dubbed a “spin-cycling diva” by Vulture’s Kenny Herzog) and well-meaning words of advice comes off like the average good-hearted petition-signing, American. She’s probably not voting for Trump and she’s certainly not a racist. But when Cassie basically asks her if she’s as outraged about black people like her getting killed by cops, as she is by Cam’s comments, Becky with the good hair half-heartedly responds that she’s “seen some stuff on Facebook.” That is the extent of her awareness or her activism, and yet she still feels morally superior to Cassie or Cam, so much so that she deems it her right—no, her duty—to approach Cassie and reprimand Cam in the process.
This scene couldn’t have lasted longer than three minutes, but it spoke volumes about the racial aspects of the age of umbrage, and the people who benefit most from it. In the end, Becky and the people who attacked Cam got their authentic apology, and a grand philanthropic gesture as well. But Cam also goes off script (we love when he does that) to demand that those outspoken folks who make it their business to become outraged in response to a contrived news story, also make an actual effort (in this case, a donation) to the causes they claim to care so much about. And Cassie looks on, rolling her eyes, fully aware that people who look and talk like her, will likely never get a large group of well-meaning white people or black people in a room, all agreeing to donate to a cause that declares they have every right to be living and breathing “the same fresh air” as everyone else.
Shannon M. Houston is a Staff Writer and the TV Editor for Paste. This New York-based writer probably has more babies than you, but that’s okay; you can still be friends. She welcomes almost all follows on Twitter.