As many fans of television know, all good things must come to an end — character arcs, individual seasons, entire series and even hosting duties. Yes, you read right, hosting duties.
Take comedian and political satirist Jon Stewart, for example. After 16 years of hosting the extremely successful satirical news program “The Daily Show,” it was announced on Feb. 10 that Stewart would be stepping down as host later this year. Not long after word got out that Stewart would no longer host the popular show, the world imploded a little somewhere in the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Now, that really didn’t happen, but to many faithful fans of the show, it undoubtedly felt that way. Just as the content and the storylines of countless television shows have permeated our national culture and consciousness, so have charismatic hosts grown dear to the hearts of millions of viewers.
After the news of Stewart leaving “The Daily Show” reached public awareness, audiences began to ponder the fate of the series. Over the course of 16 years, Stewart proved himself to be an effective and respectable host, so it would prove challenging for executives to find a worthy enough successor. In 2015, this has especially become an issue. Some of the “worthiest” candidates who might have been considered to take over currently find themselves committed to other hosting gigs, such as “Daily Show” alums Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Larry Wilmore and longtime “Weekend Update” host on “Saturday Night Live,” Seth Meyers.
Yet, one other notable candidate has recently been proposed to serve as host: 25-year-old Jessica Williams, currently a correspondent for the “Daily Show.” In her past three years on the program, Williams has contributed some of the most brilliant and biting commentary on important issues of diversity, misogyny and sexism in our society today. In a late-night television landscape dominated overwhelmingly by middle-aged white men, it would seem more than appropriate for a woman to finally be integrated to the mix.
Alas, fans should not expect to see Williams behind the “Daily Show” desk — at least not anytime soon. In lieu of Stewart’s announcement that he would be departing from the program, hundreds of enthusiastic fan petitions were accordingly aimed at Williams, imploring that she serve as the next host. A couple of days later, Williams posted on her Twitter account in response, affirming that although she appreciated the immense support, she believed she was “extremely under-qualified for the job” and “super not right for it” at only 25.
As a devoted fan of both the “The Daily Show” and Williams’ delightfully witty segments, I’ll admit that I, too, was a little (scratch that, a lot) disappointed to hear that she would not be assuming hosting duties once Stewart’s run ends. Over the past two weeks, Williams has made it quite clear that she has no desire to take her career in that direction just yet and provided some very plausible reasons for coming to that decision. Her words were commendable and comforting to me, but unfortunately, they weren’t for everybody. Many followers of Williams do not quite understand and much less completely support the popular “Daily Show” correspondent’s decision not to host the program because of her belief that she’s under-qualified.
Criticisms of Williams have included individuals encouraging her to “lean in” a lá Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, along with similar accusations of “impostor syndrome.” These criticisms, while intended to be “helpful” to Williams, have been conversely interpreted as belittling and downright offensive — and especially, more anti-feminist than pro. Instead of viewing Williams as a perfectly reasonable woman making an intelligent career move, many people have narrowly viewed her as someone with impaired agency over her life decisions, a woman hesitant or fearful of her own skills and ability to take charge.
This is the problem with a lot of people on the Internet: they always think they know what’s best for everyone who’s not them, especially when it comes to very important life decisions. Considering how rapidly and simply one can communicate with celebrities and TV personalities these days, virtually anyone can take it upon themselves to thrust their opinions onto the World Wide Web and expect them to be heeded. But the reality is that we shouldn’t carry such an expectation with us, at least not all the time. Sure, constructive criticism exists, but whatever happened to trusting someone else’s well-thought-out, sound judgment?
What is important to take from the tale of Williams is this: her fate on the “Daily Show” isn’t ours to decide, no matter how enthusiastically you try to Change.org the situation. Williams was doing just fine on her own before, and if we respected her as a woman and human individual at all, we would have faith that her choices are completely valid. So, Internet, just sit back and relax as Williams gradually escalates to world domination. Because she’ll get there. On her own terms.