What is the first thing that comes to you mind when you hear someone mention the popular animated cartoon South Park? If you are not familiar with South Park then you may remember it as that vulgar and crudely animated so called television show that has an annoying theme song that you just can’t quite understand or you may even recall it as just another one of those “irrelevant cartoons”(2) (5), but it is much more than that. Unlike most cartoons (which are mostly pure comedy) South Park uses its vulgar comedy to satirize the “politically correct” American society (3), which is why I chose to do this topic. I have always enjoyed the use of satire in “South Park”. In fact, that’s what drew me into it in the first place. “South Park” is a one of a kind unique show that you can’t find anywhere else. Every day millions of Americans and people all over the world tune in to watch South Park, but just what exactly is South Park?
South Park is a popular television show on Comedy Central that was created in 1997 by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (5). South Park has been ever so successful since its creation with twenty-two total seasons and 283 total episodes to date along with several movies and video games, and still counting (HULU). The shows targeted audience is adults but to its crude and abrasive humor that cannot be found anywhere else on television it has attracted an ever-growing number of viewers from all age and ethnicity groups. South Park is about the four misadventures of four Colorado boys-Stan Marsh, Kenny McCormick , Kyle Broslowski and Eric Cartman, who live in the small rural town of South Park (6). South Park has been highly criticized for its exploits which include sexual implicit content, “potty humor”, profane language, racism, religious views violence, current events, negative portrayals of celebrities, and offensive pop culture references (3). South Park also portrays many stereotypes, or the assumption that all people of a race, ethnicity, etc. are the same (1).
South Park’s uses satire towards the American pop culture and the world in general in nearly episode, but just what exactly is satire? Satire is basically using comedy humor to criticize and/or ridicule topical issues and people. It travesties religion, politics, racism, war, and really any other controversial and sensitive topics among many ethical and social aspects of our day to day lives such as things like current events (4). One such example of South Park addressing current events would be through the episode “Sexual harassment panda”, which aired during its third season in the late 1990’s (3). In this episode South Park addressed the issue of sexual harassment particularly in the public education system (sexual harassment was a big deal in the 1990’s as it still is today) (3). When the directors of the show (Trey parker and Matt Stone) received backlash on this episode they justified it using humor and satire to show how sexual harassment only hurts the public education system (3).
Another creative example of the use of satire to show the creators view in South Park was through the episode “Go God Go” which aired in the tenth season on November 1st, 2006. This episode showed the creators views on the causes of present-day wars. Many wars in the past and the present are due mainly due to religious differences. This episode answers a theory asked by many- that the solution to end “all wars and conflicts” of the modern-day world would be for everyone to adopt and practice some form of atheism, but this episode disproved that theory. In “Go God Go” Cartman freezes himself in time so that he doesn’t have to wait for the release of the Wii, a popular video game console, but he accidentally ends up in the year 2546 in a futuristic world which consisted of three atheist factions: The Unified Atheist League, the United Atheist Alliance and the Allied Atheist Allegiance (HULU).
The factions are meant to resemble the three different religious groups who seem to be in an always never-ending conflict with each other (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) in the Middle East (3). These three factions who mirrored theses religious groups previously mentioned before are once again always in an ever-going war with each other due to their disagree of the other factions answer to the “great question” (3). “The great question” turns out to be the root of the nonstop wars between the factions which is what the most logical name for atheist to call themselves (HULU).In all this episode stated that no matter what happens society will always be at war with itself and there will never be a perfect, war free world (3).
In season eleven, episode one, Stan Marshes father says the “N-Word” on the wheel of fortune. He is then ridiculed by the entire town of South Park by giving him a new name based off of what he said- which I wont mention here (HULU). Near the end of the episode he gets his new phrase banned but not the actual “N-Word”. Among these three examples there are many, many other episodes of South Park that addressed current events such as, “The wacky molestation adventure”, or even “A boy and a priest” along with a more current episode “Dead Kids. South Parks” Dead Kids” is more or less about school shootings (HULU). Whenever multiple school shootings occur at South Park Elementary School and other nearby schools the only person who really seams to care is Sharan, Kylies mom.
Eventually she gets everyone to realize just how big of a deal school shootings are (HULU). “The Death Camp of Tolerance”, which is considered one of South Parks greatest episodes, reflects on tolerance and acceptance in American society. In this episode one of South Parks elementary school teachers, Mr. Garrison, tries to get himself fired for being gay so he can collect a 25-million-dollar lawsuit, his plan backfires. When the students complain about Mr. Garrisons actions, they are sent to a concentration style camp which is guarded by what appears to be SS officers who force them to make hundreds of drawings and macaroni pictures showing tolerance (5). These are just a few examples of the many, many uses of satire in South Park. In fact, nearly ever episode of the show has satire in some way, shape or form.
On May 2nd, 2010, a failed car bomb was targeted at South Park’s headquarters at New York’s Time Square. The car bomb was believed to be from angry Islamist getting revenge for South Park’s treatment and portrayal of the Islamist prophet, Mohammed (5). The creators of the show defended this by calling the series as being a vital stronghold in the ever-going battle for free speech. Matt Stone, the shows co-creator, quoted – “Cartoonists, people who do satire – we’re not in the army, we’re never going to be f—ing drafted and this is our time to do the right thing”(5). An anonymous quote was posted on a Muslim extremist website- “We have to warn Matt Stone and Trey Parker that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show.
This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” (5). In case you did not know Theo Van Gogh was assassinated for critiquing Islam. After this South Park did not mention or portray Mohammed anymore, not even in the 200th episode special where they portrayed all the religious gods (5). South Parks biggest strength is the quality of its satire. In fact, there is only one “politically correct” thing about South Park- it shares its offence giving equally. It has upset many homosexuals, disabled people, teachers, Jews, African Americans, scientologist, Catholics, environmentalist and many, many more (5). In fact, Isaac Hayes (who played Chef), quit the show when an episode showed every flaw and absurdity of his religion “Scientology” (5).
Other such victims of “South Park” include Paris Hiltons episode “Stupid spoiled whore video playset” is popular amongst South Parks prepubescent female viewers. Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, was mirrored by the show who created the episode “The Passion of the Jew” led to anti-Semitism chaos. Other victims of South Park include Tom Cruise, (who refuses to come out of Stans closet), Al Gore (who lectures people on a new environmental threat- Manbearpig) (5). Due to this episode you can most likely infer that South Parks creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, don’t believe in man-made climate change and may be closeted conservatives. When asked about this the Another episode to back this up would be the episode “Two days before the day after tomorrow” where the citizens of South Park lock themselves in a gym screaming “we had the chance, but we didn’t listen!”. After this frenzy the people of” South Park” realize that global warming in in their heads and it isn’t actually happening (5). Following these two episodes South Park did something rare- they apologized to Al Gore. This is the first time that they ever apologized to anyone, and it probably won’t happen again (5).
When you first tune into South Park the first thing you see is “All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated…… poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content, it should not be viewed by anyone” (HULU). South Park gives you a warning about its content before you even watch it. It’s your choice from here on if you want to watch it, and if you choose to do so you will still probably get offended. South Park isn’t trying to offend anyone, they use the satire in the show to make a unique show and to make a statement about our first amendment. If South Park was created in countries such as those in the middle east or even China, the show would be over before it even started. Only in America can a show like South Park exist. South Park gives a new and unique perspective to current issues, and Americas ridiculous reactions to them.
In all, South Park satirizes the American culture and society nearly perfectly. The attitudes of the characters in the show mimic those of the American people of that time. Although South Park critiques American society heavily, the show has American patriotism scattered throughout it. As Stan Marsh said – “America may have some problems, but it’s our home, our team, and if you don’t want to root for your team then you should get the hell out of the stadium (3)”.
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