Headin’ on down to South Park

14 05 2010

Greetings, intelligent and well-coifed reader. *glances at calender* It’s been a while, hasn’t it? While I could make an excuse about how school, finals and my upcoming graduation have held me back, it’d be a lie. I’ve been busy playing Monster Hunter. You forgive me, right? Oh reader, you always know the quickest way to my heart.

So, if you can’t tell from the title, this entry is going to be about South Park. I can say without an ounce (or gram for anyone using the metric system. Can’t say I’m not open to new ideas!) of hyperbole that this is easily one of the smartest, most intelligent shows out there.

This man probably just fainted after hearing that.

Now, I’m not going to dive into the story behind South Park, its history or anything like that. But just sit back and imagine for a moment that a show that started out being made with cardboard could become one of the most powerful and influential pieces of media today. It’s pretty shocking. The show is infamous and best known by most older people for its derivative, child-like sense of humor; often with fart jokes, curse words and so on. However, underneath the child-like (at times) humor, there is often a deeper message. You see, one reason South Park is so controversial and hated by many is because it’s not afraid to tackle large, often intimidating issues like racism, sexism, the war in Iraq, religious matters and much, much more.

The best thing I can think of when I think of South Park is this: they don’t pick sides. It’s easy for someone watching who’s offended by what they say about the Catholic Church to say they’re anti-Catholic, or their infamous Scientology episode, it’s easy for people to say, “Oh, they just hate Scientology and think everyone who believes in it is dumb!” That’s not the point. The genius and beauty behind South Park is the show doesn’t take sides. What the show does instead is say, “Look, we’re all human, we’re all the same. We have flaws, we have beliefs, let’s have some fun with them.” I think that’s one of the most intelligent beliefs in the world today, and wish more people would think that way.

Like I said, it’s very easy to look at a rather infamous episode, “Red Hot Catholic Love” and say they’re anti-Catholic. The episode centers around the idea that the Catholic Church has lost its way, the Priests are all obsessed with having sex with boys and people start food with their butts, crapping out their mouth. So yeah, the crazy and infantile humor stands, but when you look deeper, you’ll see their point. At the end of nearly every episode, the cast will say some lesson they’ve learned. In this case, it has to do with people taking the word of the Bible too seriously. People think too much on it, they take these stories about how to live your life well seriously, and in the end, they start just spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouth. One of the Priests in the show, the Priest in South Park even realizes this and tries to stop it, having to consult the great Queen Spider of Catholicism to try and change the rules. The episode isn’t anti-Catholic, it’s anti-hardcore religion. It’s against the people that take those quotes and passages as absolute truth and end up ruining their lives because of it.

Recently, South Park had its 200th episode, which caused one of the biggest controversies the show has ever faced. The episode (a two-parter) began with them bashing on Tom Cruise, calling him a fudge packer (he was literally working in a fudge factory, packaging fudge into boxes). He gets outraged and threatens to sue the town, calling in all the other celebrities the show has made fun of in the past. Their ultimate plan was to get South Park (the town) to get the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to arrive. Now, obviously the town couldn’t do that, as showing Muhammad is forbidden by the Muslim way of life, so they were forced to come up with a plan to save their town from being sued, but also prevent themselves from possibly being bombed.

The show's way of showing Muhammad safely.

They did end up showing Muhammad, but behind a large censor bar for their own safety. In 2001, South Park aired an episode called “The Super Best Friends!” which mocked the Super Friends of DC fame. The Super Best Friends consisted of Muhammad, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu and Seaman (a joke on Aquaman, everyone calls him Seamen. I’ll let you figure out the joke. He even has a pet bird named Swallow!). This episode aired in July, 2001, a few months before the 9/11 tragedy. In this episode, the Prophet Muhammad was shown completely. He spoke, he flew around, he even shot fire to help defeat a giant John Wilkes Booth and the evil Blaintologists (see the episode, it’ll make more sense). While Muslim culture and religion has always been anti-symbolism and imagery, there was no backlash against this episode, at least nothing that amounted to anything serious.

Cut to the present day, where the creators of South Park had received numerous death threats for threatening to show Muhammad. What they were trying to do was not poke the proverbial bear or stir controversy as much as they were sending a message against censorship, against violence against others. Like I said before, we’re all human. One person may find something offensive, others may not. The show is great for showing this, but in this instance, they were unable to show their vision for fear of being killed. The network censored Muhammad for their own safety, and a major blow was dealt not only to free speech, but to freedom in general.

I know that sounds flag-waving, anti-Muslim, but I don’t mean it to be. I’m a huge fan of the show not only because it’s often quite hilarious, but because I truly support its message and what it tries to say. For every serious episode with a deep meaning and social commentary, there’s an episode that simply focuses on humor and being entertaining. A classic episode, “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is a prime example. There’s no commentary, just the story of Cartman getting his revenge on someone who wronged him.

This entry isn’t to persuade people to believe what South Park says, nor is it to slander any group of people. I simply support the idea that we’re all human and we should all relax and have a joke at one another’s (or your own) expense once in a while. It’s good for you, really.

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