South Park: Effective Social Commentary

Topics: South Park, Trey Parker, Eric Cartman Pages: 5 (1762 words) Published: January 2, 2013

South Park: Effective Social Commentary

This paper will explore whether the animated show South Park is an effective use of social commentary. We will explore the controversial topics covered by the show and the reactions to those shows from both a liberal and conservative viewpoint. In addition, we will look at how topics covered in a humorous, cartoon format may be able to more effectively discuss taboo subjects and why this show should be taken seriously in its social commentary.

South Park: Effective Social Commentary

Is the show South Park an effective use of social commentary? We will explore this question throughout this paper. From religion, to politics, to sex and gender issues it seems that there is no subject too taboo for the biting guerrilla-style satirical writings of the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The basis of the show is on four children that live in a small fictitious Colorado town called South Park. The central characters are four eight-year-old boys that hang around the town in a manner reminiscent of the central characters in the play Waiting for Godot [1], only crasser. The boys are thrust into situations that usually revolve around current news events that are popular in the media. It is the shocking, and usually inappropriate, reactions of the boys and the adults around them to these situations that are the cornerstone of this ideological show. To dismiss this show as a crude cartoon is miss the point of the show entirely, for there must be something substantial enough to garner this show eight Emmy awards, a Peabody award and numerous other awards. Roger Ebert, a well-known movie critic, first panned the South Park movie, but even he recognized its importance in the same review by stating that is was 'the most slashing political commentary of the year'[2]. However, with jaw dropping exchanges such as these, it is no wonder some do dismiss this show so easily:

1.Jewish Kid: “Is anyone else having problems concentrating on this? I just can't seem to concentrate.”[3] Cartman: “Maybe we should send you to a concentration camp.” 2.Cartman: “I would never let a woman kick my ass. If she tried something, I'd be like, HEY! You get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!”[3] 3.Stan: ‘Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly.” Cartman: “Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise”. [3] 4.Mr. Garrison: “Genetic engineering is man's way of correcting God's hideous mistakes, like German people.” [3] Even Right Wing News journalist, John Hawkins, has published a list of favorite quotes from the show.[4] So what is it about this show that allows them to say things that no other show could get away with? By removing political correctness and being equal opportunity offenders, Trey and Parker can deliver messages with humor while exposing the absurdities of that very subject. However, the delivery through poorly animated cartoon characters allows this show to make the most shocking of statements with only occasional resistance. Take for example the death of Steve Irwin who hosted a popular television show called The Crocodile Hunter. Mr. Irwin was killed in September of 2006 when he was swimming with a stingray that pierced his heart with its poisonous spine.[5] In October of 2006, Bill Maher who is popular talk-show host, dressed up as Steve Irwin with a bloody stingray spine sticking out of his chest. The public backlash was immediate and the criticism was scathing. Earlier that same month the South Park episode called ‘Hell on Earth 2006’, depicted Steve Irwin with a bloody stingray spine sticking out of his chest attending a formal ball in Hell with the likes of Princess Diana and Hitler.[6] While both of these incidents were grossly insensitive to the grieving family, Bill Maher received harsher criticism and more press. So this begs...
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