ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, September 25, 2006

South Park Secrets

I saw this interesting article on ABCNews website the other day. It discusses the double standard that is applied to much in our culture and how South Park makes fun of our idiocy on a weekly basis. Read the whole article...

Secrets of 'South Park'
Cartoon Co-Creators on Tom Cruise, Mohammed and the Time They Came Close to Packing It in

Sept. 22, 2006 — - Comedy Central's vulgar, profane, hilarious animated hit "South Park" begins its 10th season on Oct. 4 in an uncertain place.

In the past year, the show and its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, won their first Emmy and were also honored with a Peabody for best electronic media. But the year was also fraught with moments of censorship that caused the show's creators to wonder if the world had changed so much in the last 10 years that "South Park" could really no longer thrive.

"What we've stood behind for 10 years is: It's got to all be OK or none of it is," Parker told ABC's "Nightline." "Because as soon as you start picking, 'Well, OK, we won't do this,' then all of a sudden the ones you did about that shouldn't be OK either. So we were starting to say, 'I don't know that this is a world that 'South Park' can live in.'"

"South Park" has been vilified as crude, disgusting and nihilistic, and the eagerness of Stone and Parker to impale every sacred cow they can reach is a major reason for its success. After all, in the fictional town of South Park, Colo. -- home to third-graders Kenny, Kyle, Stan and the evil Cartman -- everything is fair game. Even the Prophet Mohammed, who appeared as a superhero in a July 2001 episode called "The Super Best Friends."

"People told us at the time, 'You can't really draw an image of Mohammed,'" Parker says. "And we were like, well, we can. We're not Muslim, so it's OK."

In 2006, however, when Stone and Parker wanted to depict Mohammed in an episode, Comedy Central wouldn't let them. After all, Muslims worldwide had rioted over insulting depictions of Mohammed in a newspaper in Denmark.

It seemed odd to the creators of "South Park," who had been and were still allowed to depict Jesus in any number of profane ways. In fact, the episode in question, "Cartoon Wars," shows a cartoon (supposedly created by al Qaeda) in which Jesus defecates on President Bush.

Open Season on Jesus

"That's where we kind of agree with some of the people who've criticized our show," Stone says. "Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We've had him say bad words. We've had him shoot a gun. We've had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn't just show a simple image."

During the part of the show where Mohammed was to be depicted -- benignly, Stone and Parker say -- the show ran a black screen that read: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

Other networks took a similar course, refusing to air images of Mohammed -- even when reporting on the Denmark cartoon riots -- claiming they were refraining because they're religiously tolerant, the South Park creators say.

"No you're not," Stone retorts. "You're afraid of getting blown up. That's what you're afraid of. Comedy Central copped to that, you know: 'We're afraid of getting blown up.'"

"At the same time, just like we always do, we managed to get something on and say something about how we can't say something about Mohammed," Parker says.
One of the things that really intrigued me about the religion issue is that Isaac Hayes (the voice of a prominent character and Scientologist in real life) had no qualms about participating in the creation of shows which made fun of Judaism, Chrisitanity, Mormonism, Islam, etc, etc, etc... but the moment the South Park kids had an episode involving Scientology (and how whacked out it is), he left the show. It seems that - for Isaac and many of the Muslims that over-reacted to the Mohammed episodes - some religions are greenlighted for parody and ridicule, while others must be revered.

Also in the article, they mention South Park Conservatives. Now, I don't think it's a great term, as I think some of their jabs are definitely aimed at large number of constituencies of the conservative movement. However, I would gather that the creators of South Park are more closely aligned with the Libertarian-wing of the republican party than with any other group in the political sphere. For that reason, I find their cartoons to be rather humorous and am a big fan.

And I think it's been really interesting to me to listen to my liberal friends who were huge South Park fans in the early days, but then decided that it wasn't funny when the kids from South Park skewered some liberal orthodoxy. And then when Team America: World Police came out - which certainly poked fun at the idiocy of the Left, but took some not-to-subtle jabs at the hawks in the War On Terror - they stopped watching anything from Matt & Trey and decided that some things just weren't funny.

So, what's the one thing - the "secret" - that all of South Park's targets have in common? (And, it should be noted that this one thing probably is the reason that the South Park creators target them week in and week out for ridicule and parody.)

What do Scientology, Islam, every liberal orthodoxy, runaway political correctness, Algore, overbearing and protective parents all have in common?

They're all unable to laugh at themselves... They're all super-cereal and off limits when it comes to humor...

...and that's the surest sign of weakness.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (3)
Brian said...

My favorite part of the article was this part:

[Everyone is fair game...]Even the Prophet Mohammed, who appeared as a superhero in a July 2001 episode called "The Super Best Friends."

"People told us at the time, 'You can't really draw an image of Mohammed,'" Parker says. "And we were like, well, we can. We're not Muslim, so it's OK."

And that sums it up. They make fun of everybody. Feel free not to laugh if your particular group is skewered that week.

I don't think it was beyond the pale that Isaac left, however. Even as wacked out as his "religion" its still his. And if he was offended enough by the episode to want to leave the show, then fine.

From the article Matt and Trey felt the same way. They knew that it might offend him and that he might leave, but in the end it didn't matter. If he didn't want to take part in the joke any longer, he didn't have to.

From the very beginning of the show, I always figured that they were just ratcheting up the heat on their topics trying to get fired. They weren't going to leave any stone unturned until they found that magic item that did the show in. A social experiment with their careers if you will.

They came close to it with the "Cartoon Wars".

Brian said...

Man, preview is your friend. Should have reviewed all of the grammatical mistakes...

I blame not enough coffee this morning.

Sorry, mom. Don't think too bad of me.

St Wendeler said...

I also thought the references to Randy Marsh were hilarious... had no idea that was his dad.

Randy to me represents the everyman in America... his gut tells him something is right or wrong, but he's not really good at verbalizing it or explaining it to his kids.

He's boneheaded sometimes, but he means well.