Friday, April 04, 2008


Pop Philosophy Will Eat Itself

I'm a fan of South Park. I like its crude humor, its pop culture analysis, and its ability to attack targets with a buzz saw. But I also have a big problem with it: I don't think Trey Parker and Matt Stone take some things seriously enough, and when they try to make a point about them, they come off as craven hypocrites.

It's something I call "PCU Syndrome", after the movie that was all about how college activists are overly-sensitive fanatics, multiculturalism is folly, and the people who stick speed bumps on handicapped ramps are the new Ferris Buellers. I'll admit that college activism and clueless ventures in multiculturalism are often rich subjects for satire -- God, are they ever rich for mockery -- but to be entirely dismissive of a movement that aids others makes the people behind PCU look like overly privileged frat boys who don't understand why those feminists are so bitchy all the time.

Same with Parker and Stone. It showed up the first time in Team America: World Police, which was all about how Hollywood celebrities shouldn't use their fame to argue political opinions from a position of authority. Keep in mind that this movie was made years after South Park had stopped being about cute little kids who swore and was starting to play up the political humor with a bend towards opinion. It's still a funny movie (as seen above), but at its heart, it's clueless.

Same thing with last night's episode, "Canada On Strike", which I bowed out of because I knew there was little chance this would end well. The episode ends with Kyle delivering a speech on how the Writer's Guild -- sorry, Canada -- was foolish to make a big fuss about web-based content that hasn't delivered cash to anyone yet. Except, as August points out, Parker and Stone signed a deal back in August that's estimated to deliver $75 million in ad revenue by putting every episode of South Park up on the Internet to view.

I love satire, even when it pokes at my own set of sacred cows. After all, I agree that the causes I follow are flawed and foolish in some areas, and I would like to see those areas mocked so that I may work to correct them. I'm just not a big fan of the satirist who picks at the mote in my eye while ignoring the split-level house in his.

I used to watch "South Park" regularly myself, but for me the breaking point was the episode about Wal-Mart, where the "moral" was that people who criticize Wal-Mart just hate big corporations. Before even that episode, though, the episodes seemed to be morphing into 22-minute advertisements for doctrinal Libertarianism.
Like I said, some episodes are still great (the one with the Heavy Metal homages a few weeks back was awesome), but when the show goes into politics, it has a tendency to go pear-shaped.
Maybe I'll go back and just try to avoid any episode that deals with anything remotely political.
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