South Park as Parody of Society
South Park began airing in 1997. The commercials that preceded it gave the impression of it being another stupid cartoon; however, when I began watching, I realized important issues were being covered through the repeated behaviors and actions of its characters, through the influences these actions could have on the viewers, through the reinforcement and rejections of certain stereotypes, through the long-term effects that could result from watching the program, and through its reflection of social reality.Order now
Some of the repeated behaviors and actions of the characters include one of the children (Kenny) dying during each episode (followed by Stan yelling, “Oh, my God! They’ve killed Kenny” (South Park).); the children ragging the overweight kid; the African-American chef obsessing about sex; and the geneticist performing insane experiments in his spooky laboratory.
Kenny has been shot, run over by a train, impaled on a flag pole, beheaded, crushed by Mir, and taken by Death himself–to name a few.
Cartman, the overweight kid, has been called “fat ass,” “lard ass,” and “the fat kid” (South Park). There are numerous references to his weight throughout each episode; he eats continuously, thanks to his Mother’s cooking and offering cookies, chocolate-chicken pot pies, and Cheesy Poofs. Each time Chef (voice of Isaac Hayes) offers to explain important issues to the kids, he breaks into a song about making “sweet love” to a woman. This leaves the children wondering just what the heck he is trying to say. There are references to his having sex with every available (and even unavailable) female in the town. There is a take-off of The Island of Dr.
Moreau with a geneticist–mimicking Marlon Bran. .in most of the episodes these negative actions and beliefs are dealt with in a manner that seeks to alleviate them. Unfortunately, this manner of alleviation is found in the subtext, and most people are not willing to look that far; it requires too much effort.
Frighteningly, the show is a parody of society itself. In film, parody is usually the death-knell of a particular genre.
Years ago, I read that Ren and Stimpy (another cartoon) was proof of the decline of our civilization because of its attacks on societal norms. Could South Park be further proof of this decline, or is it just a funny cartoon that allows us to laugh at ourselves while dealing with our fears?
South Park. Prod. Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Comedy Central, New York. 1997.
Superman. Dir. Richard Donner. Perf. Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman. Dovemead Film Export, 1978.