03 May 2005

The Politics of Talking Shit (BR)

Conservatives Love South Park

I had a wonderful birthday weekend, thanks for asking. While I was gone, Frank Rich of the New York Times delivered this fascinating article in response to a new book that claims South Park's politics as conservative politics.

The premise would be too ridiculous to consider if it weren't one of my favorite shows. So let's consider it. Two of South Park's chief icons are a talking piece of feces and Satan, portrayed as a sympathetic and sensitive (albeit homosexual) figure who throws Lu'aus in Hell on Sundays. When it first came out, the program was an avowed target of the ire and fascistic censorial tendencies of the Religious Right, in the same boat with Marilyn Manson and Bill Clinton.

But conservatives ready to count Trey and Matt as kindred spirits would do well to treat themselves to season six when it comes out on DVD. Six finds Parker and Stone at their best, working ascerbic storylines with cultural politics to the best effect of the season's nine-year run. In episode 12, "A Ladder to Heaven," Stan, Kyle and Cartman try to contact Kenny - who was permanently dead for about a season - in order to find their winning raffle ticket. The parents, predictably, misinterpret the boys' motives and soon the whole town rallies around their efforts, attracting fawning media attention. Country singer Alan Jackson is skewered throughout the episode, showing up on the scene with a tribute song he's penned - lyrics: "Where were you when they built a ladder to heaven/Did it make you cry, or did you think it was kinda gay/Well I for one believe in a ladder to heaven/Nine-eleven/nine-eleven, nine-eleven nine-eleven" - and soon the US government commandeers the project to compete with the Japanese, who are building their own ladder. Intelligence services learn that Saddam Hussein is in heaven, building illegal weapons. The scene of most interest finds President Bush at the United Nations, pointing to an unintelligible smudge on a large photo of the sky.

President Bush: We believe Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction - in heaven.

UN delegate: Are you high, or just retarded?

President Bush: I assure you, I am not high.

Righties who find an ideological rapport with South Park and its creators because of its lambasting of easy targets like Barbara Streisand and Rob Reiner conveniently omit that the same "geniuses" also produced a Comedy Central show called That's My Bush!, which hit the air shortly after the President's 2001 inauguration. That's My Bush!, which was generally uninspired but enjoyable for Timothy Bottoms' spot-on Bush impression and Kurt Fuller's deadpan Karl Rove, unquestionably portrayed the President as a bumbling moron. This is all not to mention Team America's world policy synopsis of America as "dicks" to the "pussies" on the anti-war Left and the "assholes" repped by Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il.

South Park does not and will not fit easily into the left-right paradigm. Rich gets it when he refers to Parker and Stone's libertarianism. At the end of the day, the aim of the show is to expose and ridicule extremism and self-righteousness wherever it's found, a mission which Trey Parker and Matt Stone accomplish so well that it's understandable why ideologues on both the left and right each want them on their side.


Blogger ORF said...

All I have to say is: God. Bless. Frank. Rich.
Seriously, that man is the NYTimes hidden gem.

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