Skip to comments.South Park: Libertarian TV: A truly unique (if foul-mouthed) voice on national television.
Posted on 04/15/2003 10:19:57 PM PDT by JohnHuang2
Its a television show almost too gross for words: The adventures of four potty-mouthed elementary school students in South Park Colorado. South Park, which broadcast its 100th episode last week is the first (and currently the only) regularly scheduled network television show thats always rated TV-MA. The first episode, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" involved the shows lead character, the selfish fat boy Eric Cartman, getting the titular procedure from a group of stick-figure space aliens.
Like much of whats on T.V. much of South Park is often devoid of serious meaning. Its heavy on racist, sexist, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic humor but so egalitarian in its offensiveness that only a handful of complainersmostly right-leaning cultural scoldsbother to complain about it any more. Most comedy intended for mass consumption, however, follows this "offend everyone" formula but South Park pushes it very far. It skewers just about all of the Lefts sacred cows. While few shows dare to make fun of homosexuals in any way, South Park features the cheerfully stereotypical and flamboyant Big Gay Al. While most television shows feature a token African-American characters South Park takes this a bit further by naming its only black regular Token. (Token, of course, never gets any good lines.) Sacred cows of the Right come under attack at least as frequently: Jesus appears frequently on South Park as a neer do well public access television show host. And traditional religious believers get really upset by the shows sympathetic portrayal of Satan. And some parts of South Park just offend everyone: one character, mealy-mouthed welfare recipient Kenny, dies (often in gruesome ways) in nearly every episode only to reappear unharmed in the next one. But pushing the envelope on offensiveness doesnt really make South Park unique; plenty of other cultural products have done so before.
Instead, the shows persistently libertarian politics make it stand out in a television world thats mostly liberal (everything from Law & Order to West Wing), occasionally neo-conish (24), and once-in-a-while religious conservative (Touched by an Angel). But true libertarianism is pretty rare. Creator Trey Parker and Matt Stone have both described themselves as libertarians in interviews and Parker is a registered member of the Libertarian Party. A Libertarian candidate for California Governor even ripped off the show for a rather funny pro-drug legalization campaign commercial.
Most of the shows episodes revolve around the exploitsusually rather ill-temperedof Eric Cartman. Hes hugely fat, unbelievably rude, and lives by the motto "Whatever! I do what I want." Perhaps the most emblematic of his behavior is the fifth season episode "Cartmanland." Cartman inherits a million dollars and uses it to buy an amusement park. In concert with his selfish nature, he decides to close the amusement park so that only he can ride the rides. Kyle Broflovski, the shows smart kid (and the most moral of the bunch) breaks out in a life threatening hemorrhoid because he can not stand Cartman being so lucky. But Cartman needs to raise money to run the park and, as a result, he allows others in. The park becomes a huge financial success and Cartman gets his comeuppance when he gives it back to the original owner only after it has been an enormous success. Here the show argues that capitalismand life in generalmay produce unfair benefits but the end results in a capitalist system are most often fair. Whats significant about the show is that Cartmans schemes almost always fail. Because hes immoral, indeed, he often falls prey to con artists himself, once paying $16.92 for a rock stars pubic hair. Other episodes hew close to Libertarian positions. When Big Gay Al tries to become a scout leader, he learns a lesson about free association. When Harbucks coffee opens up in South Park, citizens skeptical of big business learn about how competition benefits the masses.
In fact, the shows political positions almost always tend to favor Libertarian outcomes: it attacks hate crime laws as hypocritical, shows trial lawyers as parasitic scum, and derides over-active sexual harassment laws and sensitivity counseling. The shows single most wicked satire is that of school counselor Mr. Mackey.
South Park is so gross and so disgusting at times that hardly anyone is going to avoid an occasional moment of revulsion. But between the fart jokes and offensive stereotypes, some pretty insightful political commentary can leak out.
But for the life of me, I still can't find anything funny about "Mr. Hanky".
We need more like these two. And more deathmatch battles between Robert Smith and Barbra Streisand!
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit The Palace Of Reason:
Hmmm. Must not have seen any of the ones with Chef in it.
Similarly edgy was the now-infamous "Red Sleigh Down," in which the boys enlist Jesus and they raid Santa Claus's Iraqi captors...it was fun and mildly sacrilegious until the stunning punchline "the important thing to remember is that He died for us." It went by so fast that it was nearly unnoticed, but not unnoticable.
Why the boys hired Lear is a mystery to me - of all of the comedy writers on television he strikes me as being close to the most incapable of appreciating the biting of his own sacred cows. If it turns into an animated West Wing the roar you hear will be the collective clicking of an entire audience's "off" buttons.
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