“For every joke that lands, another one makes me feel uncomfortable,”
October 22, 2017 2:18 PM   Subscribe

'The Fractured But Whole' Has the Same Identity Crisis as Modern South Park [Waypoint] “Nostalgia and references were enough to propel me through The Stick of Truth, but while playing the sequel, The Fractured But Whole [YouTube][Trailer], rose-tinted glasses haven't been enough, my nervous chuckles replaced with sighs. This is a game where one of the main characters, Cartman, dresses up as a Racoon-themed superhero and calls himself The Coon. The joke, of course, is "coon" is also a racial slur for black people. Pretty funny stuff. It gets even better when one of the main missions has players invading the homes of innocent black people and helping the police arrest them. The punchline is that the police are racist! The Fractured But Whole, much like modern South Park, often feels like "well-meaning" people desperately holding onto an ability to laugh at shitty jokes made at the expense of people who don't deserve it, even though they know better.”

• The darker the skin, the harder the game: How South Park pretended to care about race [Polygon]
“Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s South Park is no stranger to social commentary, and Ubisoft’s upcoming RPG South Park: The Fractured But Whole wants to be an interactive version of the show that uses video game tropes as another way to help the jokes land. The game’s difficulty slider changes the color of your skin, for instance. The lighter the complexion, the easier the game. The darker the complexion, the harder the game. If you want a greater challenge, you have to play as a black character. “This doesn't affect combat,” Cartman tells you. “Just every other aspect of your whole life." The difficulty slider will affect how much money you earn and how you’re spoken to during the course of the game, according to Eurogamer. Or at least that was the story. “We reached out to the game's publisher, Ubisoft, who had no official statement but confirmed that it's just a joke,” GamesRadar reported. “It doesn't affect combat difficulty or any other aspect of gameplay difficulty. The slider changes skin tone, but it's purely cosmetic.” They came so close to saying something.”
• South Park Fractured but Whole review: Emphasis on the “fractured” [ArsTechnica]
“Licensed games have improved a lot in recent years, but their quality is never guaranteed, and the South Park license had never been used to solid effect until that 2014 RPG came along. (A major legal-rights shuffling didn't help Stick of Truth's pre-release worries, either.) In that game, Obsidian Entertainment and South Park Studios took roughly 15 years of South Park material (basically, everything after the Bigger, Longer, and Uncut film), then recapped and celebrated the series' best characters and most NSFW plotlines. More importantly, its power as a video game was used to incredible effect, whether by sending up RPG tropes and traditions or by making its interactive moments nearly as funny as its scripted ones. That's quite the bottle of lightning, and there's no shame in the fact that its video game sequel, this week's The Fractured but Whole, doesn't recapture the same incredibly crude magic.”
• Has South Park’s Humor Changed, Or Have We? [Kotaku]
“It’s interesting to watch a show like this change, when it came to cultural significance during a different era. And has had to adjust with the way that culture has changed. Not just to be “politically correct” or to be more “right,” or because its creators’ views change, just because also, the entire conversation, the whole nature of comedy changes. I think that part of this remove, part of the contradiction and the confusing-ness of South Park in general comes from the fact that it is really fundamentally straight white guy humor. It’s this type of humor—and I engage in this humor all the time, as a straight white guy—where you can kind of just laugh at the whole situation. And you can say, “oh, look at how ridiculous everybody is.” And it’s very core to the identity of South Park and always was. And it just played better, honestly, 15-20 years ago. […] I remember sitting there watching that prequel episode thinking man, this show has just lost a step.”
posted by Fizz (62 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This pairs well with Lindy West's Shrill and the discussion of punching down. She makes good arguments against it.
posted by k8t at 2:41 PM on October 22


Has South Park’s Humor Changed, Or Have We?

*looks uncomfortably at username*
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:43 PM on October 22 [76 favorites]


I thought all the lovers of Total Asshole Antiheroes had migrated from Cartman to Rick of Rick & Morty. Then again, Cartman never caused a run on a discontinued fast food item (but that may be because he endorsed so many - after all, he's grotesquely obese.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:47 PM on October 22


I don’t know whether they’re making fun of SJWs or whether they’re subtly trying to teach their user base how not to be a dick. Hell, you can smack someone for using a micro aggression!
posted by Talez at 2:50 PM on October 22


South Park started 20 years ago during the end of the Clinton administration. The show helped coin the term "South Park Republican", which from the latter side of 2017 looks like the "both sides" style independent that is looking more and more untenable (or at worst a jocular mask used to hide uglier beliefs).

It was young white guy humor back in the day and now it's middle age white guy humor, because it's primarily created by two white guys. In a TV landscape that's trying to change and diversify, South Park is an institution and inevitably looking more and more conservative.

Young people who watched the show in the beginning by now have children that are the age of Cartman.

In a lot of different ways, South Park is old.
posted by FJT at 3:07 PM on October 22 [50 favorites]


It turns out there was never much that was progressive in implicitly endorsing the status quo by calling all opinions equally bad
posted by beerperson at 3:25 PM on October 22 [92 favorites]


Wait the skin slider difficulty setting changes NOTHING?! Ugh yeah, that's South Park in a nutshell come so close to saying something (and tbh I appreciated that joke when I thought it was an actual difficulty setting) then instead giving ammunition to white victimhood 'LUL it's not actually harder you're just looking for it to be more difficult!!'

Yeah South Park is old but is unfortunately got its finger on our culture's toxic pulse in a big way. Which says nothing good about South Park.
posted by litleozy at 3:42 PM on October 22 [10 favorites]


South Park has always been like this, it's always been right wing in a young mormony way, always been conservative but not out of touch. You know how often someone will accidentally get fans they don't want because those fans didn't get the subtext/irony/joke (see: Rick and Morty)? South Park understands exactly how that works and plays that dynamic like an instrument and then closes with a lame "there is blame on both sides". They were alt-light-light before the alt-right existed.

Here's a paraphrase of a conversation I've had a million times with my friends who like South Park: Yeah, that bit was pretty funny but the ring-wing politics of that show are terrible. Yes, that part was ironic but unwrap it all and look where the authors were standing and the direction they were punching to make it. Ok, think back to the Scientology episode and the Mormonism episode, you know how those both made fun of the target but were very different in tone once you unwrapped it? That's what I mean.
posted by Infracanophile at 3:54 PM on October 22 [19 favorites]


South Park can continue to go fuck itself right in its own rotting ear. That game can go to hell and never be spoken of again.
If you “choose” to be nonbinary or trans, as you leave the school you get attacked by a pack of rednecks who yell “Well, well, well. If it ain’t one of them gender neutrals. We don’t take kindly to your types around here. Let’s welcome this thing to our town!” You and the usual gang of South Park kids have to battle the rednecks to continue.
etc., etc., etc.
posted by introp at 3:58 PM on October 22 [13 favorites]


The problem I had with South Park back in the day was that it seemed to exist mainly to take the piss out of the liberal viewpoint ( but still kinda agree with it ) That can be funny sometimes if it's well written but if you're a stupid person you could miss that point. It's easy to read it as a right leaning satire if you take it at face value. And now I don't know what to make of it.. when about half the country is practically a living terrible South Park character.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:17 PM on October 22 [7 favorites]


I made the mistake of seeing the "South Park Guys'" GerryAnderson/puppet based 'satire' "Team America: World Police", which started with the titular paramilitary team causing more damage than the terrorists they were hunting (but they were doing it in Paris and Cairo and other places that were unimportant). Then they got their main domestic opposition from the celebrity-based "Film Actors Guild" (please note their acronym) and the evil mastermind was North Korea's Kim Jung-Il (the current Kin's dad). It concluded with the Team America leader's inspirational speech describing each of the parties in the conflict in the most scatological terms possible... the heroes were pricks, the loyal opposition were pussies and the foreign enemies were assholes. Which, if that represented the writers' true worldview, was the strongest pro-sodomy argument I'd ever seen in 'mainstream' media.

That's when I gave up the South Parkers as hopeless.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:18 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


Beating the shit out of intolerant rednecks is bad? Here I thought Mr Mackey basically outing you to your parents was the problem with that whole scene.
posted by Talez at 4:46 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


And...I'll wish for the franchise its continued success, forever thankful for Mr. Hanky and Stone's sensibilities combined with Parker's energy and drive to arrest mores. Parker's dramatic sense and comic timing were preternatural (or at the least precocious) and Team America was tonic for a toxic era. BASEketball and Team America were both surprising because just "working what works" wasn't Parker's ambition.

What has become largely Parker's efforts and evolution deserve every bit of high-profile criticism there is because nothing is without flaw and consistency and longevity, success, should be examined.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:58 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


It's been said that South Park, in all its incarnations and from the very beginning was based on not giving a shit and viciously attacking those who do. And while I think that's true, it's not quite the whole story.

At one point, when asked about politics, Matt Stone said "I hate conservatives but I really fucking hate liberals." And that really sums up everything about the show.

What they want, what they feel, what they need, is the ultimate most important thing ever, anyone or anything that denies their tiniest whim or desire is vile and must be crushed. And first and foremost they don't want to be wrong, they don't want to have to change, and they like things as they are.

They're well fed, so there's no hunger problem. Anyone claiming otherwise is evil for trying to get them to care or change.

They're cold right now, so climate change is a haox. Anyone claiming otherwise is a busybody trying to force them to change.

Sometimes this aggressive apathy (if that's not too much of an oxymoron), lashes out at conservative dogma, they want to smoke weed, they want to drink, they want to fuck, they want to cuss, they want to sleep in on Sunday and not bother with church. So they aren't happy about conservatives who want them to be sober, chaste, and religious. But mostly (aside from pot) for cis white dudes those battles have been won. Alcohol is legal, being non-religious (or at least not going to church) is legal, fucking is legal. So conservatives seem like busybody annoyances, but not really a big deal.

Liberals, on the other hand, actually want new stuff, they want change, and that means Parker, Stone, and their white, cis, straight, middle class, audience really fucking hate liberals. We'd like LGBT people to be treated decently, and while Parker and Stone aren't really devoutly against that, they also really like homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise LGBT phobic humor so they hate liberals who would like to see those things end. And so on.

What they really hate is any restriction on their id and it's every whim. They want to fuck, so they're opposed to conservative bluenoses who want them to be chaste. But, they want to fuck and they don't really give a shit about women, so they **REALLY FUCKING HATE** liberals who call for affirmative consent and equality of pleasure for both parties and not sexually harassing or assaulting women. Because that restrains their whims so it makes liberalism the enemy.

They aren't really pro-slavery, that'd be too much work, and they aren't really racist in the KKK sense. But they're lazy, they grew up using ethnic slurs, and since liberals would like them to change that about themselves, that means liberal PC police are the enemy.

In a way they're really the perfect encapsulation of the brocalist or the ostensibly liberal straight white dude who just will not STFU about how identity politics is killing everything. As long as it's something that doesn't hit them in their own little straight white dude middle class bubble they consider it to be, at absolute best, a distraction and an annoyance. And at worst an evil plot to deprive them of their liberty.
posted by sotonohito at 5:11 PM on October 22 [126 favorites]


@talez

Actually any unwanted physical contact, especially after being told not to touch, is the definition of assault.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 5:21 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


Actually any unwanted physical contact, especially after being told not to touch, is the definition of assault.

No, it isn't, actually.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:24 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


Actually any unwanted physical contact, especially after being told not to touch, is the definition of assault.

Talez is referring to one of the aspects of the game. From the first article:
One of the combat mechanics revolves around microaggressions. If someone dishes an insult with racial, gendered, or sexual overtones, it's a free hit. Capitalizing on a series of microaggressions fills a meter that nets bonus experience points. Whenever you encounter a microaggression, you're contacted by P.C. Principal with an explanation about how one of the words or phrases they used was hurtful to another human being. The joke being that empathy for people's reactions to our words and their unintended consequences is somehow a bad thing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:24 PM on October 22 [2 favorites]


“...The final definition of assault is knowingly causing physical contact with someone else that they would regard as offensive or provocative.”

I’m assuming lazycomputerkids was just being contrary.
posted by NeoRothbardian at 5:41 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


South Park Nihilism is a weird new thing in youth culture. It has a bleak force which kinda feeds into the incoherent anger that elected the current American president.

I reminisce fondly of the good old days of Punk Rock Nihilism which was an escape from the entire culture of the Cold War and impending Nuclear Armageddon. But nowadays, the chaos has a different flavour.
posted by ovvl at 5:52 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


To paraphrase Walter Sobchak, "Say what you want about the tenets of South Park Nihilism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:04 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


Parker & Stone can be funny at times, like when they unleashed the attack panthers in Team America, one of the funniest things that I'd ever seen. They had a personal grudge against Michael Moore about the animations used in Bowling for Columbine. Their sense of humour has turned kinda sour with current times.
posted by ovvl at 6:09 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


On the subject of the actual video games themselves. They're fun and entertaining to play. They're well built RPGs skinned with a popular culture cartoonish overlay. And I personally find it a bit of a shame that this is the show that was adapted.

Similar to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor/War 'Nemesis system', there is fantastic game design that I would love to see adapted with other media.
posted by Fizz at 6:18 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


I hate South Park for the right-wing/libertarian BS (as well as the overplayed overdone characters). Sure as a 20 something teen I thought it was pretty funny.
Then I grew up.
Anyways...

"South Park can continue to go fuck itself right in its own rotting ear. That game can go to hell and never be spoken of again.

If you “choose” to be nonbinary or trans, as you leave the school you get attacked by a pack of rednecks who yell “Well, well, well. If it ain’t one of them gender neutrals. We don’t take kindly to your types around here. Let’s welcome this thing to our town!” You and the usual gang of South Park kids have to battle the rednecks to continue.

etc., etc., etc."
Isn't the point here, that the villain is the redneck that disparages trans/nonbinary/gender neutral? And since the kids are the "heroes" (ok, well... cartman, etc... you know... flawed and horrible). The fact is, they are battling against the assholes who pick on people who consider themselves gender neutral.

From what I've read, the game itself actually *does* present a more surprising view of SP, and I think that's more due to Ubisoft than Parker/Stone.

Then again, I could be off base, since:
1) I haven't played it
2) What I read about it was just a small portion of this issue.

But it seemed that it was actually sort of ... a little more "PC" than the cartoon? Maybe I'm wrong, but...

Couldn't we actually praise this for being a small step in the right direction for SP? I dunno why I care, because I ignore the show for the same reasons everyone here is complaining about it. But it seems the devs are trying to be more understanding? When I read about the game on a blog a bit back, I was honestly shocked "This isn't the South Park I'd come to expect..."

So is it just... everyone's experiences being written/contextualized in a certain way? Maybe the person writing about it was just a cishet white dude and thought it was "progressive" (and considering what he wrote, it *was* progressive... for South Park, at least), maybe my Trans & Genderqueer comrades would have a different take.

I dunno, but it seems that this thread, and the links themselves have a lot of bias vs the article I read. Guess I should read more than the clips here.

The question then is - is there something redeemable, and if so, should we, instead of throwing out baby w/bathwater, maybe praise the choices to move forward...

Maybe we could invert it from... "Oh look they're moving away from the "PC" South Park" (aka: we're offending people by being "PC" so we MUST be good!) use their own tactics against them, the poor South Park Snowflakes?
posted by symbioid at 6:22 PM on October 22


ps i'm drunk
posted by symbioid at 6:22 PM on October 22 [12 favorites]


Isn't the point here, that the villain is the redneck that disparages trans/nonbinary/gender neutral? And since the kids are the "heroes" (ok, well... cartman, etc... you know... flawed and horrible). The fact is, they are battling against the assholes who pick on people who consider themselves gender neutral.

It's the "ironic racism is often just racism" problem. While ostensibly the rednecks are villians to be defeated, the exchange also normalizes anti-trans insults and reinforces the idea that non-binary people are somehow abnormal. It puts additional obstacles in the way of non-binary people as a matter of course, and in doing so ensures that they can't be treated as normal.

It's a little like Seth McFarlane's just a little too gleeful ironic misogyny and Jew jokes. And no, we don't need to praise a bunch of privileged white dudes based on a hopeful interpretation that they might be taking a baby step in the right direction.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:08 PM on October 22 [31 favorites]


I’m assuming lazycomputerkids was just being contrary.

That is easier than doubting an assertion.

Qualifying a thing as fact (or its very definition) is not substantial. It is typical of online discussion (e.g., actually, truly, really, really really, literally, as point of fact, indeed, undoubtedly, certainly, assuredly, verily) but, despite usage convenient to a point, definitions are seldom singular and context is vital.

I contradicted the assertion because the context is behavior between people (not lions or castles) and legal distinctions are relevant, significant, and necessary-- expressions upon which merit is weighed and recorded.

In criminal and civil law, assault is an attempt to initiate harmful or offensive contact with a person, or a threat to do so.[1] It is distinct from battery, which refers to the actual achievement of such contact. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm. It is both a crime and a tort and, therefore, may result in either criminal and/or civil liability. (WikiPedia)

It's significant (to me) because of gender relations and how often it is qualified as solely physical contact (Did he touch you? No? Then what's the problem?)

Now, this is a derail and this second reply must be my last.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:10 PM on October 22 [8 favorites]


South Park Nihilism is a weird new thing in youth culture. It has a bleak force which kinda feeds into the incoherent anger that elected the current American president.

It's funny to see this in a criticism of South Park because they were pretty consistently sounding the alarm about Trump during the election... although they made some jokes about Hilary also being terrible, an entire season of South Park was dedicated, not just implicitly but explicily, to expressing to the audience that Trump was an incompetent imposter with no plan and that it would be the worst thing ever for our country to elect him... his supporters were literally drugged with a sense of (shitty false) nostalgia....

I think a lot of the criticism of SP in this thread is outdated, actually. The show pretends, at times, to not give a shit but it seems pretty that the writers are keeping an eye on current political trends???? And I think the politics of SP have gotten more liberal, not less, over time...
posted by subdee at 8:43 PM on October 22 [4 favorites]


It’s one thing to declare anyone and everyone fair game for the South Park treatment. But Parker and Stone never seem content just to make fun of women; they relish sexually humiliating them, too, all while shunting the show’s female characters, young and old, to the maddeningly familiar role of disapproving nag. It’s hard to think of two writers who better understand the power of comedy to assert oneself, to dominate a conversation and even to win an election. On South Park, this is a power reserved for men and boys.

- The Once Fearless Comedy Shies Away From the Biggest Target of Our Age
posted by elsietheeel at 9:56 PM on October 22 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I didn't know the show was still on. (Is it?) I kind of figured everyone my age had grown up, got uncomfortable, and stopped watching and to everyone younger, it would pale in comparison to newer, edgier, randomer shows. Weird.
posted by greermahoney at 11:53 PM on October 22


I kind of figured everyone my age had grown up, got uncomfortable, and stopped watching

Eh. I'm not surprised that a number of people who grew up with this are still into it. To use non-evil examples, there are a bunch of us who talk about Star Trek and Doctor Who over in Fanfare. (Also, I still literally sing musical numbers that were on The Simpsons 20+ years ago, although I dropped the show itself around S10.)

Media that really resonates with us at a formative age sticks, for better or the Southpark thing.
posted by mordax at 12:13 AM on October 23 [1 favorite]


an entire season of South Park was dedicated, not just implicitly but explicily, to expressing to the audience that Trump was an incompetent imposter with no plan and that it would be the worst thing ever for our country to elect him... his supporters were literally drugged with a sense of (shitty false) nostalgia....

...and the audience yukked it up and then went and voted for Trump because very, lulz, and what, are you gonna vote for fucking Hillary?

And that kinda encapsulates everything that's wrong South Park and its audience. It looks like it's mocking racism, sexism, etc, etc, to a very superficial glance, but it's really just revelling in it, and showing no alternative.
posted by Dysk at 2:56 AM on October 23 [22 favorites]


It's funny to see this in a criticism of South Park because they were pretty consistently sounding the alarm about Trump during the election... although they made some jokes about Hilary also being terrible

You don't spend 19 years creating the problem just to get off the hook for spending 1 year complaining about the problem you created and still play the "both sides" card.

I think a lot of the criticism of SP in this thread is outdated, actually. The show pretends, at times, to not give a shit but it seems pretty that the writers are keeping an eye on current political trends???? And I think the politics of SP have gotten more liberal, not less, over time...

[citation needed]
posted by zombieflanders at 4:42 AM on October 23 [8 favorites]


South Park Nihilism is a weird new thing in youth culture

No it's not. The power of South Park as prime cultural transgressor has long been eclipsed by the depths of social media meme hell. Like the recently in the news Marilyn Manson, SP is the product of a simpler, less ironic, more civilized time. Like MM, both are trying to hold onto some semblance of relevancy in a world far less stable and much more grotesque than the one they appeared in.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:02 AM on October 23 [4 favorites]


...and the audience yukked it up and then went and voted for Trump because very, lulz, and what, are you gonna vote for fucking Hillary?

No popular audience is monolithic. In this thread, a posited ability to know, not speculate, but know, the motivations of artists (commercial or otherwise) shores its basis from a single comment of Stone's to be extrapolated at length with armchair analysis involving the id? The depiction of women and girls? The girls are always rational because they are peers of irrational boys aping the contradictions of adult behavior. Which, admittedly, is an evasion of topics (a pedestal) Parker chooses for reasons I could not definitively know...but the women are nags because the men are moronic-- adulthood is hypocrisy.

Parallel to this is the untenable conclusion that satire normalizes? That the less savvy are vulnerable and an impressionable fraction are misdirected and made worse. It's not the satire you want, but it is the satire you might rationally challenge, and should, and do...

But what I read is: Old is old. Irony is different now. They can't have it both ways. It helped throw an election. I've been reading this community since 2002, and the nausea I felt with Trump's win was exacerbated by the disbelief expressed here and I'm dismayed to read how satire is to shoulder some blame. May Swift be damned. Twain be burned.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:30 AM on October 23 [1 favorite]


Oh, ffs. No one is blaming this on the concept of satire itself. It's Parker and Stone's lazy, conservative (in several senses of the word), and demonstrably harmful brand of punching down as satire that's the problem.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:37 AM on October 23 [19 favorites]


Yyyyyyeah, comparing Stone to Swift and Parker to Twain is quite the stretch.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:49 AM on October 23 [11 favorites]


It's not the satire you want, in the stead of satire you imagine, but it is satire and its existence is due to Swift and Twain-- what would you compare it to?

I can't resolve, zombieflanders, claims of punching down with "having it both ways" and see no evidence you have.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:33 AM on October 23


once fearless my ass. i remember a friend of mine in college being like haw let's watch south park, and i'm like haw i like to smoke weed and watch crass cartoon, anyway it was the let's make fun of trans people dolphin episode, that was well over a decade ago, maybe we can stop with the thinkpieces about how "this used to be cool and now its mean" because it was mean the whole time

that would be cool anyway
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:45 AM on October 23 [12 favorites]


I can't resolve, zombieflanders, claims of punching down with "having it both ways" and see no evidence you have.

Is the problem that you don't see where South Park punches down, or where South Park tries to say both sides are bad?
posted by anem0ne at 9:53 AM on October 23 [7 favorites]


It's not the satire you want, in the stead of satire you imagine, but it is satire and its existence is due to Swift and Twain-- what would you compare it to?

I don't know, bovine manure, perhaps?

You don't have to defend shitty satire on the grounds that it's satire. In fact, you shouldn't.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:36 AM on October 23 [10 favorites]


Each generation gets the thought leaders it deserves.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:52 AM on October 23


My opinion:

I never completely forgave South Park for partially pushing out a certain other Comedy Central show, a certain thing devoted to mocking bad movies you may have heard about. It premiered the year after CC cancelled it, as part of a redirection for the channel. (Funny thing, I can't think of any time MST3K, in later seasons, has ever definitely referenced South Park.)

Since then I've gone along with everyone else, liking it when it does something good and hating it when it does something bad. Mr. Hankey made everyone laugh in the first season, and they killed Kenny every episode that was funny.

Then ManBearPig basically equated global warming with a pretend monster Al Gore was chasing. When you write a show about current events, especially one with the short turnaround time South Park has, you have to run with the take you have when you make it. But god, I wonder if they wish they could take that one back. If the human race ends up drowning beneath the waves of global warming, ManBearPig should be depicted on our species' tombstone.

A thing about South Park that I really hate is, it's taken this character, Cartman, and presented him as basically irredeemable evil, I mean in one episode (that they got a lot of laughs from at the time, for overturning expectations) he tricked a bully's parents into getting shot by a cattle rancher and ground them up into chili and fed them to him. And ha ha yes it's just a cartoon and how funny that is. But Cartman is also the breakout star of South Park. He is the character with the catchphrase power. People used to playfully demand of friends that they "Respect mah authoritah!" I had a friend in college who would use Cartman's guttural "sweet" whenever something good happened. There are kids that their first exposure to overt racism was Cartman putting down Kyle for being a Jew. And for all the dirt the show's heaped on him, don't forget, when they made their big movie, who it was that ultimately saved the world from Satan and Saddam Hussein.

Their worst character is the driving engine of their success, and that gives me pause.
posted by JHarris at 2:29 PM on October 23 [14 favorites]


Video games have come a long way since Pacman. /s

Waypoint is doing some good work in this space.
posted by Kerwin15 at 3:26 PM on October 23


You don't have to defend shitty satire on the grounds that it's satire. In fact, you shouldn't.

And how well received was Swift? Or Twain stipulating a posthumous release (his granddaughter's if I correctly recall) of Letters from Earth? And, similarly, only after his own demise, The War Prayer? But this instance, it is simply "shitty" satire. What circular shorthand that is. "In fact," I am arguing against many conclusions asserted in this thread and am disappointed by what portions of the dissent are dismissed versus ignored. Spuriously psychological conjecture about the personal motivations of its creators peppered with ethnic, gendered, and socioeconomic indictment? Normalization? Election results? The assumptions are rampant. After challenging perspectives in terms of genre, the reply is bovine manure? I hadn't said this duo were equal in breadth or magnitude, but that's the reading, that's the convenient assumption.

Parker's own agenda should, and is, being scrutinized, good. But I don't accept the conclusion of one that "demonstrable harm" is substantiated. Demonstrable is a nice qualifier. It sure sounds scientific. Parker's agenda has always been to arrest mores, to mock the agendas of any societal force. Of all the criticism, what I am most aligned with is the tricky narrative device of Cartman, balancing the exposure of toxicity with its focus.

And it is not without precedent, such as The Three Stooges (and I can only speculate about its degree of osmosis with Parker) for which, in my experience, women have far less tolerance. It's a parade of male foible and chauvinism. In their movies, the trio were always juxtaposed to the famous trope of "two men and a woman" and her inevitable choice (sexist at its core and still pervasive). The "boys'" dilemmas always propel a single man to be possessed by the necessary courage to "do right" by the love interest.

Further back, further beneath a surface, Parker iterates the Marx brothers. Is that ultimately a "good thing", yes and no. But that's the formalism of the matter.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:51 PM on October 23 [2 favorites]


South Park is unashamedly, unironically transphobic. That South Park offends and some good work also offended does not mean that South Park is good work. That criticisms have sometimes been levelled unfairly at pieces of satire does not make all criticism of any piece of satire unfair. And South Park is garbage wallowing in the worst humanity has to offer with a wink and a nudge to its audience.
posted by Dysk at 5:58 PM on October 23 [12 favorites]


If you “choose” to be nonbinary or trans, as you leave the school you get attacked by a pack of rednecks who yell “Well, well, well. If it ain’t one of them gender neutrals. We don’t take kindly to your types around here. Let’s welcome this thing to our town!” You and the usual gang of South Park kids have to battle the rednecks to continue.

That happens if you pick cisgender boy too. You get attacked no matter what you pick as gender/sexual orientation/race by these rednecks.
posted by ymgve at 6:04 PM on October 23


Parker's agenda has always been to arrest mores, to mock the agendas of any societal force.

And what is the satirical value of viciously mocking the disabled, which they do with Jimmy and Timmy? The overtly shitty transphobia of Mr. Garrison's arc? That something might register as satire as well as reinforcing horrible stereotypes for laughs does nothing to redeem it. Same for Cartman. At it's core, much of the audience of this show is laughing in approval of Cartman's violence and bigotry, not in appreciation of some subtle skewering of liberal pretense.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:17 PM on October 23 [10 favorites]


“Much of the audience” Wow, just wow. More mind reading than anything else in this thread. Metrics? Survey? Anything? I can only restate ignored distinctions, so bowing out.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:50 PM on October 23


And South Park is garbage wallowing in the worst humanity has to offer with a wink and a nudge to its audience.

Have you seen the garbage that humanity offers these days? Much less smelt it?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:21 PM on October 23


I'm a trans woman on the Internet. Yes I have.
posted by Dysk at 4:02 AM on October 24 [9 favorites]


Like, I had friends who ended up dead in no small part because of Internet harassment. South Park is part of that culture, nestled in with the nihilist meme bullshit, misogyny and rare pepes. It's all of a piece.
posted by Dysk at 4:26 AM on October 24 [8 favorites]


Spending four paragraphs waxing nostalgic about attacking marginalized groups as high art and handwaving away valid social critiques as basically "jeez, you people can't take a joke" is a perfect illustration of the problem. It makes me wonder who, exactly you think A Modest Proposal is aimed at. Hint: It's not the Irish. After all, Swift himself was Irish. His satire (and that of Twain, for the most part) was largely punching up, at people in power.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:29 AM on October 24 [10 favorites]


After challenging perspectives in terms of genre, the reply is bovine manure?

[nineteen monacles pop]
posted by beerperson at 5:15 AM on October 24 [2 favorites]


“Much of the audience” Wow, just wow. More mind reading than anything else in this thread. Metrics? Survey? Anything? I can only restate ignored distinctions, so bowing out.

I'm sorry you think people criticizing the show for attacking and dismissing their very identities is somehow a bad thing. Is it that you think trans people deserve the shit the show piles on them, because it's a type of societal force?

In other words, it's clear that you do see it, you just don't think the marginalized should be complaining?

Cartman is a difficult character. I suppose to some viewers, he's the exact opposite of what someone should be/do, a kind of absurd reduction of badness. Unfortunately, I don't know if a lot of people actually go along with that interpretation? Especially considering how certain types of protagonists seem to be worshipped by certain types of people (Heisenberg, Rick, Trump, Scarface)?

You can still like the show, you know. Nobody's stopping you from that.
posted by anem0ne at 7:21 AM on October 24 [8 favorites]


You can still like the show, you know. Nobody's stopping you from that.

It's not enough to just like the show. There needs to be an agreement that liking the show won't be held against them. Hence all the high minded arguments.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:53 AM on October 24 [8 favorites]


"South Park criticises prevailing social norms" is a slippery argument to hold onto. Which social norms? Who's wielding them? Even a cursory glance at their oeuvre shows they place the preponderance of criticism not against social norms but social progressivism. If the show had anything to do with attacking social norms and punching up, their tired transphobic, homophobic, anti-feminist and racial humor would be replaced by challenging the precise demographics Parker and Stone represent. Cherrypicked examples of when they took a swipe at Republicans doesn't undo that.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:07 AM on October 24 [6 favorites]


It's not enough to just like the show. There needs to be an agreement that liking the show won't be held against them. Hence all the high minded arguments.

I mean, I guess? I just wish the "high minded" arguments didn't sound so much like someone telling marginalized folk what they should and shouldn't be offended by.

One could say that's a behavior both considered harmful and demonstrably harmful.
posted by anem0ne at 9:38 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]


Well, of course that's what's going on. It's easier to dismiss the complaints of the marginalized with a veneer of culture rather than accept that this media you like is problematic, and that not only is it tossing rhetorical Molotov cocktails all over, but the creators seem to especially relish doing so at the concerns of the marginalized and the dispossessed.

Simply put, the shape of the vessel is meaningless when it's full of bullshit. As was pointed out earlier, we praise satirists not for blindly taking aim, but for using satire to speak truth to power. Parker and Stone's continued attack against the idea that perhaps they could show some decency and not look to soft bigotry for laughs is nothing of the sort.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:04 AM on October 24 [6 favorites]


also south park's humor tends to reinscribe social norms outside of, idk, cussing? like, being shitty to minorities and thinking that liberals are pussies and conservative old farts are obnoxious fun haters is not a particularly bold and shocking stance to take, it's basically a cool uncle take. like your uncle who likes Yes and got a DUI but feels like it was totally the cop being a dick to him, man, is south park level.

it has been interesting for me to see that so many people apparently bought the line that cussing and titties is a radical political stance though, it really says something about how dopey and checked out squares are, i guess, even these savvy internet funnyboys with their plates full of piping hot takes

spoiler alert these takes are the lukewarm hot pocket of takes, they are the go play outside of takes
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 10:46 AM on October 24 [7 favorites]


Nevermind that blaming all the bigotry on undereducated "rednecks" isn't exactly punching up either...
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:29 AM on October 24 [4 favorites]


Hey, they're equal opportunity offenders. They equally mock the rich and the poor for needing to sleep under a bridge.
posted by maxsparber at 12:53 PM on October 24 [6 favorites]


Jeff Ihaza: South Park is not subversive
Even in its most well-meaning moments, South Park rarely strays from #alllivesmatter territory. Last season’s premiere, titled “Member Berries,” featured a police shooting, and ultimately took aim at white people making empty gestures of solidarity. A promo for the episode lampooned the protests made by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The satire never cuts much deeper than vacant criticism about who is and isn’t actually woke. The show’s only black character, Token, is often used as a vehicle to tackle race, but much like Lena Dunham’s overt attempt at diversity on Girls, the South Park writers figured they were doing something subversive by making him the richest kid in town. The show shies away from skewering systemic racism the way it skewers social justice culture, or presenting issues of race in a way that regards the black experience as a unique and valid perspective. In a 2007 episode called “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” the resolution of the story, in which white people start saying the N word, comes when Stan simply tells Token that he'll never understand why the word is so offensive because he isn’t black. “I've been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but I'll never understand. I'll never really get how it feels for a black person to hear somebody use the N word,” Stan says. “Now you get it,” Token says. It’s a sorry attempt to make a point about race that ends in a cop-out.
[...]
The show’s hackneyed treatment of race makes sense considering South Park has never been terribly successful at addressing anything outside its very tiny universe. An upcoming video game based on the series attempts to present a woke understanding of the issue by making it harder to play as the black character, mimicking with some very odd logic, the conditions of real life. The move was inspired by a blog post by the science fiction writer John Scalzi, whose 2012 post “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” compared white privilege to video games. Well-intended as it may be, the joke ostensibly lampoons white nerds but ends up also isolating black video game players who are typically faced with no options for characters that look like them.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:47 AM on October 25 [3 favorites]


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