"We live in Generation U Mad Bro"
July 25, 2017 5:14 AM   Subscribe

 
"We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful about who we pretend to be."
posted by empath at 5:32 AM on July 25, 2017 [91 favorites]


I literally cried with laughter watching the South Park movie nearly twenty years ago, but I can't believe that show is still on television.

It seems to me that South Park didn't exactly raise a generation of trolls, if that means South Park influenced the political attitudes of a generation. It's the other way around.

South Park would not be nearly as popular or long-lasting if it didn't appeal to the sensibilities of its audience--primarily teens and older people with a teen's sense of humor (or people who for some strange reason divide people they don't even know into abstract categories like "liberals").
posted by My Dad at 5:38 AM on July 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


While there's a lot of Stone and Parker's work that I like a great deal, this is exactly why I stopped watching South Park a long, long time ago. It was like watching people trying to prove in real time that they stood for nothing and therefore would fall for anything.
posted by kyrademon at 5:53 AM on July 25, 2017 [74 favorites]


South Park would not be nearly as popular or long-lasting if it didn't appeal to the sensibilities of its audience...

There's a big leap, though, from merely appealing and to actively enabling/encouraging, which I think SP did in spades for those who are part of what we now call the alt-right.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:54 AM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


I had an angry drunk discussion with a friend last year about how much I hate the South Park "fuck you for caring about stuff" ethos. He's one of those "middle-aged people who remember watching its early seasons in college" and must be holding onto those early-season feelings, because as far as I can tell, the bulk of South Park's run has been mean and petty and relatively empathy-free, which he mostly is not. I don't know if he still feels the same way about the show after November, though.

Did South Park "cause" the alt-right? No, but I don't think it was just a reflection of public opinion, either. It was an enormous cultural force for a long time, and should definitely shoulder part of the blame for egging on a generation of hateful trolls.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:58 AM on July 25, 2017 [34 favorites]


God, I hate South Park. Its style of humor arrived at the same time that Comedy Central killed Mystery Science Theater 3000 and while MST3K lived on for a while elsewhere, CC's entire slate of humor changed from fun to mean-spirited, crude, and trollish almost overnight as soon as South Park became a thing. I know this sounds "get off my lawn", but I've felt this way since I was a teenager, so I guess I aged quickly.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:59 AM on July 25, 2017 [35 favorites]


From the comments to the article:
The only people group Matt and and Trey honestly attack at face value has always been hypocrites (and maybe scientologists lol)

Yeah, see, this is really a major source of the nihilism fomented by media like South Park. They define "hypocrites" so broadly, as to include anyone who ever believed in anything and then failed to live up to that belief 100% of the time in 100% of contexts. The vegetarian who steps on an ant. The Prius-driver who turns on the air conditioning. If the problem is perfection being the enemy of the good, the proposed solution is to eliminate the notion of goodness. The only alternative to "hypocrisy" as nihilism. Don't believe in anything and you'll never be confronted with an ethical dilemma in which you might make a less that perfect choice.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:08 AM on July 25, 2017 [246 favorites]


On the one hand, I respect Stone and Parker for fiercely defending their creative rights. On the other, I can't shake the feeling that they were never very funny to begin with and that simply being transgressive in and of itself isn't particularly artful (or difficult). Echoes of the Old Man Murray thread from a few weeks ago--just because you're "bold" enough to say horrible, heinous shit doesn't mean you're necessarily funny or insightful. You might just be an insensitive asshole.
posted by tehjoel at 6:08 AM on July 25, 2017 [22 favorites]


Related to this, the sociologist Angela Nagle has a new book, Kill All Normies, looking at the cultural origins of the alt-right. In an interview with Vox, she argues that the anti-"PC" movement, of which South Park is a charter member, is heavily implicated in its rise. One of the core alt-right beliefs is "the belief that the various societal norms and taboos — around race or culture or gender—are bullshit and that they’re poking holes in all of it. It’s a kind of postmodern questioning of everything." That's a paradigmatic South Park thesis if ever there was one. But she goes on to say:
I think a lot of them start off by trolling and doing the anti-PC thing and resisting what they feel is dogma being shoved down their throats by liberal professors and parents, but where do you go from there? Do you reject all of these principles? There's not much else there in the way of new ideas to replace them, so it's very easy to end up going very far to the right at that point.

At this stage, anyone who thinks they’re doing it for LOLs is either deluding themselves or hiding behind that ironic style in order to avoid being interpreted, because at this point the stakes are actually quite high, and Trump is in the White House, and this movement has spread far beyond the confines of a few obscure message boards.
The South Park aesthetic at its laziest is an adolescent whine by white boys who resent being lectured to. The alt-right politically weaponizes that sentiment. This isn't causation, quite, but it is clearly a case of elective affinities.
posted by informavore at 6:20 AM on July 25, 2017 [87 favorites]


There will come a day when the ideological takeover of the US right-wing by pseudo-libertarian troll politics ("you can do whatever you want but I reserve the right to call you names for it") and u-mad-bro-ism will be the chapter right after the Southern Strategy in history books about the Republican party. The rapid abandonment of social conservatism and the absurd theatrical anger of the Tea Party wing in favor of the ridicule of anyone with sincerely held beliefs has won them at least one presidency and shows no sign of slowing down, not least because the social/religious conservative still votes with them. There's a slipperiness to kidding on the square that makes it hard to defeat.
posted by penduluum at 6:25 AM on July 25, 2017 [22 favorites]


The South Park aesthetic at its laziest is an adolescent whine by white boys who resent being lectured to.

Over in Ye Olde Politics Thread, there were a few articles by white male Trumpers apparently trying to explain why they cast the "burn it all down" vote (spoiler: it's because we made them do it, why do you keep making us hurt you????) and they all hit this note of "I resent feeling like someone out there, somewhere, might be vaguely judging me."

As a woman, I howled with laughter. Oh, you feel like someone somewhere is judging you? Talking down to you? Lecturing you? Telling you how you ought to speak, dress and behave? O RLY. Well, I have absolutely no idea how that feels. And I'm sure people of color and LGBTQ people also are completely ignorant of what that feels like, you poor, sweet little poppets.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:32 AM on July 25, 2017 [159 favorites]


I remember reading a comment years ago, probably on Metafilter, which pinned some of the blame on the Simpsons. It never had South Park's "fuck you for caring about stuff" attitude (at least not before it became unwatchable in about 1998; I don't know about after that), but for all of its overt fun-poking at the expense of big business, plutocrats, religion etc. it was relentlessly cynical about all institutions and all claims to truth; nobody could trust anyone outside their immediate family, and usually not even them. It wasn't Cartman yelling anti-semitic slurs, but it was on the same path.

This one is getting at broadly the same thing, although it's not quite what I remember.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:33 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


In re "South Park didn't cause anything": I always wonder why we are so ready to accept that advertisements work and so dubious that highly-ideologized programs in the style of advertisements don't. South Park is an advertisement for a viewpoint - sort of the dead opposite to another advertisement for a viewpoint, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

We also have pretty ample evidence that political propaganda works, and South Park has a lot in common with propaganda - define an in-group and an out-group based loosely on really existing people, show the out-group(s) really negatively, create a narrative about group membership in the in-group, attach that all to politics and go. It's just that it's propaganda for a worldview.

Something that is strongly ideological runs for twenty years and is formative for straight white men, of course it's going to have a political effect.
posted by Frowner at 6:35 AM on July 25, 2017 [93 favorites]


I thought South Park was funny for about five minutes, and then it became puerile.
posted by tully_monster at 6:44 AM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


I was sort of thinking about this topic last night; I can't help but wonder if Generation X (my generation) birthed - or at least exacerbated and cemented into the culture - this stance of boundless irony and nihilism. Nothing matters, and you're a loser if you think it does.

Recently I went to see Le Samourai at a rep theatre in Toronto and a big chunk of the audience guffawed their way through it like they were (showing my age here) Beavis and Butthead. It wasn't the first time I'd had a classic movie ruined that way and it pissed me off to no end, but after 20+ years of self-aware meta-humour like MST3K, South Park and, yes, The Simpsons, permeating the culture and the internet eroding society's capacity for empathy I'm starting to wonder if many people are losing their ability to just appreciate art on its own terms. Full disclosure; I did far more than my own share of going to or renting so-bad-it's-good movies and laughing my ass off, but I wouldn't have dreamed of going to a classic French new-wave film and doing that. I went to see Wings of Desire when I was 19 and thought it was the most pretentious thing I'd ever seen, but I still had enough respect for the other people in the theatre to keep my fucking mouth shut while I was there. But it's all subjective; my friends and I thought Battlefield Earth was hilarious, now a lot of people seem to think Le Samourai is hilarious...who's to say what the witty people of the future will think is hilarious? Probably fucking everything.

Anyway, I'm just an old crank, but I don't like the way this is headed. Irony is cheap and you can OD on it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:44 AM on July 25, 2017 [27 favorites]


Frowner, for sure, cultural norms and representations change individual and group attitudes, and comedy is a great vehicle for norm propagation. SP may well have shaped large-scale political attitudes for one subset of a generation. No disagreement there. I just doubt that the alt-right specifically has a monocausal explanation, so I wouldn't lean too strongly on any one factor, even a massively popular one, in describing its rise.
posted by informavore at 6:52 AM on July 25, 2017


Recently I went to see Le Samourai at a rep theatre in Toronto and a big chunk of the audience guffawed their way through it like they were (showing my age here) Beavis and Butthead.

Isn't that weird? I was once in an actual art house theater which showed a vintage trailer for Jean Luc Godard's Contempt and people laughed their heads off.

I think we're sort of at the wrong cultural moment for the New Wave. Those of us who are Olds (let's say at least over thirty) still have a lot of the...huh, cultural understandings, maybe...that Godard and Truffaut and them are concerned with, and the Kids Today don't, really. In another ten or fifteen years, the New Wave will have receded enough into history that people will relate to it more as we do to the films of the twenties or thirties, more as artifact than living cinema or kitsch, and the laughter will cease.

I think there's a lot of stuff like that - I run into leftie Kids Today who call themselves Stalinists, like, all the time, and they really basically either don't know or don't believe in, eg, the criminalization of homosexuality under Stalin, the Doctors' Plot/related anti-semitic campaigns, trials of the Old Bolsheviks, etc. They're the wrong generation - they didn't get any Cold War propaganda (which, very good) but they also didn't grow up actually knowing people whose families fled the USSR. Prague Spring used to be one of those standard Left Cultural cautionary tales - its rise celebrated by marxists and its suppression mourned - but no more. Again, in another ten or fifteen years, it will be different.
posted by Frowner at 6:52 AM on July 25, 2017 [29 favorites]


> South Park would not be nearly as popular or long-lasting if it didn't appeal to the sensibilities of its audience--primarily teens and older people with a teen's sense of humor

Well shit, it's our epic misfortune that teens were invented in 1993, just before South Park was first produced.
posted by ardgedee at 6:58 AM on July 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


I was going to write a longer comment, but I'll just go with this: Fuck South Park.
posted by defenestration at 7:00 AM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


Southpark cannot go after Trump because he is the ultimate ideal of what they stand for: fuck you, got mine, everyone else is a pussy, who care's about anything? I haven't been watching the show for ages (I think I quit about a season after Mr. Hanky), but from what I've heard about the most recent seasons, they've stopped going after some of the old targets. From looking at the wiki, it seems that the last time they mocked religion was at least four years ago. The last time they made fun of the "the immigrants our stealing our jobs" rednecks (the actual character name) was eight years ago. There are plenty of targets on the right. But they're cowards, too afraid to go after those sacred cows. They won't go after the sacred cows of the right, but have to portray themselves as striking against the dominant society. So they create a world in which the right has lost, the conservatives are in retreat instead of in control of the majority of states and depict them as the victims.

I see enough of that shit whenever Republicans run for office. I don't need it in a comedy show where the creators are too cowed by their base to actually do something funny.
posted by Hactar at 7:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [19 favorites]


It's funny, my peer group growing up absolutely was enamored with South Park /and/ grew up to mostly just be kind of mean to each other in this way where it's accepted as friendship but is kind of super destructive? In my house, I was never allowed to watch South Park-type stuff, or really much non-classic TV, which at the time I hated, but now I wonder: is that why I care about things? Because my media consumption was moderated by immigrants who loved a different era of American media? Or is it just that I was separated from culture for other reasons and missed it?

Either way, I wonder what the creators think of the people who consume their media. Do they know, really?
posted by corb at 7:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


I've never been a Southpark fan, but it has been a trip to follow who the anti-Southpark group has been over the years and how wildly the offended group has changed. The pearls have definitely been passed around the clutching circle, that's for sure.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:11 AM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


As a woman, I howled with laughter. Oh, you feel like someone somewhere is judging you? Talking down to you? Lecturing you? Telling you how you ought to speak, dress and behave? O RLY. Well, I have absolutely no idea how that feels. And I'm sure people of color and LGBTQ people also are completely ignorant of what that feels like, you poor, sweet little poppets.

How fucking childish. They're worried about being judged, well, the rest of us are worried about our livelihoods and being killed, so there's that... And when I've brought such topics up to white dudes who think this way, to a guy (they're not mature enough to be called men), they "accuse" me of exaggerating what happens to us, to which my response is, "No, I'm not exaggerating, you know damn well I'm not exaggerating, but you just don't want to deal with the implications of what I'm saying because you don't want to be judged as a bad person yet still get to behave selfishly, but guess what, nobody is about to pivot their lives around your damn feelings."

Their feelings don't supersede other people's lives. Who the hell do they think they are? We as a society need to call this crap out wherever it comes from. It's not about liberalism or conservatism. It's about living in a SOCIETY where what people do affects everyone else. These guys, though, are still stuck at age 2, screaming "No!", getting angry at being reprimanded, and not wanting to share with anyone. The South Park crew aren't some special snowflakes who get a pass on this behavior, and no push-back on their words. And they want to propagate the idea that we're the problem?
posted by droplet at 7:12 AM on July 25, 2017 [36 favorites]


I've never been a Southpark fan, but it has been a trip to follow who the anti-Southpark group has been over the years and how wildly the offended group has changed. The pearls have definitely been passed around the clutching circle, that's for sure.

Once upon a time, in our innocent past, white evangelicals pretended real hard to believe in a certain code of morality. But now they've emerged from their chrysalis to stretch their wings as a front for white supremacists and all that ~concern~ about swear words and sex talk has melted away in the fires of pussy-grabbing Trumpism.

(Point of order, though: I thought the schtick stopped being funny about 19 years ago. Call it pearl clutching if you want. Parker and Stone are free to present it and I'm free to think it's toxic and nihilistic.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:23 AM on July 25, 2017 [33 favorites]


Something that is strongly ideological runs for twenty years and is formative for straight white men, of course it's going to have a political effect.

The defence's Exhibit A: Every Libertarian Star Trek fan ever.

I'm not even saying you're wrong, I'm just saying it's more complex than this.

[Simpsons] was relentlessly cynical about all institutions and all claims to truth; nobody could trust anyone outside their immediate family, and usually not even them.

Distrust of institutions. Conspiracy theories. That's where you should be looking for alt-right precursors. Alex Jones. If you want to chase that strand of American culture back to its roots, I'd say you're looking at the sixties counterculture, Vietnam protests, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate...
posted by Leon at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


South Park is to blame. Not exclusively, not entirely. But yes, really.

We talk about the power of art, its power to charge hearts and minds, to influence the way people see thing, the way they understand the world. Well, South Park did that. It's was damned effective at it too. It's an example of a successful work of art, in that it shaped the sense of humor of a generation, and humor is always political.

Unfortunately, it was, and remains, the shallow, mean-spirited work of a pair of privileged garbage monsters who used it to promote their brand of "libertarianism is just another word for contempt for liberals."
posted by maxsparber at 7:29 AM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


I don't buy the concept that Southpark is a root cause of trolling any more than I buy the concept that people are violent because of video games, and for pretty much the same reason. That said, this:

Yeah, see, this is really a major source of the nihilism fomented by media like South Park. They define "hypocrites" so broadly, as to include anyone who ever believed in anything and then failed to live up to that belief 100% of the time in 100% of contexts. The vegetarian who steps on an ant. The Prius-driver who turns on the air conditioning. If the problem is perfection being the enemy of the good, the proposed solution is to eliminate the notion of goodness. The only alternative to "hypocrisy" as nihilism. Don't believe in anything and you'll never be confronted with an ethical dilemma in which you might make a less that perfect choice.

is a really great articulation of both why I enjoyed their humor at first and why within a season, even as the target demographic, I was totally over it.
posted by solotoro at 7:35 AM on July 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


You know a show is old when you first saw it off a blurry, stamp-sized RM file from a warez CDR.

As for the article in question... The show did not exist in a vacuum, like any other show that gets more than a handful of eyes on it. Parker and Stone can't wash it out like as late show hosts and their "summer of trump 2015" bonanza or Kelly moving to NBC also can't. They were all part of a cultural climate that let a bunch of radicals take place and control of the situation. But I'd argue that worse than their "both sides suck" schtik is the "let's hear both sides" garbage the media loves because audiences apparently like seeing idiots (because, the moment even the smartest person in the world accepts to be in that position, they become an idiot) SHOUT AT EACH OTHER IN A 2-TO-8 WAY SPLITSCREEN YELLING ORGY.
With South Park alone, you'd get a bunch of socio-political apathetic cynics, and I mean, we survived the 1990s, snarking along the way or throwing bricks at McDonalds and Starbucks. Or going there. Whatever. But adding in those anti-establishment views that have no ground in reality but were still treated like some valid theory for the well-being of society is more or less like the cloud of dust reaching the flame. It may do nothing... or might blow up.

Also, someone in AV Club still watches anything that isn't GoT and Wrestling? The world has truly gone insane.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:36 AM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


buy the concept that people are violent because of video games,

I'd have a lot more faith in that had GamerGate not treated doxing. harrassing, and threatening women exactly like they were taking on a game boss.
posted by maxsparber at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2017 [40 favorites]


Unfortunately, it was, and remains, the shallow, mean-spirited work of a pair of privileged garbage monsters who used it to promote their brand of "libertarianism is just another word for contempt for liberals."

And that's really the heart of it, isn't it? They've always claimed to target anyone and everything, but their biggest kicks have usually went leftward. It's telling when you see them attack "political correctness" with such eagerness over and over - a concept that has its roots in treating people as equals and not using offhand derogatory terms.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:43 AM on July 25, 2017 [23 favorites]


I'd have a lot more faith in that had GamerGate not treated doxing. harrassing, and threatening women exactly like they were taking on a game boss.

cf. the "They Targeted Gamers" copypasta, which was earnest before it was copypasta.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:48 AM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


South Park is unremittingly gross to women/girls, and always has been. Even though I laughed at a lot of the other jokes, if there was a female character onscreen, I knew things were going to get bad quickly. And so I soon stopped watching because I don't need that kind of garbage in my life.

It sums up a lot of my early feelings about dating guys, really. I would get attracted to smart, opinionated, nerdy dudes, and it would be great, until they decided to make a gross joke about women or talk about how women were inferior or otherwise reveal themselves to be rotten and hollow on the inside.
posted by emjaybee at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2017 [35 favorites]


> Don't believe in anything and you'll never be confronted with an ethical dilemma in which you might make a less that perfect choice.

I think it's telling that far and away the funniest South Park thing was the movie, because that's specifically the place where they actually reveal what they care deeply about: Broadway musicals. Most of the interesting bits of the movie (and it was loaded with interesting bits) are precisely where they step farthest away from mocking anyone with commitments and opt to instead devote themselves to respectfully creating a well-crafted instance of a genre/form that they clearly love, even though it's a genre/form that their fanbase tends to viciously deride.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:59 AM on July 25, 2017 [35 favorites]


which was earnest before it was copypasta

(As is true of nearly all copypasta, no matter how much the alt-right propagandists love to do the "lol it's just memes bro" thing.)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:00 AM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


The shit of the matter is that the South Park boys made some devastatingly funny stuff — so we can't just be like "no, they are not funny, they have never been funny" — but they believe that the parts of their stuff that's funny is funny because of their undercooked, pedestrian political beliefs, whereas in reality the bits that are funny are funny despite the creators' dipshit libertarianism.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:17 AM on July 25, 2017 [25 favorites]


Libertarianism vaguely makes sense when you're 12 and you've just read some Orwell for the first time, which is how old I was when South Park debuted on TV. Most people manage to move past such ill-considered, short sighted, self-centred, whining ideology in their mid-teens.

Parker and Stone are in their late 40s.

Theirs can be a tricky ideology to pin down: “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals,” Stone said once, a quote that has reverberated across the scores of articles, books, and message-board forums spent trying to parse the duo’s politics, arguing over which side can rightfully claim South Park as its own.

Yeah, it's rrreeealllll tricky.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2017 [15 favorites]


I don't buy the concept that Southpark is a root cause of trolling any more than I buy the concept that people are violent because of video games, and for pretty much the same reason.

This is weak as hell, and I know we could talk about this point all day and it's probably a derail, but video games or any other media that desensitizes the consumer to violence, callousness, etc. absolutely have wider effects. South Park is a root cause of trolling for certain generations, at least--I'm in my early 30s and I remember laughing about early South Park in 6th grade, so it's been part of my consciousness for my preteen, teen, twenties, and adult life (no small chunk of formative years).

South Park and Parker/Stone encourage not only nihilism and trolling sincerity, but they made it acceptable in some circles to do what I think is obviously taboo if we discuss in plain terms, outside of the context of the jokes, including:
- using the f****t slur.
- mocking people with developmental and other disabilities.
- mocking AIDS.
- using the n-word slur.
- all manner of racism--casual racism, overt and violent racism.
- all manner of homophobia and especially transphobia.

Would this be okay in any other context? Would you want your kids watching it? If you were dating someone and you found out they were a superbig fan, would that send up a red flag?

Reflecting on South Park, the best thing they offered was Cartman's "respect mah authoritah" voice, which I loved and will love forever. But the rest of it is so poisonous to developing an empathetic and open heart. Which we should prioritize, as humans.
posted by witchen at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2017 [27 favorites]


South Park doesn't have to be the single cause for it to be complicit. One of the big things that encourages a belief or behavior is validation- seeing other people perform, proclaim, or praise those behaviors. White men have long had a society that encourages us to be shitty and uncaring toward everybody else; South Park merely took that and validated it, week in and week out, during the formative years of a lot of incredibly shitty dudes who are currently in their 20s-30s. That's not good, and it doesn't need to be the sole cause in order to be liable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:23 AM on July 25, 2017 [26 favorites]


I had assumed South Park had been cancelled at some point since the movie came out, until I had a student a few months ago who took its weak-ass nihilistic humour as permission to say things in most of witchen's abovementioned categories in my class. Screw that show.

On the schadenfreude side, I randomly saw Parker and Stone interviewed a few months back on something, and they looked miserable and tired.
posted by threecheesetrees at 8:25 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Let's just say I'd rather live in a world influenced by Steven Universe than by South Park.
posted by Foosnark at 8:26 AM on July 25, 2017 [39 favorites]


"I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals"

I don't think I've seen that quote before, but yeah, it sums up South Park for me. The attacks on liberals were usually far more vicious and heartfelt. I was never a big fan, but I watched it occasionally early on and laughed, and thought the first movie was surprisingly hysterical. But what charms it had died real fucking fast in the Age of Bush.

(also, I see the author cannot resist throwing in a paragraph of berniebro "Both sides do it!" in the middle despite the lesson of SP's both sideism. )
posted by tavella at 8:29 AM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


I think one of the problems with "obviously no one is violent because of violent videogames" is that people are looking at the wrong things. People aren't, in general, violent like "let's go around and shoot random people like it's a video game" kind of violence as a result of video games, any more than people are all "dungeons and dragons is real" because of tabletop gaming. As a broad generality, people have a pretty good grip on "this is just a story".

(With minor and occasional exceptions on both counts for people whose existing mental health struggles flowed together with video game themes or RPG themes, like those poor people who were part of all that failed Lord of the Rings convention a few years ago.)

It's the habits of thought and speech and what we expect to see that change.

I want to bring in personal experience here. I grew up largely without television and largely without fashion magazines or other popular culture. We were allowed to watch some cartoons and occasionally some sitcoms, but evening television was forbidden and other television was strongly discouraged. Because I grew up very left-wing, I also grew up with neutral-to-negative views of police and the military - I had no exposure to cop shows or military shows, and felt zero emotional investment in stories about the military or police operations, only a vague distaste and some anxiety because of the violence.

Because of social circles and fandom, I had some recurring exposure to pro-military science fiction, and I noticed my semi-conscious responses changing. The more positive stories about the military that I consumed, whether canon or fanon, the more positive my semi-conscious feelings about the military became. This had nothing to do with my conscious political feelings, but I noticed a difference in affect. Super creepy!

On a more positive note, I have noticed that when I stopped spending any time seeing mainstream fashion images and got all my fashion images from body-positive queer tumblr, my expectations about how people dressed in the real world slowly changed.

I've noticed political drift in myself and my friends that is really social drift - our political horizons are strongly influenced by media and our peer groups. I'm constantly running up against weird little things where the cultural commonplace of my left circles ("calling yourself a Stalinist is going to alienate some Jewish activists", most recently) comes as a total surprise to people in other left circles. ("I never considered that!")

Constant exposure to political ideas does change you, even if you're not consciously invested in the ideas. It doesn't have to be "I watched military science fiction and now I think we should invade Iran!!!"; it can just be "I watched military science fiction and as a result I am somewhat less skeptical of military motives and interventions, even though when I think about it my consciously held views have not changed".
posted by Frowner at 8:36 AM on July 25, 2017 [50 favorites]


People are forgetting Howard Stern fans who'd call radio stations (and CNN) under a false pretense and then quickly blurt out his name. I'm pretty sure they even got Larry King.
posted by Beholder at 8:44 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


i have to see south park as a creation of the 90s (and by extension the 80s and 70s) - to blame it for the current political culture seems like a stretch to me, as south park isn't any more merciful on its main characters than it is on its targets - (are they still killing kenny every episode?) - that might sound as if i'm excusing the show, but think of it this way - can you imagine trump, or a gamergater, or one of the alt-right shitheads taking a self-depreciating look at themselves? - a good part of the humor of south park is from how those kids are portrayed as egotistical idiots - oddly enough, if south park is all that influential on our political culture, then somehow that part of the message got lost

but south park didn't invent that kind of humor anyway - it was already a mass media phenomenon with scores of shock jocks amusing the morning drive time audience with crude, anti-PC humor - south park came out of that context and for awhile, actually managed to be funnier

i haven't watched the show for a long time

frankly, there are times i feel that we all want to blame this or that thing rather than face the truth that a good portion of the american people suck and have sucked for decades and will continue to suck and blaming things like tv shows is just denial of this unfortunate fact
posted by pyramid termite at 8:50 AM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


South Park is an advertisement for a viewpoint - sort of the dead opposite to another advertisement for a viewpoint, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

I just wanted to chime in that I keep up with both shows. Both are very entertaining and funny when they hit their marks. South Park gets a lot of eye-rolling from me when it veers into nihilism for nihilism's sake, and making fun of liberal snowflakes because how dare they judge us, the best snowflakes. But when it really focuses on the characters and their motivations, the show is great. I largely glaze my eyes over (rather than rolling them) when MLP gets too preachy, but it's certainly more tolerable than the negatives of South Park.

Let's just say I'd rather live in a world influenced by Steven Universe than by South Park.

I wholeheartedly wish the same thing.

Also, someone in AV Club still watches anything that isn't GoT and Wrestling? The world has truly gone insane.

Are we talking about the same website?
posted by numaner at 8:52 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


if south park is all that influential on our political culture, then somehow that part of the message got lost

A Venn diagram of people who miss the flaws in South Park's characters and people who think Walter White is a hero would just be a circle with a slightly smaller circle inside of it. So ... this is not unlikely.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:55 AM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


South Park? Is this something I would have had to not live under a rock for the past 20 off years to have heard of?

Ok... all kidding aside. South Park didn't build or enable trolls, it satired both them and the environments that were being trolled. So, yes, like kids allegesly copying Jackass and injuring themselves, like folks doing stupid things just to send Tosh.0, well South Park was before that...

... but so was the 35mm video of my father and his brothers lighting CO2 cartridges off in curtain rods. I can't help but think the cry of 'moral decay!' attributes to South Park in this thread is so close to the cries from Newt Gingrich and the moral majority in the 90s when talking about the Simpson's, and alternative rock. It's the same as Pat Robertson and Jim and Tammy Baker leveraging their televangelistic pulput in the 80s to disparage Dungeons and Dragons and rock music (because Footloose was not a farce)... Before that, in the 70s folks were in arms about KISS and Black Sabbath.

Do you all see the parallels between the hatred of these things and the hatred expressed in this thread about South Park?

South Park is a farce. It is and has always been a twisted mirror parodying and satiring everyone, including themselves and their audience. Easily argued, the disgust expressed in this thread has been parodied so many many times by South Park, it is quite literally hilarious that, once again, it is being expressed.

If you want South Park gone, don't mention it, ignore it.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:01 AM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


Admittedly I haven't watched the show in at least fifteen years, but it will always hold a special place in my heart -

At my wedding rehearsal, I was a nervous wreck - bursting into tears as my father was walking me down the aisle, etc. Everyone then decided their job was to find some phrase they could say during the wedding, under their breath, that would calm me down and make me relax.

My (new) brother-in-law decided upon "BEEFCAKE!!!" from Weight Gain 4000, the third episode, which had aired not too long before the wedding.

I had to apologize at one point during the ceremony because it'd made me laugh so much.
posted by Lucinda at 9:03 AM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


Do you all see the parallels between the hatred of these things and the hatred expressed in this thread about South Park?

No, bro.
posted by agregoli at 9:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [35 favorites]


If you want South Park gone, don't mention it, ignore it.

I've mostly ignored South Park for the past 18 years. It didn't go away.

We did the same thing with right-wing trolls on the internet, and now they have one of their own in the White House.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [80 favorites]


Okay, so here's the deal: Where does culture come from? Is it just pure transmission from family and peers, utterly unmitigated by novels, film, games, songs, etc? How does that work? Why does transmission of values from parents and peers work but transmission of values through story fail? Does this mean that religion is not transmitted at all through stories from religious books but only through actions taken? How does all this relate to how language works? What about hate propaganda? If culture comes only from family and peers, we shouldn't be at all worried about, eg, people printing up The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, because it won't have any effect.

"Long exposure to toxic media influences the way people think" is not the same as saying "If there was no South Park, Trump literally could never possibly have been elected and Gamergate would never have happened".
posted by Frowner at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2017 [33 favorites]


South Park is a farce. It is and has always been a twisted mirror parodying and satiring everyone, including themselves and their audience.

It's funny how "everyone" seems to end up being a lot more punching down than up. It's almost as if "everyone" isn't really the target.
posted by Etrigan at 9:10 AM on July 25, 2017 [39 favorites]


Do you all see the parallels between the hatred of these things and the hatred expressed in this thread about South Park?

Strong and direct causal claims are hard to establish in social science, which is why I'm sticking with mild ones here. But if you're staking out a position that says there is no such thing as social causation, you're basically denying the existence of culture and should probably rethink your premises.

It is and has always been a twisted mirror parodying and satiring everyone, including themselves and their audience.

I'm going to refer to my earlier comment here and note two things. First, promoting this sort of nihilism is itself a politically loaded aesthetic act, and it is the specific one that is being singled out by the show's critics. So this grants one of their major premises. Second, as a lot of people here have pointed out, the nihilism is very selectively deployed, e.g., at the left and at women in particular. SP's self-image as being willing to offend all comers is more of a self-congratulatory exaggeration.
posted by informavore at 9:11 AM on July 25, 2017 [22 favorites]


culture comes from the people, in spite of media attempts to co-opt and direct it - yes, you can get people to buy things and even be more accepting of certain ideas, but there's always a point where people are not going to accept something, no matter how hard the media try to throw it at them

i'm nearly 60 and the one thing that i've noticed is just how difficult it is to change a culture when a substantial proportion of people are absolutely against it changing - what we saw in the last 20 years was the left starting to get the upper hand and now we're seeing the furious reaction against it - i think it's probably going to fade away in time, but it's going to be a bad fight and there is always going to be a minority with alt-right beliefs - there always has been and 70 years ago it was probably a majority
posted by pyramid termite at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2017


It is and has always been a twisted mirror parodying and satiring everyone, including themselves and their audience.

Oh, boo to this. Two ultra-privileged white straight middle-class men saying offensive slurs about various minorities and throwing one or two at themselves. Altogether now, ironic racism is just...
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:16 AM on July 25, 2017 [40 favorites]


culture comes from the people, in spite of media attempts to co-opt and direct it - yes, you can get people to buy things and even be more accepting of certain ideas

If you're saying that media (rather than direct human-to-human conversation) can influence culture minimally, that means that culture comes not only from people, no? That's merely an argument about the degree to which media creates/influences culture.
posted by cjelli at 9:18 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


While I 100% understand why people don't like South Park, and while I do believe its influence is undeniable, I still like it. While Parker, Stone, et al. are by no means immune to being flat-out wrong about a whole bunch of stuff, there is usually a LOT of nuance in there that people on both sides of the argument (that is, the people arguing and the people they're arguing about) either refuse to acknowledge or are unable to see.

That its legacy is kids calling each other antisemitic or homophobic slurs and then combining forces on the internet is unfortunate, but it seems pretty obvious that wasn't the intention. Realistically, shouldn't we save a certain amount of blame for the government? Or at least Family Guy?

South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech. Used to be the Right, but now, well, look at this thread. Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right. You do. Not some goofy if problematic cartoon that hasn't been especially culturally relevant in a decade, but the people who would force such a thing off the air. If it's propaganda, that was its job. You were its target. You've become John Ashcroft covering up Justice's tits. Congratulations.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:21 AM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


i'm not aware that the media are being operated and created by robots, cjelli

look at how hard the soviet union attempted to do away with religion, capitalist greed and create a new soviet man

it didn't work and now the russian orthodox church is as much a cultural part of russia as it was before the revolution - and people are total greedballs

you can't push people too far if they don't want to go there - and if they buy into the nihilism and cruelty of the south park outlook it's because they already believed in it and WANTED to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:27 AM on July 25, 2017


South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech. Used to be the Right, but now, well, look at this thread. Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right. You do.

Bullshit.

I can't think of a better way to say it, sorry. Has anyone in this thread advocated so much as Comedy Central cancelling South Park, much less the government doing so? It's not censorship to say "Ugh, I hate this thing."

And I'm pretty fucking tired of this "You're making them be mean to you!" bullshit, too.

I won't even bother replying to your plea to be nice to these poor guys who didn't intend to do the things you admit they did, or your sad attempt to claim that anyone is saying they're the only ones who did it.

Bull. And shit.
posted by Etrigan at 9:28 AM on July 25, 2017 [81 favorites]


> That its legacy is kids calling each other antisemitic or homophobic slurs and then combining forces on the internet is unfortunate, but it seems pretty obvious that wasn't the intention.

Friendship may be magic, but intent is not.

> Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right.

Oh, fuck this. We're supposed to ignore the trolls and they'll go away, but that doesn't actually work. We're supposed to not criticize antisemitic/racist/misogynist "satire" because it's violating the free speech of racist etc. trolls. Gimme a break.
posted by rtha at 9:29 AM on July 25, 2017 [45 favorites]


I'm reminded of a quote:
Politics is downstream from culture

-Andrew Breitbart
posted by iandennismiller at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech. Used to be the Right, but now, well, look at this thread. Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right. You do. Not some goofy if problematic cartoon that hasn't been especially culturally relevant in a decade, but the people who would force such a thing off the air.

I read most of the comments in this thread, and didn't see anyone advocating censorship or forcing SP off the air.

If this is how the alt-right feels, then it's just another example of their pathetic white male persecution complex and silenced-all-my-life whining. I can't help them with that, but I can and will help them elect them the fuck out of my government.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:32 AM on July 25, 2017 [38 favorites]


i'm not aware that the media are being operated and created by robots

Right, but Frowner's point earlier (which I think you were responding to?) was, to quote, "Where does culture come from? Is it just pure transmission from family and peers, utterly unmitigated by novels, film, games, songs, etc? " -- that is, does the messenger matter? If you're saying that media only exerts a minimal influence, then you're saying that media exerts an influence, and that culture comes (to some degree) from novels, films, games, and, yes, television; that South Park influences culture separately from how Trey Parker and Matter Stone personally influence culture.

And obviously the degree matters tremendously, but it also matters whether we're talking about degrees or talking about absolutes.
posted by cjelli at 9:35 AM on July 25, 2017


That its legacy is kids calling each other antisemitic or homophobic slurs and then combining forces on the internet is unfortunate, but it seems pretty obvious that wasn't the intention.

In the end, the intent isn't what matters, but the result. If you create something that winds up being a fomentor for hate, that's on you.

South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech. Used to be the Right, but now, well, look at this thread. Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right. You do. Not some goofy if problematic cartoon that hasn't been especially culturally relevant in a decade, but the people who would force such a thing off the air. If it's propaganda, that was its job. You were its target. You've become John Ashcroft covering up Justice's tits. Congratulations.

Oh, please. There's a lot more to free speech than allowing a bunch of privileged assholes to punch down at others without facing opprobrium. In fact, the reason that Parker and Stone seem to have a vendetta against political correctness is because they can't get away with using derogatory language without facing some degree of criticism, and that, for some reason, cuts them to the quick.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:36 AM on July 25, 2017 [28 favorites]


soren_lorensen: If the problem is perfection being the enemy of the good, the proposed solution is to eliminate the notion of goodness.

You know, this strikes me as a good reading of the "South Park" ethos. And it sounds a lot like the Holden Caufield "You're all a bunch of phonies!" cries that show the limits of teenge alienation. I mean, yes, no one is perfectly perfect, but life is about navigating the spaces between absolutes, and we ought to do the best that we can.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:38 AM on July 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


As a woman, I howled with laughter. Oh, you feel like someone somewhere is judging you? Talking down to you? Lecturing you? Telling you how you ought to speak, dress and behave? O RLY. Well, I have absolutely no idea how that feels. And I'm sure people of color and LGBTQ people also are completely ignorant of what that feels like, you poor, sweet little poppets.

Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker on a big jacked-up truck that said "I'm a straight, white, male Republican. What else can I do to piss you off?"

It pissed me off. I couldn't articulate why. The only thought that came to me was "Oh you poor baby." But those words right up there capture what I felt. So thanks.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


Nanukthedog: ... but so was the 35mm video of my father and his brothers lighting CO2 cartridges off in curtain rods.:

Your dad's home movies were in 35mm? Damn, Kubrick Junior!
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:43 AM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


Some years ago, James Lileks wrote:
Just as Teenage Depression means you’re sensitive, 20something ANGER means you’re smart. Anger pays little, though, which is why so many choose its hipper cousins, Cynicism and Irony, the Olson Twins of the lazy mind.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:45 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Y'all are just falling right into it. That fuels the Alt-Right. You do.

"I wouldn't hit you if you didn't make me! Why are you always making me beat you?"

White supremacy, misogyny and anti-antisemitism fuel the alt-right. Get out of here with this "ignore them and they will go away" nonsense. That only works for people who are merely seeking attention and have no other aims. People who want to destroy me will happily carry on with that agenda, whether I am paying attention or not.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:45 AM on July 25, 2017 [42 favorites]


Most people manage to move past such ill-considered, short sighted, self-centred, whining ideology in their mid-teens.

Parker and Stone are in their late 40s.


To be fair, if my short-sighted, self-centered whining teenage ideology had made me half as much money as theirs has made them, I'd cling to that fucker like Rose to a floating door too.
posted by Naberius at 9:46 AM on July 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


I'd have a lot more faith in [the theory that gaming didn't cause violence] had GamerGate not treated doxing. harrassing, and threatening women exactly like they were taking on a game boss.

I rather think that that is more the fault of the gamers, as opposed to the game itself.

Which illustrates my ultimate thought about whether South Park "caused" the current sentiment or not, or whether any work of art actually "causes" a set of behaviors. In short - it can't. It can exacerbate a tendancy that is already there, support ideas you may already have, present them to you in a way that resonates with something already within you, but it cannot implant them into your consciousness. A seed can't be planted in soil that isn't already prepared for it in some fashion.

Instead, I would cast the blame on the fans of SouthPark themselves. At some point, surely SP fans should have seen each other acting this way - and instead of telling each other "buddy, I think you're taking the show too seriously," they let it go unchecked. Instead of having discusssions with each other about "hey, you notice that the show comes down way harder on liberals than conservatives?" they let it go on. Instead of each of them policing themselves - which is what we all, as human beings, are supposed to do - they use the show as a vindiction for something they already deep-down secretly wanted to do.

It isn't just south Park fandom where this happens. There is plenty of art out there that depicts our baser natures, and plenty of fans of this art that will always point to it as either excuse or justification or vindication.

But the thing is, you can also find plenty of people - in fact, often it's the majority - who appreciate this art for its own artistic merits, or other reasons, but at the same time they also realize that "but that's fantasy, and real life doesn't work that way and I can't actually do that for real". You can chuckle at how Cartman can get away with doing things as a fantasy wish-fulfillment, but you know that you shouldn't actually try it yourself. You can appreciate the guitar lick in a super-misogynistic rock song, but you can also know that "eh, the lyrics kind of are immature, though." These other people don't fall sway to the "influence" of the art, so that just stands to reason that the people who did were already vulnerable, or inclined that way.

And anyway, where do you draw the line? Because there are extreme outliers who have blamed murders on songs like "Helter Skelter" or U2's "Exit", or on books like "Catcher In The Rye". We are pretty much in agreement that the problem in those cases was with the people and not the art. So why is it any different in a case like this?

South Park didn't cause the alt-right. It gave them something to bond over, but it didn't cause it. Using art as an excuse for behavior is like saying "the devil made me do it" - it is refusing to acknowledge your own responsibility for your own misbehavior.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on July 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


And obviously the degree matters tremendously, but it also matters whether we're talking about degrees or talking about absolutes.

we're talking about people and what they do and what they're willing to consume - and in this case the influence a certain show, (not "the media"), has had on contemporary politics

my view is that people are using this show as a scapegoat for something that's been there for a long time - racist humor, for example, is hardly a new phenomenon and was quite present in the first half of this century and beyond - you couldn't hear the sexist, dirty and suggestive jokes in the media, but you sure could hear them in locker rooms - i could go on and on, but south park is a reflection of our culture and people more than it is an influence on them
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 AM on July 25, 2017


I don't buy the concept that Southpark is a root cause of trolling any more than I buy the concept that people are violent because of video games, and for pretty much the same reason.

The difference is that roughly 0% of video game players actually pick up a gun and shoot someone. A much larger percentage of South Park viewers engage in some form of sexist, racist, and/or homophobic bullshit that hurts people.

On the other hand, if you want to argue that Call of Duty plays a role in shoring up support among Americans for US militarism around the world, I'd give that argument a very sympathetic ear.
posted by straight at 9:53 AM on July 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech.

Yeah, which is why liberals have successfully lobbied Congress to slap PARENTAL ADVISORY: CONTAINS RACISM, SEXISM, or HOMOPHOBIA on TV shows like South Park and used those government labels as leverage to restrict the sale of sexist, racist, and homophobic content.

Oh, wait, that didn't happen. I guess we both confused Freedom of Speech to be Uncensored by the Government with Freedom of Speech to go Uncriticized and that there's a significant difference to the way right and left wing folks respond to speech they don't like.
posted by straight at 10:03 AM on July 25, 2017 [31 favorites]


Also, I don't think this article is arguing any of the following:

1. South Park created the alt-right
2. South Park created shitposting


To quote TFA:
Let’s be real, though. South Park didn’t “invent” the “alt-right,” even accidentally.

There is a reference to an FT (behind a paywall so I have no idea whether the headline adheres to Betteridge's Law of Headlines or not) article, but this article right here goes on to say:


Still, it’s not that much of a stretch to see how one might have fed the other, if only through the sort of intangible osmosis that happens whenever an influential artwork spawns imitators, both on screen and off. South Park may not have “invented” the “alt-right,” but at their roots are the same bored, irritated distaste for politically correct wokeness, the same impish thrill at saying the things you’re not supposed to say, the same button-pushing racism and sexism, now scrubbed of all irony.

posted by soren_lorensen at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2017 [12 favorites]


Get out of here with this "ignore them and they will go away" nonsense

I never said that, but, hey, way to prove you're not anti-speech by telling me to go away.

I said to blame something worth blaming. Maybe, just maybe, a cartoon show no one has cared about in over a decade isn't the most effective target of your rage.

Honestly, I'd be surprised if this article isn't just a paid PR stunt to give South Park's cultural cachet a shot in the arm. Remember yesterday, when nobody gave a fuck because it's not 1999?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:09 AM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, which is why liberals have successfully lobbied Congress to slap PARENTAL ADVISORY: CONTAINS RACISM, SEXISM, or HOMOPHOBIA on TV shows like South Park and used those government labels as leverage to restrict the sale of sexist, racist, and homophobic content.

I'm confused by this. Is Al Gore's wife not a liberal?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2017


> there is always going to be a minority with alt-right beliefs - there always has been and 70 years ago it was probably a majority

Yeah, has the alt-right really risen, or has it rather concentrated into view like a coffee stain as the ambient bigotry begins to evaporate around it?
posted by lucidium at 10:14 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Parental Advisory stuff is a) voluntary and b) does not say anything about racism, sexism or homophobia.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:16 AM on July 25, 2017 [15 favorites]


When my friends first picked up on South Park (i.e. decades ago) they loved it and I hated it. I hated the shitty production values, I hated the crass jokes, I just generally felt the entire thing was a shit sandwich. But I have grown to appreciate it for what it is, in large part because my girlfriend really loves the show, but also in part because I'm slightly less of a ponderous ass.
posted by dmh at 10:17 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you see this conversation as full of "rage" you may doth protest too much, methinks.
posted by agregoli at 10:20 AM on July 25, 2017 [23 favorites]


I said to blame something worth blaming. Maybe, just maybe, a cartoon show no one has cared about in over a decade isn't the most effective target of your rage.

If nobody actually cared about it, then the show would have long since been canceled. So the existence of the show disproves your point.

And the funny thing about free speech is that it swings both ways - you get to say what you want, but people get to respond to what you say. Nobody owes you a soap box.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


>I'm confused by this. Is Al Gore's wife not a liberal?

The PMRC (with which Tipper Gore was affiliated) hasn't been active or in existence since the '90s, so I'm not at all sure how that's relevant to contemporary thought on any side.

Rolling Stone did a 'thirty year retrospective' on the PMRC Senate hearings two years ago. Parental advisory stickers are still in use, sure, but at this far remove I don't think they're particularly (1) a live issue, or (2) a partisan issue.

'One liberal/conservative did a thing decades ago' does not, respectfully, say much at all about today. It might say something about where South Park was coming from, and why it exists in the form it does, and if you want to make that argument, go for it, but I don't think Tipper Gore being liberal and having lobbied for warning stickers makes liberals writ large for censorship in any meaningful way.
posted by cjelli at 10:26 AM on July 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


at the same time they also realize that "but that's fantasy, and real life doesn't work that way and I can't actually do that for real"

I think it's important to remember that South Park is not a kids show, and I'm a bit dismayed that an entire generation of kids was raised on this show, and, in a lot of cases, apparently without a lot of adult guidance. This is part of a much larger problem, which absolutely includes the issue of available childcare in this country, but I think there are a lot of grown ups to blame besides Parker and Stone.

Then again, I'm really conservative about exposing young kids to adult themes, which admittedly seems out of step these days outside really conservative or religious families.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:27 AM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Is Al Gore's wife not a liberal?

How do you know about South Park if you're still in 1993?
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on July 25, 2017 [25 favorites]


"Al Gore's wife," has a name, which is Mary, (nickname Tipper) and she has also separated from Al. Just so you know.
posted by agregoli at 10:42 AM on July 25, 2017 [30 favorites]


'One liberal/conservative did a thing decades ago' does not, respectfully, say much at all about today.

But if it's two, then by jove, you've got yourself a thinkpiece!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Do you all see the parallels between the hatred of these things and the hatred expressed in this thread about South Park?

People aren't asking for this show to be banned, they're saying that in retrospect. The nihilistic philosophy that guided the show has metastasized into something incredibly shitty.

You are pulling the same false equivalence here as fascists claiming their "get of our country" rhetoric to people just for being born the wrong color is "freedom of speech" and other people telling them to get out of their town for threatening their friends and family is "suppressing freedom."

You want to be all edgy and play around with being awful, great. But I'm am fed up with whiners who complain about getting criticized even non-awfully for it - heck if you're going to espouse being awful to people for satirical reasons or any reasons as being ok, you deserve people being awful to you right back. People just thoughtfully or even thoughtlessly criticizing you is going easy.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:53 AM on July 25, 2017 [31 favorites]


South Park, as has been noted repeatedly in this thread, is still on the air today.
posted by agregoli at 10:54 AM on July 25, 2017


But if it's two, then by jove, you've got yourself a thinkpiece

And your point? The funny thing about free speech is that it does include criticism, analysis, and yes "thinkpieces". People are exercising their free speech when they point out how yours is problematic, and trying to claim that is "censorship" is you attempting to silence them, because you don't like the image in the mirror they hold up.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:56 AM on July 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


None of you are placing the blame where it really belongs.

Canada.
posted by dr_dank at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2017 [14 favorites]


NoxAeturnum, you realize that comment cuts both ways? Well yes, I'm pretty sure you do.

Look, the difference between a traditionally conservative view on media and traditionally liberal one is not that speech can't be awful or that all speech is equal. It's that the conservative view is that government force of law should censor and be used to protect people from bad ideas, and the liberal one is that ideas should be argued and bad ones shouted down in a public forum.

Pretty sure this is the latter.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


I haven't watched South Park since the early days, although I'll admit to liking it then. I have less than zero interest in My Little Pony. To position the two as opposites, strikes me as one of those hipsters vs bros/Pickups vs Prius/red state vs blue state false dichotomies. Politically, I still am on the left, but culturally, I feel like a man with out a country.
posted by jonmc at 11:09 AM on July 25, 2017


It's possible that the rise of the whining broflakes has been semi-deliberately engineered by large media corporations who see a lot of profit in maintaining a base of the electorate angry at queers, ladies, and brown people and not at capitalism.
posted by Automocar at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2017 [12 favorites]


way to prove you're not anti-speech by telling me to go away.

Censorship is not the same thing as being unwilling to engage with speech. Nobody owes you engagement with your ideas.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2017 [34 favorites]


It's possible that the rise of the whining broflakes has been semi-deliberately engineered by large media corporations who see a lot of profit in maintaining a base of the electorate angry at queers, ladies, and brown people and not at capitalism.

Come on, that's like suggesting the NRA might be deliberately fomenting fear of a civil war to keep people buying guns now that they can no longer scare them with Obama taking their guns away.

It suggests that capitalism might deliberately hurt people in order to make money. Where is the evidence that this has ever happened?
posted by maxsparber at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2017 [19 favorites]


Which illustrates my ultimate thought about whether South Park "caused" the current sentiment or not, or whether any work of art actually "causes" a set of behaviors. In short - it can't.

What? No. Art contributes to society. Art influences culture. Society and culture give rise to patterns of behavior. An artwork usually can't be assigned sole responsibility for an act or behavior, because those relationships are extremely complicated. But a tremendously influential and wide-reaching artwork absolutely can influence society and culture in a way that helps give rise to certain patterns of behavior. Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, for example, was highly influential in the appearance of any number of behaviors and fashion trends. It's absolutely possible to say that Werther "caused" young European men to go around wearing yellow pants and blue jackets for a few years. And what about propaganda? Is this not an example of artworks that are used deliberately to influence society and culture so as to give rise to a desired set of behaviors?
posted by slkinsey at 11:21 AM on July 25, 2017 [8 favorites]


Nice piece. The way Trump supporters tend to value schadenfreude ("LOL LIBERAL TEARS!") over genuine political positions has struck me as crazy for a while now, but I never quite made the connection between that and South Park's "both sides are wrong, we're better than everyone, fuck you for being earnest" bullshit. Makes sense though.
posted by brundlefly at 11:27 AM on July 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


Is Al Gore's wife not a liberal?

Tipper Gore's crusade to have warning labels on music was a reaction to her daughter noticing that Prince was singing a song about masturbation. The 1985 Senate hearings about "porn rock" claimed they weren't pursuing any kind of censorship legislation, but that's clearly the stick they were waving around when they were demanding "voluntary" labeling.

And whatever the party affiliation of Gore's husband, the concerns were lyrics that conservatives get upset about--sex, drugs, "the occult"--not lyrics that were racist or sexist or homophobic.

And no, publicly condemning speech you don't like or petitioning public organizations not to sponsor or host speech you don't like is not remotely the same as threatening legislation restricting the sale of speech you don't like.
posted by straight at 11:38 AM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]


Came here very late in the discussion, simply to say: I have always believed this, since day the very fucking first, and am grateful almost to the point of tears to see my feelings finally validated. By this piece, by those of you posting here, by Nagle...

It's far, far too late to put this particular genie back in its bottle, but at least we are able to name it and its effects, and therefore live in truth with one another in the Havelian sense. In this post-truth era of ours, that's not trivial, and indeed I think something worth celebrating in and of itself.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]


Nobody likes the idea that media influences behavior because it lends credence to moral crusaders who want to ban books and TV shows, and of course people don't come out of horror films wanting to chop people up with axes, right?

It would appear that the truth is messier. Movies about axe-wielding psychopaths don't generally increase the incidence of axe-wielding psychopathy because there is no general cultural undercurrent of axe-wielding psychopathy. But movies which glorify racism, or rape culture, or even nihilism - these can have more impact, because they're amplifying something that is already there. Their quotes are also more applicable to daily life, as opposed to one-liners about machete-based decapitation.

And, of course, books can quite obviously be extremely influential in the way people think and behave. So it is with TV, movies, music and (probably) video games.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:17 PM on July 25, 2017 [10 favorites]


I quit watching "South Park" after the election because what used to be mildly amusing just depressed me.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:18 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


I see the influence of media and culture as more of a feedback loop than a single directional arrow. Media is created by people, who are influenced by culture, which can be affected by media that amplifies or de-emphasizes existing cultural norms/tropes or introduces new ones, etc. etc.
posted by misskaz at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2017


- using the f****t slur.
- mocking people with developmental and other disabilities.
- mocking AIDS.
- using the n-word slur.
- all manner of racism--casual racism, overt and violent racism.
- all manner of homophobia and especially transphobia.


You forgot virulent anti-Semitism. Eric Cartman gave a quotable voice to so many people at my small, Southern college that I was never able to invite my Jewish friends to come visit me, out of embarrassment of what the people I associated with might say.
posted by chainsofreedom at 12:23 PM on July 25, 2017 [27 favorites]


South Park's real legacy, I think, is switching the narrative re: which wing is more outraged by free speech. Used to be the Right, but now, well, look at this thread. Y'all are just falling right into it.

If us saying "South Park sucks" is anti freeze peaches, then so is you saying "saying "South Park sucks" sucks".

Checkmate.
posted by Dysk at 12:36 PM on July 25, 2017 [9 favorites]


Which illustrates my ultimate thought about whether South Park "caused" the current sentiment or not, or whether any work of art actually "causes" a set of behaviors. In short - it can't. It can exacerbate a tendancy that is already there, support ideas you may already have, present them to you in a way that resonates with something already within you, but it cannot implant them into your consciousness.

Where exactly do you think ideas come from then? Is it only original thought? Is communication impossible?
posted by Dysk at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


You forgot virulent anti-Semitism

Thank you, Matt Stone, for being Jewish enough to feel it absolves you of charges of antisemitism but not Jewish enough to give a shit about encouraging antisemitism.
posted by maxsparber at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2017 [16 favorites]


which wing is more outraged by free speech.

Being outraged by the content of awful speech is not the same thing as being outraged by free speech, for fuck's sake. I can think someone has a right to say something and also think they are perfectly miserable wretches for saying it.
posted by maxsparber at 12:40 PM on July 25, 2017 [21 favorites]


"... charges of antisemitism ..."
Right at the beginning, it was clear that Cartman was an idiot, and an ignoramus, and completely incapable of critical thought. This doesn't make it okay that _someone_ was spewing bigotry on TV, but it mitigated it a bit, and then soon even that cover was removed as the character grew.
posted by turkeybrain at 12:47 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Libertarianism vaguely makes sense when you're 12 and you've just read some Orwell for the first time, which is how old I was when South Park debuted on TV. Most people manage to move past such ill-considered, short sighted, self-centred, whining ideology in their mid-teens.

Parker and Stone are in their late 40s.


Around the time others hopefully grow out of fuck-the-man libertarianism, Parker and Stone became extremely rich, which led them right into the other wing of libertarianism, the how-dare-the-government-take-MY-hard-earned-richest branch.
posted by thecjm at 12:56 PM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Right at the beginning, it was clear that Cartman was an idiot, and an ignoramus, and completely incapable of critical thought.

I would argue the show represented him as a blunt instrument not an idiot, too monumentally unconcerned and unaware to avoid giving offense. In a universe where the greatest crime is being offended, the show offered Cartman as a hero.
posted by maxsparber at 12:59 PM on July 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


I have been meaning to get a copy of One-Dimensional Man by Herbert Marcuse. This discussion seems to constitute a straight-up validation of his concept of repressive desublimation, perhaps applied to comedy as well as sex.

"Just as this society tends to reduce, and even absorb opposition (the qualitative difference!) in the realm of politics and higher culture, so it does in the instinctual sphere. The result is the atrophy of the mental organs for grasping the contradictions and the alternatives..."
posted by TreeRooster at 12:59 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


"In a universe where the greatest crime is being offended, the show offered Cartman as a hero"

You know what, I take that mitigation stuff back - he was glorified really, really, fast, and not by accident.
posted by turkeybrain at 1:07 PM on July 25, 2017 [12 favorites]


An artwork usually can't be assigned sole responsibility for an act or behavior, because those relationships are extremely complicated. But a tremendously influential and wide-reaching artwork absolutely can influence society and culture in a way that helps give rise to certain patterns of behavior.

I agree with you that an artwork can't be assigned sole responsibility for an act or behavior; that was exactly the point I was making.

I also agree that art can influence the expression of a societal direction; I just question how much.
As for how much influence it can have on society, I would argue that society has to be ready for that influence in order for it to have an effect. The pump has to be primed first for it to happen, and usually the pump has been primed by something else.

Let's set South Park aside for a moment and use The Beatles instead. (Note: I'm going to make some generalizations that may be a bit whumping in here.) Many would point to The Beatles as being a big cause of the spirit of revolution that typified the late 60s. However - if people hadn't just lived through ten years of serious societal repression in the 50s, if JFK's assassination and the Christine Keeler scandal hadn't shook people's foundational trust in the government in the early 60s, and if other social and societal forces hadn't come into play to spark people's interest in wanting to seek out and imagine a better world, the Beatles' talk of wanting to find a better world wouldn't have found as big an audience, and it wouldn't have happened.

Maybe art can be a catalyst as opposed to a cause, is all I'm saying. I definitely agree it can be a catalyst, however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on July 25, 2017


Right at the beginning, it was clear that Cartman was an idiot, and an ignoramus, and completely incapable of critical thought.

'Satirical' racism, sexism and homophobia is still racist, sexist and homophobic, and is chemically indistinguishable from earnest bigotry from the point of view of the person on the shit end of the 'joke'.

You might get a chuckle out of the character Token but after a while you realize Matt and Trey are more then willing for him to stay as token as his racist label implies. It would only be satirical if the character grew out of the box he was put in but instead Matt and Trey are more than happy to point fingers at the trope while happily reinforcing its shittiness. That's not satire, that's just wearing your bigotry on your sleeve.

I think I was done at the season 2 premiere when Cartman was reprimanded for going to school dressed as Hitler for Halloween only to be forcibly dressed as a 'ghost' that was clearly a Klan member. Fuck that show.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2017 [21 favorites]


I've been crying with laughter at Matt & Trey stuff for a long time, I've also stopped laughing for a long time at their stuff. I sincerely thought I broke my funny bone at some point cause I couldn't get myself to watch anymore SP while before I thought it to be the funniest show on earth.

Now I know it's not me it's them. They lost their soul.

This also illustrates why I don't think SP is to blame for anything. Everyone with a heart knows instinctively what's right or wrong and there are just too many people about who are just too insensitive or bland or plain stupid. These people don't need some TV show to act senseless and stupid.

There's maybe something to say for EmpressCallipygos' catalyst argument but even that is a stretch IMO. It's too many stupid humans and I really don't know what the cure for that is. Empathy maybe, but that's fucking hard to pull off in these times.
posted by Kosmob0t at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2017


I really, really loved South Park in high school (high school for me was 1996-2000)--it appealed to my sense of humor, which at the time was based on saying the most outrageous, offensive things possible and seeing what happened. I remember the movie making me laugh so hard I wept. I sobbed I was laughing so hard.

But I also laughed that hard at all the Austin Powers movies and also at Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.

I think it might be simply that I was the world's biggest fan of dick jokes.

I watched a bunch of South Park with a then-boyfriend in 2008, too. It held up for me. I wonder how I'd feel about it now.

I still love dick jokes. I'm not sure if my tolerance for "say a terrible thing and see what happens" has dwindled. Probably not.
posted by millipede at 2:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Also, my husband grew up a big Howard Stern fan, which I have a hard time with. When I cite my hard time with it, he can't believe I draw a line between Howard Stern and South Park (and Eminem, another "say a terrible thing and see what happens" person I love).
posted by millipede at 2:13 PM on July 25, 2017


I also agree that art can influence the expression of a societal direction; I just question how much. As for how much influence it can have on society, I would argue that society has to be ready for that influence in order for it to have an effect. The pump has to be primed first for it to happen, and usually the pump has been primed by something else.

Everything exists within a context. Art exists within a social, political, economic, moral, philosophical, historical, cultural (etc.) context. I agree that society has to be "ready" in order to be influenced by anything. Certainly Goethe's Werther, to return to my earlier example, would not have had the influence it did if it were written 100 years earlier or 100 years later. But that doesn't mean that the influence of Werther can't be attributed to Goethe, or that we have to say that Werther was merely a "cultural catalyst" for the thought and behaviors to which it gave rise. Goethe existed in that culture and he wrote what he wrote. In the case of South Park, I don't think anyone is suggesting that it is the sole proximate cause of anything. I do think people are suggesting that it may have had a very large influence in the emergence and pervasiveness of certain behaviors. Did a lot of other things have to be in place for Stone and Parker to have that influence? Sure. Just like they did for Goethe. But it absolves the creators of too much moral responsibility to say that their effect has been merely as catalysts.
posted by slkinsey at 2:36 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


It would only be satirical if the character grew out of the box he was put in but instead Matt and Trey are more than happy to point fingers at the trope while happily reinforcing its shittiness. That's not satire, that's just wearing your bigotry on your sleeve.

There is an instructive contrast in GLOW, actually. So, spoilers ahead.

There are two black women, and the scumbag artist director casts them as a "Welfare Queen" and a rapper named "Junk Chain". He wants them to do a tag team match against these two little-old-lady characters.

Right before their first match, the "Junk Chain" pulls "Welfare Queen" aside and they have a conversation like:
"So they're gonna have us beating down a couple of old white ladies? How's that gonna look?"
"Sam says it's supposed to be a satire, like we're wrestling our own stereotypes or something."
"That's a load of bullshit. But I have an idea how we can make it work."
When their tag team match comes up, we see the wrestlers who play the little old ladies backstage, in close-up so we can't see their whole outfits. One of them is pacing, looking nervous about something. So they have a conversation like this:
"I dunno about this, don't you think it seems a little racist?"
"Don't worry about it, nobody's going to see our faces. That's the point of these things, right? Besides, it can't be racist, it was the black girls' idea."
And then they put on KKK hoods and enter the ring to a chorus of boos. So when "Junk Chain" and "Welfare Queen" show up to kick their asses, the black stereotypes that white America usually loves to hate get to be the heroes of the scene because they're taking on an acceptable target.

That is what it looks like when you use offensive stereotypes in a satirical manner. South Park and its ilk, on the other hand, do the director's version of the scene. They just portray the stereotype with a straight face and call it satire, rather than actually doing anything to subvert the stereotypes.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:52 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


South Park was brilliant and subversive when it premiered in 1997 and I was 18, just like The Simpsons had been in 1990 and Futurama in 1999, but, man, they were definitely products of their time, and there's only so far you can take them. In the case of South Park it could only take it about four seasons. The fact that is about to start its 22nd season is just insane.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


But that doesn't mean that the influence of Werther can't be attributed to Goethe, or that we have to say that Werther was merely a "cultural catalyst" for the thought and behaviors to which it gave rise. Goethe existed in that culture and he wrote what he wrote. In the case of South Park, I don't think anyone is suggesting that it is the sole proximate cause of anything. I do think people are suggesting that it may have had a very large influence in the emergence and pervasiveness of certain behaviors. Did a lot of other things have to be in place for Stone and Parker to have that influence? Sure. Just like they did for Goethe. But it absolves the creators of too much moral responsibility to say that their effect has been merely as catalysts.

I have the feeling that we're using different words to talk about the same concepts, and we're actually on the same page but just on different paragraphs or something. Because I raised my eyebrows when you described catalysts as being "mere"; that's nothing to sneeze at.

Also, when you speak of Stone and Parker being absolved of "moral responsibilty" - do you think that artists should assume moral responsibility for the exact manner in how their work is received? Outside of some fairly clear-cut cases (i.e., a sympathetic portrayal of someone the world has universally deemed a monster, a work which clearly and sincerely demonizes an entire class of people, etc.), I'm not so sure that they should. There is a point at which an artist does not have any control over how their work will be received by the public, and I don't think they should be held morally accountable for how their work is received by people who are bringing their own troubles to the work and viewing it through that filter.

For an extreme example - we can all agree that The Beatles shouldn't be held morally accountable for Charles Manson's actions. So there are clearly cases where the listener or viewer of the art is the one who should be seen as "at fault". But if you say that there are cases where the artist should be morally responsible - where exactly do you draw that line?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:03 PM on July 25, 2017


Look. I'm for a bunch of things expressed here: if it didn't make Comedy Central money, it wouldnt still be on the air. If you don't like it, you don't have to watch it and yes, if you find it offensive the off button is handy. SO goes for the premise, if they haven't offended you yet you probably haven't watched long enough. Cartman is despised by his 'friends'. They all know his one note is generally the most overtly offensive and rude comment in the entire world. They have gone out of their way with the adults to make them various bigots, crowd mentality driven, overly PC, overly judgemental, hedonistic, hypocritical degenerates possible. Watching an episode of SP is as enjoyable as thanksgiving dinner with your racist right wing uncle. Except you don't ever need to watch it. One button press and it is off. It amazes me though, that a TV show that many folks despise so many folks pay enough attention to to despise.

I've watched the show off and on for its run. The jokes run flat - like all sitcoms. Some of the messaging is better provided with less ironic subtext in other formats... but...

SP has also been constant. It has existed for the better part of my adult life. It is not for kids despite heavily merchandising to kids. It is a cash cow that eats itself in parody of disgust. Looking at it as a whole body of work, it is a mass produced Andy Warhol meets John Waters with the sensitivity of Andrew Dice Clay. At best, I can take it in small doses if at all... because it has no relevance towards my humor 95% of the time.

Has it unapologetically lashed out at people? Clearly yes. Has it treated social justice, racism, incarceration, people with disabilities and LGBTs mostly with disrespect? Absolutely. And if you hate it, I get it, but get up, walk around the block and chose not to post. It is a television juggernaut, with characters which if aged would legally be able to drink and go to jail for the things they've said. There are no consequences for the characters, no real aging... just... more of the same.

If you hated it 20 years ago, it is not surprising you still hate it... but - you are wasting your cycles on it... move on... It isn't the cause... It is just the canary in the coal mine at best, and the lead in the aqueduct at the worst.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:44 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wow, it seems like you missed all the insightful and thoughtful commentary about South Park during this thread. I really honestly wish you had engaged with any of that instead of telling people to refrain from posting.
posted by agregoli at 5:15 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


Generally, if you're writing a comment telling people not to pay comments, it's a good idea to take your own advice.
posted by Dysk at 5:27 PM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Also, when you speak of Stone and Parker being absolved of "moral responsibilty" - do you think that artists should assume moral responsibility for the exact manner in how their work is received?

I'm sure that's a wonderful argument to have in the abstract, but at this point, 22 seasons in, Stone and Parker have absolutely no excuse for not knowing exactly what their fanbase is, and the toxicity they're feeding.
posted by Dysk at 5:30 PM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


I'm sure that's a wonderful argument to have in the abstract, but at this point, 22 seasons in, Stone and Parker have absolutely no excuse for not knowing exactly what their fanbase is, and the toxicity they're feeding.
See, that's the thing...
is it SP that is feeding the fanbase or is it the fanbase that is feeding SP? The neat thing is, it isn't just the fanbase that feeds SP. You - you in specific feed SP. Every fucking person who has posted in this thread is feeding SP. Because at some point in your day today - or next week, or what have you and something will jog in your memory and you will Pavlovian foam at the mouth at the thought of some asshole on the internet that says turn off the internet if you don't like it, and you'll cite how you dealt with an internet troll on the internet with this massive amount of civility and professionalism and maybe they'll eventually catch your lesson and assume your point of view.

But here's the thing. I understand your view. I once held your view, even after having watched it. And then... I just stopped. I stopped thinking about SP. I stopped thinking of Trey Parker and Matt Stone until they came out with Team America, then was briefly reminded, watched, hated, got over watched... forgot about and then was reminded by the Book of Mormon, and repeat...

There is no fighting this - this isn't a culture war which requires someone to get all worked up about it in order to feed its cultural relevance to this self-perceived maligned group that likes the show and watches it and finds solidarity in a group of watching it - just by the fact that it pisses somebody off. You are morally right. Every single person who hates SP in this thread is morally right. It is easy to be morally right by hating SP. It doesn't kill it though. It doesn't give it a final blow. You will never get it off the air. You will never complain to the point where it falls on someone's ears who has become gratuitously rich off of SP and they'll be like, "You know what - you're right. I'm going to pull this show and donate all this money to charity!" There is no end game in indignancy.

Want the actual end game? Something akin to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. By that I mean unless you create a property which has a message that you approve which will exceed the revenue throttle of SP - SP will always exist, and if not in new episodes - it will take the 10 years of syndication like Seinfeld, Friends and Cheers to remove from the air.

But, tell me I'm wrong. That the argument that I am making is simply to turn it off... if that's the argument that you think I am advocating, I am being overly subtle. The argument that I am making is this: stop caring about it and instead work to replace it with something that you do like at an affordable price tag. Telling Comedy Central to stop a show which keeps them relevant is ... just going to get you laughed at by TV execs on their way to the bank.
The Season 20 finale of “South Park” was the top-rated show on cable Wednesday among adults 18-49. Its 1.1 rating was a little above its season average of 1.0, and it beat out ESPN’s late NBA game (Clippers-Warriors) by a tenth of a point to take the top spot.

“Vikings” earned a 0.5 on History, down 0.2 from its return last week. An “Alaskan Bush People” Christmas episode also drew a 0.5 on Discovery, while “Conan’s” adventures in Berlin posted a 0.4 for TBS.

Top 100 cable shows among adults 18-49 for Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016

Show Net Time Total Viewers (000s) 18-49 rating
SOUTH PARK COMEDY CENTRAL 10:00 PM 1,817 1.1
NBA REGULAR SEASON L ESPN 10:35 PM 2,365 1.0
FAMILY GUY ADULT SWIM 11:00 PM 1,840 0.9
AMERICAN DAD ADULT SWIM 10:30 PM 1,690 0.9
BIG BANG THEORY, THE TBS NETWORK 9:30 PM 2,489 0.8
SOURCE
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:09 PM on July 25, 2017


I literally have no idea which user's arguments you are attempting to engage with, because it does not appear to be anyone in this thread.
posted by agregoli at 6:38 PM on July 25, 2017 [20 favorites]


What someone else calls insightful and thoughtful commentary, I call bitterness, vitriol, and a decidedly different sense of humor from my own.

The South Park ethos is too forgiving of out-group beliefs, or so it seems to me. Not that they endorse those beliefs, Trey & Matt just don't have a problem with them, the same way the majority of commenters here do, and that just won't stand, not in this era of EVERYTHING being a form of identity politics.

No one here has explicitly called for censorship, but there's certainly something implict going on there, in between all the sentences dripping with bile and wrath. Just squint a little. Political correctness is fascism disguised as tolerance, as manners.

We can't just agree to disagree any more, can we? Everything has to be judged, and judged harshly. If I like something you don't, it can't be a mere difference in taste. What I like is corrosive and harmful. What I like is bad, and I should feel bad for liking it. This goes way beyond the opinions over a twenty-year-old cartoon show, I think.

You want to judge me? Go ahead. I'll judge you in kind. It's human nature, after all. We keep on judging each other, polarizing our beliefs further and further into a dogmatic, hysterical frenzy, and eventually we can all go in a field somewhere and bash each other's brains in for committing the unforgivable crime of being 'wrong'.

It sure feels like that's where all this is headed.
posted by KHAAAN! at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2017


This goes way beyond the opinions over a twenty-year-old cartoon show, I think.

Yes, actually, that was the whole point of tfa.

(And honestly, nanukthedog, I don't really think about South Park, like, ever, because heyo I don't like it. But this here post on the blue was about South Park and the culture that sustains it/is sustained by it. The whole post was an article interrogating the show as a cultural touchstone. So yeah, people are up in here interrogating the show as a cultural touchstone.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


and that just won't stand, not in this era of EVERYTHING being a form of identity politics.

Thus spoke the straight cis able-bodied white man, as he had always done, for he felt it was no concern of his.
posted by Dysk at 7:00 PM on July 25, 2017 [21 favorites]


So how come any time an article comes up lately with that looks into the rise of hatred on the right keeps getting met with this belief that unless it is the one true cause of the Alt right then it's ok? Nothing is the one true cause. It feels like there is this sickness in the world that people want to find an instant cure for. There is no one seed to the Alt right. It's all around you. From parents to media to fuck face in office to online. If we keep waiting to find that one seed so we can pluck it from the earth and be done with hatred we are going to drown pretty soon.

And look it's hard to admit that something you love is problematic but you don't have to be shamed for growing up and seeing that this thing you loved so much is actually sick. I mean the first album I bought was Bruce Willis solo album. I've grown since then and yeah it makes me embarrassed but I don't lash out at others because of it. I'm so so sick of kindness and decency being uncool.
posted by kanata at 7:00 PM on July 25, 2017 [22 favorites]


Political correctness is fascism disguised as tolerance, as manners.

Also this belies an utter lack of understanding of fascism. And once again, replacing "political correctness" with "treating people with respect" is illustrative.
posted by Dysk at 7:04 PM on July 25, 2017 [28 favorites]


We can't just agree to disagree any more, can we? Everything has to be judged, and judged harshly. If I like something you don't, it can't be a mere difference in taste. What I like is corrosive and harmful. What I like is bad, and I should feel bad for liking it.

In this instance, what you like is unashamedly transphobic, so yes, it is toxic trash. This is not simply a difference of taste or humour or opinion.
posted by Dysk at 7:08 PM on July 25, 2017 [17 favorites]


We can't just agree to disagree any more, can we?

Lucky you. Some of us have never had this luxury.
posted by rtha at 7:17 PM on July 25, 2017 [21 favorites]


this era of EVERYTHING being a form of identity politics

It always has been, for many, many people, without anyone having asked them.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:24 PM on July 25, 2017 [20 favorites]


Political correctness is fascism disguised as tolerance, as manners.

This is really just an amazing piece of nonsense. Would you like to explain how "political correctness" -- that is, thinking that it's a shitty thing to spew racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted abuse at other people -- matches Eco's 14 points? Or the dictionary definition of fascism? Note that little tiny key word: forcible. The fact that I think someone is an asshole for being transphobic and I tell them so is not forcible. The fact that I don't want to associate with racists? Also not forcible.
posted by tavella at 7:28 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


Thus spoke the straight cis able-bodied white man, as he had always done, for he felt it was no concern of his.

Well, I'm not quite white. I come from trailer trash stock, which means my whiteness is mostly honorary. Able-bodied? I guess, though I've been unemployed since 2010, and haven't really had a good job since 1998. My sexuality, since you brought it up, isn't strictly cis, but good on you for assuming otherwise.

Also this belies an utter lack of understanding of fascism. And once again, replacing "political correctness" with "treating people with respect" is illustrative.

I know what fascism is, thanks. Among other things, it's about control-- controlling language, behavior, and thought.

"Political correctness is America's newest form of intolerance and it's especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people's language with strict codes and rigid rules. I'm not sure that's the way to fight discrimination. I'm not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech...Political correctness cripples discourse and creates ugly language and is generally stupid." --George Carlin.

Then again, what did George know? Just another able-bodied cis white dude, right?
posted by KHAAAN! at 7:39 PM on July 25, 2017


Well, I'm not quite white.

Having a few drops of another/other races is not what's important. What's important is this: what race do other people recognize you as?
posted by zardoz at 7:49 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


My sexuality, since you brought it up, isn't strictly cis, but good on you for assuming otherwise.

This is not how it works, dude. Gender is not sexuality.

Well, I'm not quite white. I come from trailer trash stock, which means my whiteness is mostly honorary.

Holy fucking hell, this is not how it works...
posted by Dysk at 7:49 PM on July 25, 2017 [21 favorites]


Able-bodied? I guess, though I've been unemployed since 2010, and haven't really had a good job since 1998.

And unemployment is not fucking disability, nor is it in any way comparable. There is no "though" about employment and disability. It's a complete non-sequitur. Like, just because you haven't been handed life in a golden platter doesn't mean you don't belong to several privileged groups, and have that invisible knapsack of advantages that comes with it. There's no "yes, but..." about it. Being poor or otherwise marginalised does not remove or caveat your whiteness or your able-bodiedness.
posted by Dysk at 7:55 PM on July 25, 2017 [13 favorites]


Then again, what did George know? Just another able-bodied cis white dude, right?

Do you need a step-stool for this cross?

This isn't about control because no one is actually trying to forcibly control anyone here. There are like 20 comments with people clarifying the difference between government censorship and private citizens saying "That thing you like? I think it's garbage--how 'bout them apples?" No one in this entire thread has suggested that Parker and Stone be forced to remove this show from the air, or be personally punished in any way. I don't even think anyone has suggested any kind of direct action like a sponsor boycott or anything like that. It's literally just a bunch of people talking about a TV show they think is crappy, offensive and possibly (the jury does in fact still seem to be out amongst people discussing in good faith) in a feedback loop involving a self-identified right wing actual fascists.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:56 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


I know what fascism is, thanks. Among other things, it's about control-- controlling language, behavior, and thought.

How about we just agree to disagree? I will carry on calling racist/transphobic "jokes" and you carry on with the excellent demonstration of thoughtless fragility.
posted by rtha at 8:02 PM on July 25, 2017 [11 favorites]


It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people's language with strict codes and rigid rules.

I'm not sure what silencing and control is going on here. Nobody's saying the FCC should take South Park off the air. It's still airing, still pulling in money.

All people are doing is saying it's shit and they don't watch it. I mean, that's about the lowest level of "restrict and control" I've ever heard of. Oh no, people don't get to have their lazy unthinking media preferences go entirely unquestioned! They might have to hear dissenting opinions before going right back into their ideological enclaves!

Then again, this is South Park we're talking about, where the greatest sin in the world is giving a shit. Pass the weed and snack-food, because nothing's actually going to affect you anyhow so wanting things to get better is for losers. Pay no attention to people going "This will literally kill me", they're whiny and attention-seeking and they aren't you, so why do you care?
posted by CrystalDave at 8:03 PM on July 25, 2017 [30 favorites]


what you like is unashamedly transphobic, so yes, it is toxic trash.

Just as a general point, when something is intersectionally terrible, could we not treat it as if there were one issue that's the litmus test? It's possible to invent a South Park that's not transphobic and still 'ironically' racist and ableist. That would also be enough to make it toxic trash.

***

Generally speaking: wow. Some of the attitudes in this thread feel like they're from the mid-2000s / early 2010s MeFi, not the MeFi of the past few years.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:42 PM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]


And, yes, there's the intersectional definition of transphobia, where trans people can be disabled and therefore they're affected by ableism. But that's rapidly descending into verbal nihilism.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:45 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


Then again, what did George know? Just another able-bodied cis white dude, right?

Carlin's argument is a certain vintage brand of bullshit that many comedians who had built a repertoire around the use of soft bigotry to get laughs tried to peddle when people started pointing out that jokes fundamentally built around mocking people for their race, gender, creed, orientation are in fact pretty offensive and hateful by nature. And it came about because it was easier for these comedians to cry that they were being oppressed, rather than showing some introspection and realize that hey, people were seeing their routines as offesive benause they were.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]


You know, I was reading the other day about how the events of ages 18-24 have a profound, lasting impact on one's political views (and party allegiances) for life. The article focused primarily on real-world events, but we're not paying nearly enough attention to the massive amounts of "fuck you for caring about things" that's shoved down everyone's throats at that precise developmental stage.
posted by duffell at 10:53 PM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]


I literally cried with laughter watching the South Park movie nearly twenty years ago, but I can't believe that show is still on television.


I don't why I'm so out of the mainstream on this, but I thought the show was fairly funny until I saw the movie in the theater. Hated it. Everyone I went with hated it. I never watched the show again because the movie turned me off so much. I've changed enough to know there's no going back.

But I also can't believe this show is still on television. It's weird, isn't it? Every few years I think that because I never see commercials, never read anything about it, never hear anyone talk about it, so I just assume it went away.
posted by bongo_x at 1:02 AM on July 26, 2017


Just as a general point, when something is intersectionally terrible, could we not treat it as if there were one issue that's the litmus test? It's possible to invent a South Park that's not transphobic and still 'ironically' racist and ableist. That would also be enough to make it toxic trash

1) I never said or implied this was the only issue
2) I'm trans so it's my most immediate concern
3) It was an example, so I picked the one that's both closest to home for me, and with the least potential for fans to hide behind claims of 'irony' or satire
4) That is a weird fucking thing to read into my comment
posted by Dysk at 4:04 AM on July 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


Is this the right thread to say that I really, really hated Book Of Mormon?
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:15 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yes. Yes it is.
posted by tully_monster at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Is this the right thread to say that I really, really hated Book Of Mormon?

I was in NYC over the weekend and saw an ad for BoM that acclaimed it as The Greatest Musical Of This Century, and I figured that even the ad writer had to tell himself "Well, Hamilton is really about the 18th Century, so I'm not lying...".
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


> And it came about because it was easier for these comedians to cry that they were being oppressed, rather than showing some introspection and realize that hey, people were seeing their routines as offensive because they were.

Mainstream society in George Carlin's day also found homosexuality, POC cultures, and criticisms of religion offensive. Carlin was not some great freedom fighter, but his shtick appealed to people who were uncomfortable with the notion that existing systems of power should dictate how people express themselves. Modern popular social justice attitudes might not owe much to Carlin specifically, but certainly have their roots in the same skepticism of incumbent authority that made Carlin's comedy appealing to his audience.
posted by cirgue at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


Carlin was not some great freedom fighter, but his shtick appealed to people who were uncomfortable with the notion that existing systems of power should dictate how people express themselves.

Your point?

Just because you make a not shitty argument in one area doesn't mean that it won't be a shitty argument in another one. The argument that the simple idea that perhaps one should consider the feelings of others and avoid using slurs is some form of restriction of expression rings incredibly hollow.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:24 AM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]


My point is that if you want to try to fit Carlin for a black hat, saying 'he used slurs' fails to capture the fact that criticism of racism and homophobia were consistent themes of his comedy.
posted by cirgue at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


What seemed cutting-edge and progressive in the past is often revealed to itself be regressive and in need of reevaluating and surpassing in the present. That's simply progress.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:40 AM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


>

Also, Carlin was a comedian He was exaggerating for comedic effect. To take it 100% seriously at face value...

The problem these days, and the reason people are pissed off at South Park here, is because a large portion of society seems to have forgotten that jokes aren't real. Heck Trump was elected because a vast portion of the populace believes more in Murrica - the exaggerated, bullshit action movie parody of America, than the actual big mess of a country itself. The reason the "PC police" or whatever derogatory term you want to use for people who don't laugh at racist jokes don't laugh at them is because they've met one too many people who didn't realize believe that they were ridiculous exaggeration and meant them in 100% earnest. And taking George Carlin's jokes as completely seriously, well it's not a good argument that they're wrong.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:41 AM on July 26, 2017


My point is that if you want to try to fit Carlin for a black hat, saying 'he used slurs' fails to capture the fact that criticism of racism and homophobia were consistent themes of his comedy.

And yet when people started saying "hey, casually using soft bigotry in your speech is demeaning and offensive to those it targets", he chose to decry it as trying to control speech. Again, being right on one area doesn't mean you can't be horribly wrong elsewhere.

The problem these days, and the reason people are pissed off at South Park here, is because a large portion of society seems to have forgotten that jokes aren't real.

If you're the one on the receiving end of a joke making you into the punchline because of who you are, those jokes are all too real. And let's stop ignoring the elephant in the room - Parker and Stone don't go after political correctness because they're trying to poke fun at overly stuffy liberals, but because they want to be able to get laughs out of soft bigotry without being considered horrible people for doing so, and people won't let them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:52 AM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think it's telling that far and away the funniest South Park thing was the movie, because that's specifically the place where they actually reveal what they care deeply about: Broadway musicals.

And suddenly now I understand why The Book of Mormon exists and is so good.
posted by schroedinger at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2017


> What seemed cutting-edge and progressive in the past is often revealed to itself be regressive and in need of reevaluating and surpassing in the present. That's simply progress.

Refusing to contextualize a work or person and instead calling it/them 'shitty' is itself extraordinarily regressive.
posted by cirgue at 8:54 AM on July 26, 2017


> If you're the one on the receiving end of a joke making you into the punchline because of who you are, those jokes are all too real. And let's stop ignoring the elephant in the room - Parker and Stone don't go after political correctness because they're trying to poke fun at overly stuffy liberals, but because they want to be able to get laughs out of soft bigotry without being considered horrible people for doing so, and people won't let them.

I agree with you 100% about Parker and Stone.
posted by cirgue at 8:56 AM on July 26, 2017


The shit of the matter is that the South Park boys made some devastatingly funny stuff — so we can't just be like "no, they are not funny, they have never been funny" — but they believe that the parts of their stuff that's funny is funny because of their undercooked, pedestrian political beliefs, whereas in reality the bits that are funny are funny despite the creators' dipshit libertarianism.

This is the thing that makes me crazy about South Park. If you're a writer, particularly a writer interested in comedy, you can't dismiss it outright. And there are parts of South Park I loved. But it's not really something you can compartmentalize, and influence isn't separable like that. So I stopped watching a while ago, and among all the other things I'm mad at them for, I'm mad that they ruined some good comedy by being the actual fucking worst.

I can't help but think about that idea that people stop evolving and developing when they become successful (or married, for some) -- the age of stagnation? They stopped in their early or mid twenties, which for white dudes seems to be adolescence, and they never bothered to try to continue to grow commensurate to their influence. That's a choice.

I mean, Mel Brooks has taken heat for making light of the Nazis, but he was deliberate and conscious about how he did it: he never depicted the Holocaust directly, and he never made Nazis look cool. (I think there was a video essay about this linked on MeFi, but I can't remember.) Any frame in which Nazis do not look ridiculous is inevitably co-opted by people who like Nazis. It's not rocket science. You have to be careful with that shit.

That said, Cartman is...man. He's depicted as pure evil (which he is), but his cynicism is also a super power -- which, um, actually seems realistic? -- and therefore you get the sometimes heroism. He's an amazing comedic character, but that doesn't mean he isn't also a fucking problem.

They were never careful about what they put out in the world, because they have never had the experience of being at personal risk, and they never will. South Park is fundamentally about privilege, I think, more than it's about nihilism. (There are episodes where they take a stand, sort of -- the episode where Principal Victoria gives Wendy tacit permission to beat the shit out of Cartman for making fun of breast cancer, "because that's what you have to do to cancer," comes to mind, but I'm sure it's shitty in a number of other ways.) The nihilism is a function of privilege: the only way you can afford to believe in nothing is if you are, ultimately, protected.

So now we're a culture of privileged adolescence. Which...sounds about right.

Goddammit.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2017 [14 favorites]


because a large portion of society seems to have forgotten that jokes aren't real.

Jokes are fucking real. If you're going to pretend like you're defending comedy, instead of privilege, start out by respecting comedy. It's a powerful medium for communication, and the only people who say "it's only a joke, it doesn't mean anything" are bullies who are using comedy as a weapon but are trying to pretend like they are harmless.

Actual comedians know the power of comedy and would never minimize it.
posted by maxsparber at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2017 [18 favorites]


Actual comedians know the power of comedy and would never minimize it.

I agree that comedy is powerful af, but I think you will find a lot of (mostly shitty) comedians who will run right to the "it's just jokes" defense when they're (rightly) attacked, because comedians are inconsistent hypocrites too.

I mean, it's also true that comedy is far riskier than other genres, and it ages really quickly because of that. But that's not, like, a secret. You know that going in. If you fuck up you take responsibility for it and try to learn from it. IME a comedian who can't listen is usually a comedian that's stopped growing, and they're not gonna be funny for much longer (if they ever were).

Anyway, yes. You don't get to enjoy the benefits of popularity without also bearing the burden of influence. That's always been true. Anyone who says otherwise is a whining coward.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:41 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was composing a defence of Carlin in my head while I showered this morning, so I'm glad others have jumped to it.

When trying to use Carlin to excuse some bigoted bullshit, it's important to actually maybe listen to the full version of the Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television sketch. The whole entire gag is that the list is just a pretext to discuss the fact that context is important when deciding whether something is offensive or not. Embedded in the entire premise -- and usually an explicit part of his setup for the bit -- is that words aren't offensive, the intent behind them is.

I would also note that there is a universe of words you can't say on TV that Carlin never uses. Notice that his list doesn't include the N-word, for instance. Or any number of other racial slurs. They're definitely words you can't say on TV, but for some reason he's not interested in trotting them out to fling around casually in the same way as The Seven. Hm. I wonder why not.

Ultimately, the hypocrisy Carlin is trying to highlight (for example, quite explicitly in the section on "fuck" in this version of the Seven Words) is that we treat certain words as "bad" while letting the underlying meaning skate by unscathed. The example he gives in that video is that you can't say "fuck" on TV, but you sure can talk about fucking. All "honeymoon" jokes are "fuck jokes", and soap opera plots are all about fucking. You just can't say the word "fuck". That's the hypocrisy he's exposing.

South Park, on the other hand, is 22-season, entirely sincere version of that one Dril tweet: "theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you fucking moron"
posted by tobascodagama at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


The whole entire gag is that the list is just a pretext to discuss the fact that context is important when deciding whether something is offensive or not

That's sort of the thing, though. If something can be taken out of context, it will be. That is a guarantee.

I do think there's a broader connection, in that ultimately Carlin still picked hypocrisy as his target, rather than the terrible things people were hypocritical about.* It's sort of punching laterally, but when you factor in the fact that some chunk of your audience is not going to get all your subtleties and nuances about context, it becomes sort of accidentally punching down.

*well in that bit, at least? I haven't watched Carlin in a long time and don't remember if it's a broader theme (though I want to say it is)
posted by schadenfrau at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


My point is that if you want to try to fit Carlin for a black hat, saying 'he used slurs' fails to capture the fact that criticism of racism and homophobia were consistent themes of his comedy.

The misogyny, though, was both real and earnest.
posted by Dysk at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2017 [11 favorites]


The whole entire gag is that the list is just a pretext to discuss the fact that context is important when deciding whether something is offensive or not. Embedded in the entire premise -- and usually an explicit part of his setup for the bit -- is that words aren't offensive, the intent behind them is.

And he was wrong - when it comes to soft bigotry, the words do matter, in a way that may not be immediately apparent to a cis hetero white male who hasn't had to deal with the casual demeaning of his identity. Which is the whole point of "political correctness" - soft bigotry isn't harmless.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:31 AM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


The point of defending Carlin in a thread like this is not to say that he was a flawless angel without sin but to make an instructive contrast between what he was actually doing and what idiot fanboys think he was doing.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:47 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


The point of defending Carlin in a thread like this is not to say that he was a flawless angel without sin but to make an instructive contrast between what he was actually doing and what idiot fanboys think he was doing.

And the problem with doing that is that the specific quote from Carlin that was used isn't actually defensible. He outright made the claim that people telling him that they were no longer going to look away when he used soft bigotry to get laughs but judge him on doing so was a form of tyranny. Sorry, but that's not something that can or should be defended. And as schadenfrau pointed out above, what he was doing was ultimately missing the point and made it easy for his work to slip into punching down.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:58 AM on July 26, 2017 [4 favorites]




During the Gore / Bush election campaign everyone was using South Park's trope about the election being between a turd sandwich and a shit taco (or whatever). That's when I decided I hated the show with a white hot passion. I believe that joke seriously effected the election's outcome. I had to explain over and over again that there was a real difference between investing our surplus or giving it away to billionaires. In retrospect, knowing that Gore would have tackled global warming and not gotten us into that stupid war that election was a tragedy. But South Park is still on and we now have Trump as president.
posted by xammerboy at 4:15 PM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


I remember reading a comment years ago, probably on Metafilter, which pinned some of the blame on the Simpsons.

I recall reading an article in the 90s about the disparities between what white and black people found to be their favorite shows on television. Which were many. When Seinfeld was the most popular show among whites, for example, it was something like 98th for blacks.

The Simpsons, on the other hand, were 13th on either side.

Which gave me hope for the future at the time.

Not that I have so much now...
posted by y2karl at 4:25 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


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