South Park As Cultural Signpost
October 19, 2005 6:38 PM   Subscribe

"But nine seasons on, South Park is a bona fide cultural phenomenon that has risen above its own raunch to become an up-to-the-minute social commentary on some of the most controversial issues of the day." A NY Times piece on SP as a significant cultural signpost.
posted by JPowers (60 comments total)
 
This surprised me:
The series continues to be Comedy Central's highest-rated show, delivering an average of 2.6 million viewers each week.
posted by smackfu at 6:42 PM on October 19, 2005



To look at the lack of outrage being expressed in the media, you'd think the South Park folks have cleaned up their act -- but watching some recent shows, then comparing them to the first few seasons, I was blown away by the significantly higher level of offensive and disgusting material being presented in the newer episodes.

So bravo to the South Park guys, if for nothing else, then for simply outlasting those who were so publicly outraged in the beginning.
posted by davejay at 6:49 PM on October 19, 2005


The new york times is an excelent satire, IMO.
posted by delmoi at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2005


To look at the lack of outrage being expressed in the media, you'd think the South Park folks have cleaned up their act -- but watching some recent shows, then comparing them to the first few seasons, I was blown away by the significantly higher level of offensive and disgusting material being presented in the newer episodes.

Sure. It would be big news if south park were not offensive. Being continuously offensive is the norm now, and people know that complaining will never stop it.
posted by delmoi at 6:51 PM on October 19, 2005


The show's funny now, but like all topical comedy it won't be nearly as funny tomorrow. Politicians and celebrities come and go. Let's see where South Park is in ten years, before lauding it so much.
posted by Rothko at 6:55 PM on October 19, 2005


Yeah, like Rothko says, let's wait until next year before we say it's cool.
posted by jenovus at 7:03 PM on October 19, 2005


The show's funny now, but like all topical comedy it won't be nearly as funny tomorrow.

I've got a box full of Capitol Steps CDs that says you couldn't be wronger.

No wait, on closer examination it says "We were never funny."
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:07 PM on October 19, 2005


"Hey, here's $CURRENT_EVENT! HAHAHA HERE'S A POOP JOKE TO MOCK IT! Oh, don't forget $POPCULTURE_REFERENCE! That's funny, too!"

It's like an SNL sketch that goes on for 22 minutes and has three jokes instead of just one.

If you buy Sunday's newspaper, you've seen Wednesday's South Park.
posted by Mikey-San at 7:07 PM on October 19, 2005


Has anybody else noticed a bit of a reactionary tendency among the South Park writers? It's kind of strange to see such a conservative worldview couched in such a nontraditional format.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:21 PM on October 19, 2005


watching some recent shows, then comparing them to the first few seasons, I was blown away by the significantly higher level of offensive and disgusting material being presented in the newer episodes.

I've had exactly the same experience. It's amazing, if only because the early episodes were already pushing the envelope.

jenovus -- heh. that's what I was going to say.
posted by dreamsign at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2005


"Hey, here's $CURRENT_EVENT! HAHAHA HERE'S A POOP JOKE TO MOCK IT! Oh, don't forget $POPCULTURE_REFERENCE! That's funny, too!"

This has to be one of the best MeFi comments ever. Seriously!
posted by JPowers at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2005


Has anybody else noticed a bit of a reactionary tendency among the South Park writers?

examples?
posted by Miles Long at 7:28 PM on October 19, 2005


South Park is a bona fide cultural phenomenon

And since it has appeared in the New York Times, we can now declare South Park to be "over," though I'm sure now, all over the greater New York metro area, parents are asking their kids if they watch "this crazy cartoon 'South Park.'" South Park has never been sure whether it wants to be a parody of after-schools specials or just a raunchy after-school special.
posted by deanc at 7:30 PM on October 19, 2005


Mr. Roboto,

It's not a conservative worldview, it's merely populist anti-intellectualism.
posted by trinarian at 7:30 PM on October 19, 2005


Animated series are not known for their timeliness, but "South Park" is different. When the show began in 1997, Mr. Parker, Mr. Stone and their staff would spend two weeks on an episode. Now they create each one, from start to finish, in six days, handing it over to Comedy Central on the morning of the broadcast. The process evolved from what Mr. Stone called "sheer procrastination" and Mr. Parker called "laziness."

Six days? That's pretty damn impressive. I was always under the impression that southpark episodes would 'pipeline' for months, like most TV shows. That explains their Terri Schiavo episode.

Has anybody else noticed a bit of a reactionary tendency among the South Park writers? It's kind of strange to see such a conservative worldview couched in such a nontraditional format.

They seem to have a 'lets stop arguing' attitude, as well as an anti-arab/muslim attitude as well. It's rather annoying.

It's not a conservative worldview, it's merely populist anti-intellectualism.

That would be a good characterization .

examples?
The episode where The kids got a goat from Afghan kids, the episode where Cartman went back in time and visited the founding fathers, and the Christmas episode where Santa Claus was captured by Iraqi's. Off the top of my head. Not to mention Team America: World Police"
posted by delmoi at 7:38 PM on October 19, 2005


Well, this post convinced me to watch the premier. Anyone watching Drawn together? I was going to, but decided to return the loving embrace of the internet between Southpark and The Daily Show.
posted by delmoi at 7:52 PM on October 19, 2005


I've got a box full of Capitol Steps CDs...

And you admit it in public?..
posted by clevershark at 7:57 PM on October 19, 2005


Not so much a fan of the last few seasons. It seems like every episode consists of setting up straw men to knock down, and boiling complex issues down to 22 minute preach-fests. Even when I agree with them, I don't so much appreciate being lectured to when I just want to be entertained.

IMO, they've always been much stronger when they stay away from current events and focus on the pure insanity of their characters, like Cartman or Mr Garrison.
posted by fishbulb at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2005


this new one tonight was very underwhelming.
posted by amberglow at 8:13 PM on October 19, 2005


The Paris Hilton "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset" episode from last season absolutely rocked--topical, yes, but it had a broader point about the way women and girls are expected to behave: "I'm sorry we said you weren't a whore, Wendy." Heh.

And uh, the show is blatantly pro-Republican because Parker and Stone are, in fact, Republicans. (Yes, some of us are funny, when not we're not busy oppressing the poor and bombing our neighbors.) See the wikipedia entry for details. They've even spawned a political movement called "South Park Republicans" (with 15,700+ hits on Google at last count).

I don't know how you could watch "Team America: World Police" and come away thinking otherwise. Michael Moore turning into a suicide bomber? Every notable B-list celebrity critic of the war in Iraq (Janeane Garofalo, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon) being mocked and then machine-gunned? The famous dicks/pussies/asshole metaphor being employed to defend the occasional necessary use of force?

Eh, people see what they want to see, I guess.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:18 PM on October 19, 2005


"Hey, here's $CURRENT_EVENT! HAHAHA HERE'S A POOP JOKE TO MOCK IT! Oh, don't forget $POPCULTURE_REFERENCE! That's funny, too!"

JPowers - This has to be one of the best MeFi comments ever. Seriously!

... and an archtypical MeFi post template.

MeFi irony pedants, have at me!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:49 PM on October 19, 2005


Imminent death of MetafilterSouth Park predicted.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:51 PM on October 19, 2005


Some Republicans might be funny, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not among them.
posted by dydecker at 9:01 PM on October 19, 2005


I'm just trying to fit in with South Park, Porpoise. Why you gotta hate a playa?
posted by Mikey-San at 9:06 PM on October 19, 2005


MetaFilter: $TAGLINE.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:08 PM on October 19, 2005


It beats PJ O'Rourke.
posted by bardic at 9:08 PM on October 19, 2005


Some Republicans might be funny, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not among them.

Actually, I believe they are Libertarians (fiscally conservative, socially liberal in a nutshell).
posted by hostile7 at 9:12 PM on October 19, 2005


PJ O'Rourke is a funny Republican. And "South Park Republicans" was not coined by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In fact, the term's "popularity" can be traced to the PR shills at Tech Central Station who claim that it was first coined by former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan.
posted by deanc at 9:16 PM on October 19, 2005


I broke the dam.
posted by ColdChef at 9:32 PM on October 19, 2005


I don't see 'South Park' as being conservative at all, so much as, it may surprise some as being 'main stream 'murican. The reason why I say this is because I think that mainstream 'murica sees this whole thing of D.C. 'publicans as being 'murica's heroes as so much bullshit, as do we all, and in the same vein seeing Michael Moore as liberal 'murica's spokesperson as being so much bullshit who is so friggin liberal (or whatever, and *whatever* is the operative term here) as being so lefty loony that he would be willing to implode himself for some *imaginary* communist/liberal/socialist belief as to destroy himself in defending it or sending a message about it.
In short, South Park is valid social commentary about what a bunch of loudmouth asshats conservative *and* liberal 'murica is.
Now let's get out there and get the crops in, winters comin' and we need get everything into the barn before the next cold snap sets in. . . Who's with me here? Ciders in the corner and the next barn dance is at the Town Hall. Whooo Hoooo ! ! !
posted by mk1gti at 9:37 PM on October 19, 2005


In conclusion, anyone who thinks South Park is either liberal *or* conservative doesn't know their asshole from a hole in the ground. 'nuff said. They make fun of both ideologies and with good reason. They both blow and they both need to pull their heads out of their asses and take a look around. The ideal position is 'somewhere in the middle'. Talk amongst yourselves as to where that may be. . .
posted by mk1gti at 9:42 PM on October 19, 2005


Oh fuck all you people. South Park is still just as funny as the day it started and ten times as relevant.

I was on the floor when the people were on top of their houses, and Stan, Kyle and Cartman zoomed past in a boat going backwards. The best thing about the show is that not only are they topical or nasty, but they really concentrate on the funny. Anybody can be offensive, but not everyone can really make me laugh (see anything on MTV2 these days).

Yeah, they have a libertarian bent, and the way they mock global warming kind of irritates me, but dude, the seamless blending of "The Day After Tomorrow" and Katrina coverage was genius. This is what satire is supposed to be, and anyone who compares it to SNL is just an absolute ass.
posted by fungible at 9:47 PM on October 19, 2005


And anybody who thought "Team America" was a conservative movie missed the point entirely. Yeah, they trashed Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon - but the whole movie was a parody of jingoistic neo-con world-saving bullshit. It's in the title of the movie, fer chrissakes.
posted by fungible at 9:53 PM on October 19, 2005


It's genius.

I think some people make the mistake of basing their opinion of SP on its earliest years....oh it's just crudely animated kids using foul language, and that one kid dies every episode, yeah whatever. It's like thinking of the Simpsons (did it, Simpsons did it) only in terms of its earliest success in the mainstream (remember bootleg Bart t-shirts? Ay caramba, don't have a cowabunga man, Dan Quayle being outraged, etc) without considering its place in culture today (as in the link yesterday about words and phrases coined by the show).

The past few seasons have gotten better, and IMHO last season was the best so far. (Has there ever been a holiday show as psychotic as the "Woodland Critters Christmas"?) Now that South Park is also playing in a watered-down syndicated version, it's hard to see how they can "clean up" some of those episodes, just based on their premises and situations.
posted by First Post at 9:58 PM on October 19, 2005


meh, southpark hasn't been good in a solid six or seven years.

It's faux satire that never really says anything meaningful about anything.

As another poster pointed out, they rely far too heavily on setting up straw men and then knocking em down on both sides of these issues, but usually to little meaningful effect.

Beavis and Butthead were better in their prime.

Also, asparagirl, look past your nose for a minute, and you'll notice that they are at least equal opportunity assholes.

If you didn't notice the lambasting of post 9/11 neofascism running parallel to the lambasting of liberal celebs, you didn't see the same flick I did.

That said, it was still a shitty movie.
posted by stenseng at 10:00 PM on October 19, 2005


O, if only Matt and Trey could stick to their natural oevure,


(Baseketball)
posted by stenseng at 10:00 PM on October 19, 2005


Not so much a fan of the last few seasons. It seems like every episode consists of setting up straw men to knock down, and boiling complex issues down to 22 minute preach-fests. Even when I agree with them, I don't so much appreciate being lectured to when I just want to be entertained.

And what's more they preach from an ignorant position. Take today's episode, for example. The 'clichéd republican dissenter' states as fact that there's no statistical reason to believe in global warming, yet, he's the one who's ultimately correct. Matt and Trey don't bother to actually educate themselves on the issues, they try to make fun of both sides and ultimately argue that some middle ground is correct, even though one of the 'sides' may, in fact, be right.

And uh, the show is blatantly pro-Republican because Parker and Stone are, in fact, Republicans. (Yes, some of us are funny, when not we're not busy oppressing the poor and bombing our neighbors.) See the wikipedia entry for details. They've even spawned a political movement called "South Park Republicans" (with 15,700+ hits on Google at last count).

Asparagirl, the wikipedia entry you link to doesn’t say anything about them being actual republicans, just that Trey has dismissed insinuations that they are 'conservative'. Matt and Trey have nothing to do with "South park conservatives" who are primarily a bunch of jackasses trying to co-opt something popular. Have you ever seen an Eppisode of That's my Bush which ran for a few episodes soon after the 2000 elections?
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on October 19, 2005


Matt and Trey's political philosophy can best be summed up as:

"If people are arguing, they must both be wrong. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and people who would seek to be educated about the issue are idiots."
posted by delmoi at 10:03 PM on October 19, 2005


And anybody who thought "Team America" was a conservative movie missed the point entirely. Yeah, they trashed Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon - but the whole movie was a parody of jingoistic neo-con world-saving bullshit. It's in the title of the movie, fer chrissakes.

That's not exactly true. Team America sought to lambaste both 'sides' of the issue, without much thought at all.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 PM on October 19, 2005


I apologize. The blending of a natural disaster movie and a natural disaster does, indeed, require genius, and as such, I am teh suck for not recognizing that.

My bad.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:13 PM on October 19, 2005


Bah. You're all just pissed off dirty hippies.
posted by HTuttle at 10:19 PM on October 19, 2005


Great fucking show. Seen every fucking episode. Beats the hell out of Fraiser any day of the week. I can find at least one genius episode every season. Topical, clever, 'wit' to potty jokes. Rule #1 of comedy. Nothing is sacred.
posted by filmgeek at 10:44 PM on October 19, 2005


Regarding arguing: South Park takes almost the same sort of view as the Daily Show. Arguing isn't bad but when its done by self-important blowhards who are "outraged and not gonna take it anymore", then its worthy of ridicule.
posted by pandaharma at 11:06 PM on October 19, 2005


Clearly none of you have seen the episode entitled "Scott Tenorman Must Die", which is easily one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen on television.
posted by nonmerci at 11:06 PM on October 19, 2005


well, I would agree that it beats the hell out of any show with a laugh track. Laugh track = shit show.

But I think delmoi sums up what I find annoying about southpark.
"If people are arguing, they must both be wrong. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and people who would seek to be educated about the issue are idiots."


I like the crazy episodes the best.
Like the one with cartman getting revenge on the guy who sold him pubic hair.

on preview, nonmerci likes the same episode!
posted by Iax at 11:16 PM on October 19, 2005


South Park is not really conservative. Keep in mind the main conservative caricature, Cartman, is also portrayed as the most evil and hateful of the characters; he is a narcissistic anti-semitic pervert.

The other kids are politically neutral and in the end err on the side of common sense.

The principle liberal bogeyman is Kyle's mom and the rest of the reactionary parents.

--
nonmerci: "Scott Tenorman Must Die" was comic genius. They spent 20 minutes setting up Scott as Cartmans intellectual superior, outsmarting him at every opportunity.

The horrible disgusting ending in which Scott gets his comeuppance is both unexpected and darkly hilarious.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:44 AM on October 20, 2005


O, if only Matt and Trey could stick to their natural oevure,
(Baseketball)


Matt and Trey actually didn't create BASEketball. The game was invented by David Zucker, who co-wrote the screenplay with 3 other guys. He got Matt and Trey to star in it. (The Ernest Borgnine scenes with the hot dog and the ointment get me every time - especially knowing that Borgnine is a 32nd Degree Master Mason.)

But as far as my 2 cents on SOUTH PARK...after the "Douce vs. Turd" episode and the "Wall-Mart" episode...they're officially cool. Extreme, relevant, hilarious, timeless.
posted by deusdiabolus at 2:34 AM on October 20, 2005


I don't mind their movies too much but every time they squeeze something out, they just show how little they have to say.

I can think of 3 SP episodes I can still watch. I don't mind Basketball and laugh out loud at Orgasmo. Team America was fairly bleh. Funny puppets, bad film.
posted by bouncebounce at 4:00 AM on October 20, 2005


My fav episode was when Kenny died from the JRuns.
posted by srboisvert at 4:46 AM on October 20, 2005


South Park will always hold a spot in the record books for me as being the only show on television that made me dial 911 after suffering chest pains from laughing too much. Sure, it's not evenly hilarious, but nothing could really maintain that level for so long.

I can't even think about Cartman sneaking naked across a stag while Butters (dressed as a dog) moans about the throwing star lodged in his eye without giggling.

I think I probably need to lay off the nitrous.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:01 AM on October 20, 2005


Clearly none of you have seen the episode entitled "Scott Tenorman Must Die", which is easily one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen on television.

Yup, and a good example of South Park at it's best. But to echo Rothko, they do seem to be more concerned with being current and topical lately. It will be much harder for people to connect to the show in ten or twenty years when the people and events they're skewering have faded from the collective memory. It won't hold up like a Monty Python or similar non-topical show.
posted by Cyrano at 7:03 AM on October 20, 2005


The critter christmas was hilarious. I look forward to seeing more recent episodes.
posted by Acey at 7:16 AM on October 20, 2005


I agree that the non-topical episodes are great. The topical stuff... not so much.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 AM on October 20, 2005


srboisvert: “My fav episode was when Kenny died from the JRuns.”

Wahey!
posted by bouncebounce at 8:09 AM on October 20, 2005


I was surprised that South Park didn't make the list of worst shows for family viewing. I started watching the shows after my older kids did three or four years ago.

Initially, I thought that it was just too gross and offensive for my kids (12, 11 and 5 at the time) and I forbid them from watching it... but then a while later I actually watched it again and got the humor and saw the quality of the commentary on social issues and now I enjoy watching it with my kids (now 16 and 15 and 9).

To me, last night's episode was topical but I don't think that people will have a problem watching it in 20 or 30 years. I don't mind that they skewered the army's slow response or the "global warming"/"sky is falling" histeria. The point that we should just stop arguing about blame and start helping the victims is a good one for kids. Also, the "I broke the dam" mantra was hilarious.
posted by notmtwain at 8:17 AM on October 20, 2005


nonmerci: "Scott Tenorman Must Die" was comic genius. They spent 20 minutes setting up Scott as Cartmans intellectual superior, outsmarting him at every opportunity.

The horrible disgusting ending in which Scott gets his comeuppance is both unexpected and darkly hilarious.


And probably the most literary reference in any show that year - it's a direct ripoff of Titus Andronicus, one of Ol' Shakey's lesser and lesser-known plays. And also, I have no doubt, a reaction to all the hand-wringing from critics about how SP is a sign of a new and odious descent in culture.
posted by phearlez at 11:11 AM on October 20, 2005


South Park jumped the shark right around the same time as the phrase "jump the shark" did. It's a pale shadow of its former self. But it's still better than 98% of the other crap on TV.
posted by sfenders at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2005


I used to love South Park. Then I saw "Team America" and realised that I'd been overestimating Parker and Stone and attributing a wonderfully vicious sense of irony to them which they did not, in fact, have. I realised that they were, in fact, a nasty, immature, snide pair of overgrown fratboy cunts who really did think that swearies, poop and farts were intrinsically funny, and you know what... AMERICA! FUCK YEAH!

Pish. Fie on their nonsense.
posted by Decani at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2005


I found that South Park actually has become better in the years. I recently watched Parker and Stone on Charlie Rose, they weren't willing to define themselves to a political group and the general feeling I got was a "fuck the establishment" attitude they have. In fact they specifically stated that being in LA you can only be punk and "cool" by going against the grain, i.e. showing up to a party and going "Bush rules," or just making fun of the pompous celebrities that run around -- perhaps a large amount of the satire at least in their early shows (and carried on until recently) are based on the simple apolitical mocking of celebrities.

Interestingly they did seem to play down, if not denounce, that their shows have any real message. At the end of the episode there's always a reasoned moral messaget that the kids seem to get, but no one else does. This usually to an oversimplification of a current event that was just played out in an udderly absurd way, much like after school specials. While most of the time I don't agree with the general premise, they way they build up and play out is really very layered and carefully timed comedy. Think the holiday special would not be funny if they didn't slowly and correctly build up to an abortion saving Christmas. Simply dismissing the show based on the comical "moral message" given at the end is myopic at best.

While I do believe Parker and Stone seem to reside in old-school libertarian-esque conservatism I really don't believe they honestly use the show as a soapbox to shout their beliefs. They simply mock in a post-modern way the absurdity of modern media coverage and the extremism every side devolves into.
posted by geoff. at 5:44 PM on October 20, 2005


I have a simple rule for South Park. Whenever they use the word "Global Warming" Skip forward 2 minutes. Whenever they do an episode that's OMFG 3dgy and topical in the first 5 minutes, change the channel.

If you do that it's a good show.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:51 PM on October 20, 2005


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