Maybe We Don’t Need to Hear From 'South Park' Right Now
Since Trey Parker and Matt Stone presumably aren't super-great at developing vaccines, they've instead gone back to work on their long-running cartoon series. Later this month, Comedy Central will air a South Park "one-hour pandemic special" -- the first of its kind since nobody in 1918 bothered to invent cable television.
But do we really need the South Park guys' take on anything that's happening right now? Historically, the show's conspicuous moralizing hasn't always stood the test of time. Several of South Park's pointed satirical arguments have tactlessly bungled some of today's most pressing issues. Take police brutality. In 2015, the episode "Naughty Ninjas" tackled police violence following the protests in Ferguson, but mostly side-stepped the issue of race altogether for a story in which the town abolishes cops after Officer Barbrady accidentally shoots a child in the arm.
Doing an episode about police brutality without directly addressing racism is a little like making the movie Walk the Line and omitting the character of Johnny Cash. Then there were the episodes that have been criticized for being transphobic; last year's "Board Girls" and before that "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina," which equated gender confirmation surgery with a Dr. Moreau-like "dolphinoplasty" operation, which is, um ... horrifying?
Their 2006 episode "ManBearPig" preached that the biggest problem with climate change was not the devastating environmental catastrophe, but former Vice President Al Gore's whiny alarmism. It was a take so bad they devoted an entire episode to recanting that thesis 12 years later.
So when the show has historically shit the two-dimensional bed covering subjects that are of such dire importance, why would we trust Parker and Stone to apply the same misguided, self-righteous filter to matters concerning the goddamn pandemic? It's not just that South Park has held cultural opinions that wouldn't fly today -- we all have -- but they packaged their views as moral imperatives and beamed them into millions of homes across the world.
In these particularly volatile times, when potentially life-saving scientific truths are being questioned (often loudly in the aisles of Costco), South Park's brand of sardonic centrism could conceivably make things worse. We don't need, for example, mandatory masking laws, or lockdown initiatives, becoming the fodder for some reductive tale of ManBearPig-like hysteria.
South Park is a tough show to criticize because so often its intended purpose is to offend. But some of us grew up with this show, got in trouble for wearing "They Killed Kenny" t-shirts to school, and we're not offended, we're just bored. Besides, the best thing the South Park guys ever did was pioneer the great sport of Baseketball.
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Top Image: Comedy Central