South Park isnt Sesame Street, it is not poison either

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Cultural Criticism Assignment


You can write a cultural critique about nearly anything that comes to your mind. Many people have done so and commented on recent events or popular culture. While I knew that I want to have a close look at something that belongs to popular culture, it was surely not easy to decide what media to take. There are so many books, newspapers, movies and TV series out there that the free decision I had, was not an easy one. As far I did book reports and reviews before in school, I decided to accept the challenge of a TV series as my topic.

However, there are quite a lot of series available to choose from. If you go to web pages, you can find several series listed: “Prison Break”, “Desperate Housewives”, “Lost”, “24”, “Heroes”, “Grey´s Anatomy”, “Family Guy”, “South Park” and “The Simpsons” to name just a few.

Some of them are cartoons, others not.  Obviously, I have not been following up all different TV series and, therefore, I was able to minimize my choice.

I started to think about what TV series are capable of and how they can have different messages and morals to tell. The following question came up in my mind: “Why not choose something that manages to criticize various topics of popular culture by its own?”

Finally, I decided for the American TV series South Park that is directed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Personally, I started watching the series 2006. I remember that I was not sure if I liked it or not at first, but after watching several episodes and understanding the single and unique characters better, it became one of my favorite TV shows. Whenever I watched it, it was sure to make me laugh. More than that, it can even make you rethink about common topics or do research on topics you weren’t too familiar with yet.

South Park isn’t Sesame Street, it is not poison either

-“I think we all learned something today …”-

I have never come across a TV series that has such a wide range of subjects they criticize as South Park does.

Hate Crimes, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, Voting, Global Warning, Parenting, Nambla, Al Quaeda, Homosexuality, Gay marriage, Illegal Immigration, Pedophilic priests.

Different religious beliefs and groups like The Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Scientology.

There is nothing that the creators of South Park would not criticize; nothing that they don’t feel comfortable enough to make fun off.

 Every relevant topic in nowadays world is being addressed and it is very important to acknowledge that they broach the issue of popular culture as well.

I am only mentioning Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez, Mel Gibson, The Nanny, World of War craft (famous computer game), Christian rock and Star Trek. They even make fun of my favourite movie “Lord of the Rings”. I cannot imagine any other series to make fun of it and succeed making me cry tears because I have to laugh so hard. That is the challenging thing about being a South Park consumer: You have to be able to laugh about your own favourite popular culture. It’s easy to laugh about others or topics that might not concern you, but with South Park you can always be sure that there will be a time for YOU as well. Your choice is either to accept that if you want and continue watching it and dealing with ALL social, religious, cultural and political approaches or to quit watching, because you are offended by an episode and cannot cope with any other views that exist on this world about this one topic.

Actually, all twelve seasons of South Park give us a lot of information. “Information?”, you might ask, “what is she trying to convince us with?” You are right. After there have been many negative critiques and protests about South Park, my opinion might seem awkward to you, maybe even offensive. If you only started reading this article, because you were hoping to read that South Park is a “twisted, extremely mean-spirited, and deplorable” (Fagin 2000: 1) series, which is “dangerous to the democracy” (Fagin 2000: 1) as well, I can tell you at this point that I will disappoint you. If you have not figured it out yet by yourself, I don’t think of the series as a big moral catastrophe. No, I actually think, that even teenagers can learn something from it.

- “The following program should not be viewed by anyone”-

This slogan is what the viewer gets to see before the actual episode starts. “Due to coarse language and its content”, that is the reason they tell us. So, imagine yourself getting ready for a relaxing night at home: You are in your pyjamas; got the drinks and snacks ready and you are looking forward to a nice show to watch. Will this slogan keep you away from the TV? Are you going to decide to change the channel and settle for a romantic movie instead? No. If you know South Park already, nothing will keep you away from exploring the new episode. If you are a “starter”, you will tend to be even more curious about this obviously mysterious series that you are hanging on!

This reminds me of a sentence I have read in the book “Beloved” by Toni Morrison: “This is not a story to pass on”. The only difference here is that the demand not to pass the story on comes at the end of the book and not before you are starting the first chapter. While this book does not give you the choice of your own decision, because you have read it already, the creators of South Park give you the chance to resist. Still, I don’t see that slogan as a serious warning. I can’t help to interpret it as an invitation to watch.

Join now!

However, the Christian Family Network totally agrees with “South Park’s own tongue-in-cheek disclaimer” (Fagin 2000: 1) and tries to convince people to not watch the show. They feel attacked by the socio-political way of South Park and offended by the use of ‘bad language’. They are afraid that viewers loose Christian values, even though many episodes of South Park end with an important and well-formulated moral.

In the following, I will tell you why I think South Park is not that bad after all.

-“Oh no, they killed Kenny, you bastards!”-

Would you let your kids watch South Park? I am ...

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