Friday, August 28, 2009

South Park and the Open Society

Over the weekend, watch an episode of South Park, either via YouTube, etc. or on Comedy Central when it plays. Analyze the episode-- does it make the sort of political statements that Curtis and Erion suggest? And, do you agree with their assumption that South Park does offer "more than crude animation and tasteless jokes expressed with a juvenile and offensive vulgarity" (par.1)? Does the humor and vulgarity undercut the possiblity of any such political message? Explain.


  1. I watched the Pandemic 2 episode of south park and I have to say I am not entertained by the show. But looking at it from an analytical perspective I can see what Curtis and Erios are saying about how the show makes political statements. They just don't do it very well. Instead of making intelligent political statements the show just makes fun of everybody. I find it kind of ignorant.

    I have to strongly disagree with the their assumption about it "offering more than crude animation and tasteless jokes".. In my opinion that is exactly what it offers to the viewer.. Although it may mention some political points it doesn't develop them enough to even be thought provoking. And even if the show were to send a political message I feel that the show in itself undercuts anything honest the writers are trying to say because of the way the characters address everything with negative comments.

    Overall I think the show appeals to teenagers who find vulgarity and idiocy funny. And I think them trying to say that the show offers more is dishonest.

    P.s. Sorry about bashing South Park to anyone who really does like the show. I just never really got into it. Dont hate.

    Kresten Brown

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. For those that are having trouble finding a full episode on YouTube, the South Park guys offer full, free, and legal episodes on their website:

  4. Thanks Brandon for that link.

    I watched an older episode of South Park and saw evidence of what Curtis and Erion suggested in the essay. The entire episode was centered on corporate takeover of local small businesses. Like the essay discussed, the main characters acted as mediators between the two political extremes. In the end the conflict is resolved, and the ‘middle’ of the issue prevails as both sides come to an agreement.

    Although the political message was prevalent throughout the plot of the episode, I felt that it wasn’t shown very effectively. I believe this varies greatly between episodes, but in most cases the vulgarity and humor tend to overpower most, if not all, of the underlying political messages the creators try to convey. I have seen other episodes in the past, and typically fail to see anything more than inappropriate humor and childish jokes.

    -Shawn Mitchel

  5. I have watched a lot of the South Park episodes over the years, and never really became a big fan, but I do like how they make episodes about current events. So, i certainly agree with the fact that the show makes political statements about both the extreme right, and left wing politicians. Also, I do think the majority of their jokes are extremely crude and tasteless, yet still funny, but they do make good points when it comes to political or any other important issues. When you really listen to what they are saying, a lot of it is actually educated good points, and if you don't agree with what they are talking about, at least they are good conversation starters for you to argue about.

    I agree that the clarity of good topics of political messages vary greatly over the episodes, but I think they need that to keep the show from becoming just one big political opinion that pushes messages on everybody. It is sometimes really hard to get past the heavy doses of vulgarity that are always present, but if you just lighten up and think about what they are saying without the extreme factor, then it does represent a good example of what someone like Popper was talking about in the essay.

  6. I watched the "chickenlover" episode, since it was one of the few episodes of south park mentioned in the essay I (surprisingly) have not watched. This episode had the usual over-the-top humor (that was thoroughly funny), but it was cool looking at the episodes analytically for once. The roles that the "extremists," like Cartman, played in the episode were not very far of a stretch, so I can see a correlation between political entities and characters in the show. I am aware that many creators of shows like the Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy and King of the Hill, mock political extremists and even the "American Joe" figure with bits of truth in each joke. However, using the medium of comedy often diminishes the impact of the message. In spite of the fact that shows like Family Guy are more frequently watched, I believe shows like Star Trek and Twilight Zone had more impact on society than potty humor cartoons because Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling usually made their stories more serious.

  7. I have to agree with Kreston. The show touches on many different political issues, but I, myself, can't take any of it seriously with the way it's presented. I definitely see where Curtis and Erion are coming from, but I just don't really see the depth that they apparently do. I feel that the writers just make fun of any part of the world they don't agree with, and although I think the jokes are clever,I do think that it overshadows any possibility for the political statements to be taken serously.It's like they just take any issue and blow it completely out of proportion. For example, in the episode I watched, police brutality was displayed. I am completely aware that police brutality exists, but not necessarily how it was portrayed in the episode. I agree with some of the things in the article and do see that the show is based on many events in the real world. However, I don't think the show makes any valid political statements.

  8. First of all, I must admit that this is the first time I ever watched Southpark and I must say it will most likely be the last. Although I do agree that the show does poke at some political issues, the way the show is presented makes it very hard to see pass what the script says. Some of the political issues they use at jokes are clever and do in fact make me laugh, but they do not help bring understanding to the actually issue. In fact, I am so distracted by the characters’ voices and the vulgarity I find it hard to focus on anything. Over all, in Southpark fans’ defense I have only watched one episode and I am sure like any other show some episodes are better then others.
    -Blanche Lambert

  9. I watched the episode "About Last Night..." which is about the presidential election between Obama and McCain. I agree with Curtis and Erion because the episode (as well as most episodes of south park I have seen) tends to make a statement about what was going on when the episode was made. I believe that some things on South Park are a bit over the top and can probably be done without and still get the same point across, but either way it puts a message out there. The problem is that most people get so caught up in the crude humor and vulgarity that they don't get the message and instead just see another cartoon with jokes and a plot.
    -Kevin Plath

  10. I just watched my first episode of South Park "Kanye West is a Gay Fish." I know Kanye West isn't the best of role models for anyone, but "gay fish??" I just didn't really get it; it seems like something that my 15 year old brother and his friends would think is funny. I think that there is a way to make a political statement in an entertaining way without being so crude and vulgar. I do now see that South Park does make political references; I had never really seen an episode before. I just heard how vulgar the show is so I have never really had any interest in ever watching it, and I'm sure many other people feel the same way. The show is targetted at a particular audience so their political message is only heard by those few viewers, and I'm sure those who watch that show aren't really interested in finding out the deep political meaning behind the crude jokes. Sorry if I offended any South Park lovers; I just don't really understand the entertainment value of the show much less watching it for a political view.

    -Katie Clark

  11. I clicked on a random episode and it was Tweek Vs. Craig. I have never liked Southpark. I just don't find that kind of humor funny. However, I do like how they work current events into the episodes. It gives the audience something to relate to. I agree that there are many extremist characters so that the episode can touch on various political points, but they don't delve into the topic deep enough for the average person to care. At least they insult everyone equally and therefore allow all sides to be questioned.

    I, myself, don't find anything in the show but tasteless jokes and vulgarity. I'm sure there are underlying messages, but they don't deliver them very well. The overall crudeness of the show overshoots the possibility of any political messages sinking in.

  12. I have seen several random episodes of South Park and I have never really been a fan. It is great for a laugh (like Family Guy), but I only see it as an entertainment show. The show does not have a serious reputation to actually listen to it's political opinions. It is great that South Park stays with current issues and events, but only for entertainment value. It's all for a good laugh. I agree with Nicole when she stated that the show "insults everyone equally and therefore allow all sides to be questioned." The humor on the show is very crude an insults everyone leaving not much room for a one-sided opinion. The big positive idea I have seen from South Park is the creation of the nerdy, misfit characters and allowing the so called "different" crowd a rise to glory. It promotes equality in a way, just not in a very proper idea.

  13. I couldn't agree more with Shawn and Katie. I watched my first episode of South Park, "The Ring," and I'm sure it will be my last. You guys have already mentioned how you feel about it, and I feel the same way. In the episode I watched the Jonas Brothers, Walt Disney, and purity rings were involved. It was definitely inappropriate. However, I did observe a few political references (subtle, and not accurate). In the beginning of Curtis and Erion's essay, they say that "sophisticated social criticism lurks beneath the surface" of these crazy shows. While I obviously catch the criticism, I fail to see the "sophistication."

    I do not agree that this show offers more than what you see. Katie makes a good point: the show is not even entertaining, so why would anyone even watch it for a political reason? While watching the show I could hardly focus on the political message, because I was so distracted by the vulgar jokes and crude humor. The rating "MA" isn't strong enough for this show.

    -Rebecca Griggs

  14. Like Kevin I also watched the "About Last Night..." episode. I thought that the episode was pretty funny for the situation. It tried to bring humor to what is an otherwise serious event. The episode definately shows the extremist views Curtis and Erion talk about in their essay. Although South Park may use popular current events for their shows, you have to remember that the show is for entertainment purposes. The show is on Comedy Central for a reason.

    -Jordan Crawford

  15. After watching the Sexual Harassment Panda episode of South Park, I understood how the political side of such a show can exist. Although granted most of the show revolves around fairly juvenile jokes and less than classy humor, in the end it is easy to see that valid social arguments are presented. This becomes most evident with the very last case brought to court, Everbody vs. Everybody. Even then, after the speech given by the newly named Panda, this political statement was made the set up for Kyle's dad to tell another 'inspirational' speech, which was really only another joke to the show.

    I think South Park makes many great statements and often shows just how over the top things can get, and too look at how absurdly people can react to everyday events can be very eye opening. This however comes secondary to it's punchlines and teasing jokes.

    -Evan Ledet

  16. I watched the "Christian Rock Hard" episode because the name caught my attention. Some parts were semi-funny, others were extremely offensive. The roles of the "extremists" were obviously geared toward Christians. I don't agree with Curtis and Erion with the fact that the show offers "more than crude animation and tasteless jokes expressed with a juvenile and offensive vulgarity." I think that's exactly what the point of the show is. I think the show is made to make fun of everyone and anyone. The people that are hardcore fans of the show are obviously not offended easily. The creators don't target only certain people but everyone. I also think the humor and vulgarity of the show does undercut the possibility of any political message somewhat. No one watches it for its political views; they watch it to laugh. The show can easily get its point across though, especially to younger audiences, but they use humor to do it.

    I'm not a huge fan of the show, especially the ones that specifically target certain races or religions. However, to me, if I have a problem with a show I just won't watch it. The creaters of the show know who their audience is and gear the show's humor toward them.

    -Andrew Hubert

  17. I watched " The China Problem" episode. To sum it up, Cartman has nightmares of a Chinese takeover of America after he sees the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Also, Kyle and Stan try to serve justice to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas after "raping" the Indiana Jones Franchise.I thought the episode was quite hilarious. Although the episode was a little over the top, it does touch on a somewhat popular political issue in America. It's something America will definitely need to worry about in the present as well as the future.

    As far as everything else goes, I can't really say the show offers anything more. It's basically just a bunch of 5th graders running around cursing and making crude jokes. It seems like most of the episodes have a message, but the message isn't made clear to some viewers because of the excessive amounts of crudeness and tactful humor. Overall I enjoyed the episode and got a pretty good laugh out of it

  18. In the article, the author talks about how even though the humor is crude, their is in fact many strong issues that are portrayed. I completely agree with this, and think south park is hilarious. A friend pointed out to me the episode with Obama where he wins and everyone riots, and the next day they realize what a mistake they made. I feel like everyone has a way of expressing their own views and the creators way of expressing their views, and a lot can be observed and learned by just weeding through the jokes and satire. This is where i also feel that they lose a lot of people, but at the same time, the people who are not extreme either way have an easier time not getting hung up on some of the jokes and can see it for what it is, while at the same time not taking everything they say seriously
    -Erik Ross

  19. I believe the assessment of the south park TV series in the essay hits the head on the nail. While I like South Park, I prefer Family Guy which is very similar. Both offer vulgar, often questionable humor which on the surface can often be viewed as unacceptable at first. However, upon closer listening almost every joke actual has a much deeper meaning and always relates to a current societal truth or problem. The south park episode I watched is called "proper condom use." It pokes fun at our current public school system which tries to teach sexual education at a very young age. While the episode is very funny and the jokes often crude, they all prove the point that sexual education at too young an age can have a negative effect on the children in our society. Often the best way to prove a point is to show the absolute worst possible outcomes of a situation, and that is what this episode does. All the boys and girls think they have to wear a condom at all times, even while not having sex, in order to prevent getting sexual diseases. Students should not be learning about contraceptives in the 3rd or 4th grade. They maybe should learn the basics, and abstinence, rather than learn about sexual diseases and condoms. Overall though this South Park episode, as do most, brings up a legitimate political point and does well to open up the viewers eyes to the situation.

    - George Bursavich

  20. I can almost say that I have watched almost every south park ever made andI can defiantly agree with Curtis and Erion that there is more than just potty humor and juvenile antics to the show.Ill use "The Ring" episode that Rebecca used in her example. Trey and Matt rip on everyone from Jonas Brothers fans to Christians.The underlining joke was that Disney has been selling sex to kids for years in a way that parents would approve. In this episode with the purity rings. Another example of underlining humor is in episode called "A douche and A turd" that made fun of elections. That sometimes our choices are really a between a two choices that no body wants.

    I think to some people the vulgarity and humor can undercut the message. People who are easily offended would not be able to look past the silly potty humor to see the sophisticated political humor beneath it. On the other hand some people find the vulgarity and humor a bonus to the already witty humor that is burred with in each episode.

    -Joey Busbice

  21. South Park has never been a show I choose to watch, and it will remain that way after watching the episode of “Fishsticks.” I didn’t really find any of the jokes funny; then again, I’m not much into crude and violent humor. And since this was my first full episode, I couldn’t really see past the unrealistic events of the story. I don’t feel as if I understand society any better, and I really didn’t see a political message portrayed in this episode, it just seemed to be making fun of popular comedians and rappers. If the viewer of South Park if trying to catch up on current events of the world, it would probably be a lost cause, but I wonder if the show would be as popular if it didn’t contain all the ridiculous antics and vulgar language.

    Erin King