Goin' Down to South Park

I chose the opening lyric to the Comedy Central hit cartoon South Park’s theme song to title this paper because I will take you on a little trip to a small Colorado mountain town where issues of the politically correct perspective are often brought up.  How are the issues dealt with?  Why did they erupt to begin with?  Even though it looks like a cheaply made cartoon, and nothing profitable could ever come of it, the town youngsters have a lot to say about a variety of issues.  

From the time of its inception, this TV show has often been deprecated as nothing but a bunch of foul-mouthed Third Graders who are always getting into trouble and disrespecting authority.  The humor is every bit as raunchy as a gang of drunken sailors on shore leave, and the language used often pushes the decency envelope, even for a basic cable channel.  The characters have their own identity and are often stereotyped for purposes of individual distinction.  Make no mistake about it, South Park is meant for an adult audience, or more appropriately, a mature audience.

 But what does South Park and political correctness have to do with each other?  The answer is very simple.  It skewers it, puts it on the spit, and slow roasts it for 30 minutes every week.  In a politically correct age where the mere words people say to describe someone or something can be considered offensive if not used in the properly prescribed manner, political correctness has caressed and massaged its way into our collective conscious.  I believe because of the PC movement, people are almost looking for a reason to be offended.  It’s as if they have nothing else better to do than to make people’s lives miserable by demanding those people adopt their ideology.  By combating this trend, South Park not only makes for an entertaining cartoon, but also a thought provoking conversational topic.  Modesty and wholesomeness are often tossed out the window on the show in terms of language and subject content, but I believe this is in direct response to those of the politically correct mindset in which the creators of the show are sick and tired of.  It’s just a dose of their own medicine.

 In the spirit of being sensitive and tolerant, people have gone out of their way to appear compassionate or nondiscriminatory in a given situation.  For instance, a person in a wheelchair is no longer handicapped, they are handi-capable.  There are no longer midgets and dwarves, but rather, little people.  When it comes to categories, if you fall outside of the said designated protected faction of people, you are fair game to be made fun of.  Example; if you have worked hard in this country to attain wealth, you are no longer part of working class America, and are now a capitalist oppressor trying to get rich on the backs of the middle class.   A man making a suggestive remark toward a scantily clad waitress borders on the vicious act of forcible rape. 

 What is it about innocuous comments that cause such a knee-jerk reaction?  Due to the high profile cases of Anita Hill or the Tailhook scandal in the early 1990’s, it looks as if some women are just fine in taking on the role of victim.  In my opinion, this does not say much about the modern feminist.  Are they not the strong women they have been fashioned into?  These are just a few examples that come to mind since I first heard of this term in the 1980’s.  But what about the residents of South Park?  What do they think of those who ride their morally elite high horse into town?  Do these incidents really happen?  You be the judge.

 Every year around the Christmas season, there are reports of schools being forced to take down holiday symbols that could possibly be interpreted as favoring one religious preference over another.  A manger scene is deemed as school sanctioning of religious indoctrination.  Shortly thereafter, the one kid out of a school of thousands hires the ACLU, who is more than happy to get the publicity that this egregiously heinous predicament has spawned.  Naturally, the ACLU will transmit their worn-out mantra of “Separation of Church and State” into our television sets, and once again the majority is silenced by the minority.  This is parodied in South Park, when one of the kid’s parents goes on a tirade and has Christmas songs banned from the school play because of religious implications.  At one point, it gets so ridiculous that the boys’ teacher, Mr. Garrison, asks, “So does anybody know any non-Santa or non-Jesus Christmas songs?”, so as not to offend anyone’s beliefs.  To point out how preposterous this all is, the final play is dubbed the “Happy Non-offensive, Non-denominational Christmas Play” with the musical score being provided by minimalist composer Phillip Glass.  To go the extra mile, in not wanting to offend those with epilepsy, the Christmas lights are also taken down.  As the play starts, the people who initiated the taking out of Jesus and Santa realize how horrible the play is, and that they ruined the holiday for everyone else.

 Environmental activism is all around us.  It’s hip to be a Green.  If you’re not recycling or conserving, you’re killing our planet.  Saving the Rainforest, and protecting endangered species is a noble cause; however, when the cause becomes an incontestable state of mind that is beyond scrutiny, things get out of hand.  It is insinuated that the Rainforest is a pristine garden of good.  The Rainforest should be protected at all costs.  When the South Park troupe is sent to Costa Rica for an awareness raising event by performing a musical for the local people, they find things a little different.  They are attacked by snakes and bugs, eaten by killer flowers, and even taken captive by a tribe of Yanagapa from the forest.  This is not what they have been told the Rainforest is about.  The final lyrics to their song and dance routine were thusly changed from the happy, feel-good lines about spreading awareness, the rainforest being magical, and being an activist, to the more subtle and inspiring final line of, “You only fight these causes, ‘cause caring sells.  All you activists can go fuck yourselves!”  Before the credits roll, other important facts about the fragile rainforest are included for our consumption:  Each year, the Rainforest is responsible for over three thousand deaths from accidents, attacks or illnesses.  There are over seven hundred things in the Rainforest that cause cancer.

 Political correctness has taught us tolerance for our fellow man.  We are all equal; however, some groups are treated differently in the eyes of the law than others, and this idea is put forth in hate-crime legislation.  When someone is attacked, beaten, killed, or dragged behind a truck, that is a terrible act, and the perpetrator of such crimes should be punished accordingly.  With hate-crime legislation, suddenly the crime is worse based on skin color or sexual orientation?  In Episode 401, Cartman throws a rock at Token, the black kid in school.  He is subsequently seized by the FBI, prosecuted for a hate-crime, and sentenced to jail.  In the presiding judge’s words, he did such in order to send a message to people that, “If you want to hurt another human being, you better make damned sure they're the same color as you are!”  The Mayor of South Park gets a presentation by the kids and they put forth the precedent that the motivation for the crime should not affect the sentence.  They make the case that all crimes are hate crimes.  If you vandalize a government building, is it not because of your hate toward the government?

 I enjoy it when I see people tripping over themselves trying to find just the proper words to describe something.  Because they do not want to offend those within earshot, they will go to any length to be as neutrally worded as necessary.  It has been so conditioned into our psyche over the past few decades that you are a bad human if you upset someone with your words.  As in the case of Senator Trent Lott, you are publicly castigated in the media for saying something nice about a 100 year old man at his birthday bash, which was misinterpreted by some.  As in the case of South Carolina, you are boycotted for displaying a Confederate battle flag.  As in the case of Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Rocker, you are to be made an example of for the ages to come in terms of how not to act.

 Society needs to get a thicker skin.  I don’t go out of my way to offend someone in everyday conversation, but if I do, I’m not going to change my whole speaking method and accommodate them.  If groups want to be politically correct in their speech and actions, then that is perfectly fine by me.  It is freedom that gives them the right to do so, just as it is my right to use a certain vernacular.  The character, Big Gay Al, summed it up best in Episode 503.  “I’m proud to be in a country where I’m free to express myself.  But freedom is a two-way street.  If I’m free to express myself, then the Scouts have to be free to express themselves, too.”  To put this quote in context, it is a reference to him being kicked out of Scouts for being gay.  He then surprises everyone by saying he respects the policy of the Scouts to not allow gays into their private organization if that is what they think is best for kids, but he will speak out and hope to change their minds.  Ironically, he is called a homophobe by noted feminist attorney, Gloria Allred.

 When the do-gooders of this country starts realizing that people have different viewpoints and not everybody thinks alike, we will be much better off.  Those who march forth waving their politically correct banner high for all to see, need to realize they are not the be-all-end-all of modern thought.  They could take a few lessons from the kids of South Park.  For a bunch of foul-mouthed kids, the boys of South Park seem to have a better perspective on political correctness than most adults.


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