When conjuring up imagery of what epitomizes the hallowed first amendment, it’s unlikely that raunchy, at times poorly animated, cartoons of Colorado children come first to mind.
However, the now decades-old and decorated comedy show, South Park, is a remarkable example of freedom of speech.
For those not familiar, South Park is a parody riddled comedic cartoon on Comedy Central which features the lives of four 10-year-old kids – with the maturity of 21-year-olds.
The kids and their core cast of townspeople spend the episodes circumnavigating the absurdities of contemporary times, as they deal with current issues in a hyperbolic parodying fashion.
And I mean *current*. For years upon years the creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had cult acclaim for their creative process that put together episodes entirely the week they aired, allowing for the inclusion of absurdly current events going so far as correct football outcomes from nights prior.
This process was illuminated in TV documentary 6 Days to Air earning a broader appreciation for the actual artists at work behind a deceivingly introspective show. Of course, not everyone agrees with the pair of comedy masterminds butting heads with everyone from Scientologists to Islam, Trump to ‘PC culture’; One Washington Post summarizes quite well,
There are two choices, and both of them are awful.
That’s the resounding thesis statement of “South Park,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s boundary-pushing, expletive-laden cartoon about four 10-year-olds living in the fictional South Park, Colo. The creators hold this viewpoint beyond the show. Take Stone’s famous 2005 sound bite: “I hate conservatives. But I really … hate liberals.”
“South Park” has consistently lampooned seemingly everyone, in particular the loudest voices on all sides of the political spectrum. And though the show has backed away from commenting on President Trump, its new season has already tackled school shootings, pedophilic Catholic priests and the Brett M. Kavanaugh hearings.
Nowadays, the political stakes feel higher than at any point in the show’s 21-year run. The left and the right don’t just disagree but see each other as morally reprehensible, In such an environment, it could be seen as problematic to simply shrug and claim that everyone and everything is stupid. And what might appear to some like a satire of our polarizing political culture can also look a lot like trolling — or being provocative just to upset people.
Thankfully the creators, frankly, don’t really give much of a crap when it comes to critics of vulgarity or needlessly offended ‘victims’ who find themselves at the wrong end of their jokes; which happens to be just about everyone. Leaving Cartman and co. in a bit of limbo when it comes to who’s ‘side’ they’re on. The Washington Post continues,
Parker and Stone, who declined an interview request with The Washington Post, self-identify as libertarian, a school of thought that advocates less interference from government — a concept that can cut across party lines. And those on both sides of the aisle have embraced the cartoon as a champion of their respective politics. Somehow it has become a Rorschach test for one’s worldviews. To wit: The duo has received an award from the loudly leftist organization People for the American Way, but their show is also a favorite of the right-wing Reddit forum TheDonald and it’s been blamed for the rise of the alt-right and its accompanying white supremacists.
Parker and Stone do tend to sway libertarian and have actually been featured on outlets that lean towards the ideology such as interviews with Reason. That said the duo are unlikely to allow anyone to pin them down with anything as concrete as a political party.
Really that’s been the saving grace of the show – the essential complete lack of agenda from the creators – well… aside from satirizing anything and everything worth satirizing.
Whether this lack of mainstream alignment is inherent to Parker and Stone, or more just a function of libertarian ideals having few endorsers on Capitol Hill and thus little broad traction might be up for debate; but what isn’t is that the show is a godsend of unabated societal reflection.
Thank God there’s at least one platform that has no fear of slamming Scientology, no qualms with poking fun at handicapped people (everyone deserves to be included after all) and keeps the Jew jokes alive – coming from a Jew who enjoys them.
By some miracle despite destroying Trump and ‘PC babies’ alike the show manages to maintain broad appeal; and that’s something to be thankful for as people with political and personal disagreements that have begun to verge on violence can sit down and laugh at the same incredibly ‘offensive’ show together.