Impact of South Park

The reading I really enjoyed going through this week was Ethan Thompson’s “Good Demo, Bad Taste,” which went in depth on the carnivalesque nature of South Park and its place in modern society. I consider myself to be a fan of South Park, which may not be surprising given the fact I am a male between the ages of 18-34, but I do sometimes think that there jokes do seem to go a bit too far. However, Thompson’s article highlights the fact that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the show, use these carnivalesque techniques to upend social norms and critique our modern culture. For instance, the episode on the vote between the Giant Douche and the Turd Sandwich may seem funny simple because of it’s outlandish proposition of electing a school mascot with such offensive names.  On the other hand, when analyzed further, I can see how the writers were trying to highlight the problems with  the lack of a rational middle-ground in American politics.

The question I am wondering, however, is how many people actually watch South Park critically and try to find the social meaning of the events that transpire in the show? Many times, I think people see what they want to see in these television shows, and they often times ignore some of the larger critiques of society. For instance, many conservative viewers may welcome critiques of organizations like PETA, and completely ignore other, more subliminal messages. I do think South Park’s critique of modern culture resonates with a large group of people, and I am hopeful it will bring about actual change. The article goes onto say that “television be understood as a cultural practice that raises questions and opens discussion, not a product that answers and ends conversation.”Therefore, we should view comedy as a way to open up discussion on difficult issues and not as an end all answer on the topic.

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