by guest contributor merq
“Well, you know why they’re like that, don’t you?” inquired that familiar, beloved voice in my ear. “It’s because they’re Jewish.”
If you live somewhere in these United States, chances are you have that friend or relative whose bigoted statements seldom fail to ruin a perfectly good time. Your light, breeze-shooting convo turns into an uncomfortable lecture if you call them out, or an agonizing battle with your conscience if you don’t.
Mine’s my dear old Great Uncle Arthur – proof if I ever needed it that the whole “I can’t be racist. I married a so-and-so” argument is pure bullshit. He spent 20 years married to Aunt Ethel, the original Absolut Jew.
For a long time, South Park has been like old Uncle Art – making you wince with its innate bigotry, but reminding the uninformed that racist != the debbil’s spawn – a reality that, if embraced, would result in a society more willing to acknowledge (and thus rectify) its prejudices.
But I digress…
I’ve always had a bit of a problem with South Park. For every halfway-decent piece of social commentary or transcendently funny comedic work it crafts, I’ve had to sit through tons of racist claptrap, excused only by the standard refrain, “hey, it’s just a cartoon!” by fans of the show and its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
I’m no fan of Jennifer Lopez, but I found myself seriously skeeved by Parker and Stone’s gleeful depiction of the singer in the Fat Butt and Pancake Head episode. The entire episode skirts the line with its numerous “taco-burrito” references, but officially steps over the line when Lopez – a narcissistic, cartoonishly voluptuous “Mexican” – is arrested (by a cop who calls her “bean breath” and “Picante Pants,” natch). For reasons unexplained, the uppity Latina goes from living in fabulous wealth to chopping onions at a joint called La Taco. It is a come-uppance we’re supposed to revel in, for she has been put back in her place.
No better is the show’s treatment of black women. Far too often, it indulges in Craigslist-esque “morbidly obese black woman” sight gags – the kind often used to ridicule the very notion of black female beauty. Not even a now-slimmer Oprah Winfrey was spared such treatment by the animators.
Let’s not even get into the treatment of Tuong Lu “Shitty Wok” Kim and his oh-so-funny “Engrish.”
However, I tuned in for Wednesday’s season premiere with bated breath. As the teasers relentlessly reminded me, Eric Cartman, the hilarious personification of pure evil, would discover the wonder of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Some have asked how it is that I can so despise the bigotry on South Park, but love Eric Cartman so damn much. It’s fairly simple, I say. Like Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, he is so over-the-top in his racism that one never has to wonder if his ideas are being prescribed to the viewer. The more insidious evil always lay in the show’s creators.
So imagine my disappointment when the episode turns out a lackluster affair. Yes, Cartman discovers that kids who suffer from Tourette’s apparently get to curse with impunity. Yes, he unleashes stream after madlib-style stream of obscene phrases. Yes, I’m unable to suppress a yawn or three through all this.
No, he didn’t just call Kyle a “kike!”
Suddenly it became crystal clear. I remember explaining my main South Park gripe to a co-worker, as exemplified by their “Nigger Guy” episode.
Parker and Stone have somehow managed to convince the world that by throwing together a pseudo-topical episode every now and again, their show qualifies as a form of social commentary. It is with the carte blanche that comes with this classification that they get to glory in using the word “nigger” (unedited) forty-two times in a single episode.
In this episode, Cartman has somehow managed to convince the town that he suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, and uses this as carte blanche to curse out his teachers and finally cross the K line (unedited) after years of comparatively restrained Anti-Semitism.
I’m sure the parallels are self-evident.
Parker and Stone really showed their asses this time, though. Much like Aaron McGruder did with The Boondocks, they’ve come to reveal themselves through the words and deeds of one of their characters. And like McGruder, I doubt they intended to.
Unfortunately, like with McGruder, I doubt anyone will call them on it.