Monday, September 25, 2006

A South Park Political Party? Count Me In.

I recently came across the following ABC interview with the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (hat tip-the blogfather).

In the interview, which has many interesting points about the show and the latest season, Parker and Stone discuss the incredible levels of hypocrisy they are exposed to when trying to skewer the latest sacred cow.

Regarding their recent attempts to caricature Mohammed-

"People told us at the time, 'You can't really draw an image of Mohammed,'" Parker says. "And we were like, well, we can. We're not Muslim, so it's OK."

In 2006, however, when Stone and Parker wanted to depict Mohammed in an episode, Comedy Central wouldn't let them. After all, Muslims worldwide had rioted over insulting depictions of Mohammed in a newspaper in Denmark.

It seemed odd to the creators of "South Park," who had been and were still allowed to depict Jesus in any number of profane ways. In fact, the episode in question, "Cartoon Wars," shows a cartoon (supposedly created by al Qaeda) in which Jesus defecates on President Bush.

"That's where we kind of agree with some of the people who've criticized our show," Stone says. "Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We've had him say bad words. We've had him shoot a gun. We've had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn't just show a simple image."

During the part of the show where Mohammed was to be depicted — benignly, Stone and Parker say — the show ran a black screen that read: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

Other networks took a similar course, refusing to air images of Mohammed — even when reporting on the Denmark cartoon riots — claiming they were refraining because they're religiously tolerant, the South Park creators say.

"No you're not," Stone retorts. "You're afraid of getting blown up. That's what you're afraid of. Comedy Central copped to that, you know: 'We're afraid of getting blown up.'"

"At the same time, just like we always do, we managed to get something on and say something about how we can't say something about Mohammed," Parker says.

"South Park," from its very beginning has been about mocking that which is held most sacred.

Parker and Stone both appear to be getting burnt out in their non-stop efforts to defuse even the most politically charged issues.

"Going into the last run was the most sort of scared I've ever been," Parker says. "I went into the run just going, 'Wow, how many times are they going to tell us we can't do something before we bail?' Because we're ready to bail. We're ready. … We wanted to say some things, shake things up a bit. And I think we've done that, and I think we've done it in a bigger way than we ever will in the future. So it'd be nice to make some more shows and some more movies, but it'd also be really nice to go to a farm and raise some goats and have some kids. You know what I mean? I mean, that would be really nice, too."
"As soon as we can't make the show we want to make, we're not going to make it anymore. At the beginning of the last run I thought we were really close. I thought it was like this might be it. But then, you know, we were able to still do a Mohammed show and do it the way we wanted, which was to do it and then say, 'All right, Comedy Central, you're a network, you have a right to do with this what you want, so we're making it this way. And then if you want to take out the image of Mohammed, that's fine, you can do that, but we're also going to make the show about you taking out the image of Mohammed.'"

Parker and Stone have been co-opted by many atheists for their various stances against religious hypocrisy, be it scientology or christianity, but the fact is both Stone and Parker are not atheists. In fact, much like myself, they find the hardcore atheists just as hollow as the fundamentalists.

"All the religions are superfunny to me," Parker adds. "The story of Jesus makes no sense to me. God sent his only son. Why could God only have one son and why would he have to die? It's just bad writing, really. And it's really terrible in about the second act."

But Parker says atheism is more ludicrous to him than anything else.

"Out of all the ridiculous religion stories — which are greatly, wonderfully ridiculous — the silliest one I've ever heard is, 'Yeah, there's this big, giant universe and it's expanding and it's all going to collapse on itself and we're all just here, just 'cuz. Just 'cuz. That to me, is the most ridiculous explanation ever," he says. "So I think we have a big atheism show coming."

Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of the interview deals with the title of this post. With Southpark, Parker and Stone have done a masterful job of maintaining a sane, politically incorrect reason-based approach to the most contentious issues facing our world today. And they skewer both sides of the political fence without any pretension of a liberal or conservative bias. Southpark has rabid uber-religious conservative nutball characters, and equal amounts of fruity liberal PC yuppies as well. And it's the kids in the middle who usually sound the most sane.

Libertarian New York Times columnist John Tierney recently wrote that he had "bad news for the GOP regarding that promising new bloc of voters, the "South Park Republicans." It turns out they're not Republicans, at least not anymore."

"We would love to think that we could control a group of people and take over the country in a new political party," Stone says. But they have their doubts. And in truth, they say they're not necessarily all that conservative, it's just that they enjoying poking fun at liberal orthodoxies and celebrities, and it's far more rebellious to lean right in Hollywood than to lean left.

"We're probably more conservative than most Hollywood liberals, but that doesn't mean a whole lot," Stone says.
This resonates with me on many levels, mostly because of the fact that I am consistently regarded as a conservative republican Bush-apologist for my stances in the war against Islamic terrorists. The reality is quite a bit different. I don't really fit very well in to either political aisle, mainly due to the fact that I have conflicting views on the many of the main issues. I am pro-choice, yet pro-2nd amendment. I am for the war in Iraq yet critical of the way it has been handled by the Bush administration. I believe in a social safety net, yet also believe in privatizing social security.

The South Park creators resonate more with me from a political standpoint mainly because when the episodes they write deal with a contentious political issue, they always seem to allow reason to prevail in the argument. And too often in todays discourse, both liberal and conservative voices lean too heavily towards a fundamentalist attitude of self righteousness from each of their own sides of the fence. The simple fact is most americans, especially those within my generation, don't adhere to one side over the other. They are becoming more and more independent, and want political parties that represent a wider range of views, not ones that consistently berate those without their own views.

The end of the interview cuts to the heart of what South Park is all about-

"When the show first came out, there were a lot of people calling it 'Peanuts on Acid,'" Parker says. "I was a big Charlie Brown fan as a kid."

"And I was a big acid fan," says Stone.

The beginnings of the show focused mainly on "this is how kids talk," Parker says. "This is what four little boys do when left alone. These are the things they say. Here's how kids really are."

"They're selfish," Stone says. "They're little bastards. And society makes them better. It's not 'Society corrupts them.'"

"See," Parker says, "that's probably the most conservative viewpoint we have."

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