South Park’s sleazy message

I am somewhat of a South Park fan. The spiritual child of Matt Stone & Trey Parker, usually manages to crack me up and it helps when their points they make and the jabs they take are effective. I find myself disagreeing with some of the messages its creators try to shove in our heads however.

Let’s have a look at a couple of episodes aired on the past, which you can see for yourself in http://www.southparkstudios.com.

Episode 9 of Season 5

Dealing with the anthrax phobia, the ridiculous security measures and the Afghanistan war, this episode has a lot of premise since these issues were quite sensitve at the time.

I found myself agreeing with the messages regarding the anthrax phobia (gas masks, checkpoints, confiscation of plastic scissors for being considered weapons – it’s all there). What similar examples in the past have shown, is that excessive paranoia will only lead to panic and a situations that resemble a powder keg and will bring total loss of control. The most important message of the whole episode though was the presentation of the afghan kids (watch the episode if you haven’t), which look like arab doppelgangers of the four main characters. Really, those people over the Middle East and pretty much around the world are pretty much Average Joes like us. This is only intensified when showing receiving a few bucks as a gift from students in the USA as aid while at the same time the have their homes destroyed.

All these are fine, but that damn final scene (the “I’ve learnt something today” part) though ruins it for me. Here’s a quick description of what happens:

Stan finds a dropped USA flag on the ground and uses his coat to help it stand vertically again. Kyle comments in surprise that “I though the afghan kids talked you into not liking America”. Stan replies with “America may have some problems, but it’s our home, our team. And if you don’t want to root for our team, you should get the hell out of our stadium”, followed by a military style salute.

Conflating America’s “some problems” with the horrible decision of the Afghan (and later the Iraqi) war is misleading at best, dishonest at worst. USA has much more than “some problems”, mostly domestic.

Also, your country is just a place you happened to be born into. It wasn’t your choice, like choosing a football team is. You are not forced to support your country’s wrongdoings to be called a patriot nor you deserve to feel proud for things you have no control of. The fact that a bunch of people (government and/or companies) act stupidly should not discourage you from criticising said stupid and dangerous decisions publicly. This is actually more patriotic, and this is the reason most republicans and right libertarians are far from anything resembling patriotism.

Episode 3 of Season 5

This episode mostly deals with the Boy Scouts of America organization with a (pointless) part about Jimmy and Timmy getting into a fight. The main plot is that Big Gay Al is fired from the position of Scoutmaster because he’s been found out to be a gay (you don’t say). The main characters and a few other people stand by him and are now trying to persuade other people to support equality in the Boy scouts. When the matters go to court, Al and his supporters win.

Here comes the kicker though: Big Gay Al rests the case, stating that “since Boy Scouts is a private organization, they have the right to have their own rules and ban gays if they like”. He then adds that he wishes they change their minds but not by being forced to.

This is actually a rather a typical libertarian position. But I consider it wrong and potentially dangerous. Being a private organization does not relieve you from ethical responsibility. You may find the phrase “ethical responsibility” to be a bit too much, but I’ll gradly have that over the enslaving free capitalismwith no worker rights.

Let’s consider the following: would it be acceptable if a privately held company fired their women employees when they became pregnant? Would it be OK if they refused black people from becoming employees? I am guessing that public criticism would be way too much.

 

South Park is thought provoking and made by smart people. But you should be aware of both the direct and indirect messages it tries to pass.

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