When I'm first getting to know somebody, I never let on that I once was (and to a lesser extent still am) a huge South Park fan. Much like in real life, I've done the same with this blog. After 4 months and as many blog posts, I finally feel comfortable to confess.
And really, it's the name of the game. After all, this is a blog built on things that make us squirm. And what is more squirm-inducing than a bunch of poorly-animated, foul-mouthed fourth-graders who, much like most fourth-grade boys, find fart jokes and all related spectacles to be absolutely hilarious?
To answer that hyphen-laden (I did it again) question: "not much."
However, I'm here to tell the uninitiated that South Park is much more than crude jokes. Yes, sometimes it is just that. If you want to argue against the merits of South Park, it won't take you long to find dirt---lots and lots of dirt. Yet, the writers of South Park capture human behavior in a way that most television shows do not. Many shows attempt to dramatize what life is like, but South Park takes our human ticks and quirks to the highest levels of absurdity. It is at these heights with a new perspective that we can see grains of truth buried within the cartoon.
Depth in 2D
South Park has made a long and successful career of making fun of everything. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, will one day leave behind one of the best social commentaries of the beginning of the 21st century. How do I know? My social studies teacher in high school said so.
Jokes aside, South Park makes viewers laugh at things we wouldn't normally laugh at. One of my favorite episodes depicts a South Park Elementary election for a new mascot. Around the time of its original airing, the country was faced with the Kerry-Bush election; an election seen by some as a choice between two undesirable candidates. Now with Clinton-Trump, the joke---which is probably too much for this blog---may be more poignant. Another one of my favorites is "Super Best Friends," which mocks the media's propensity to turn tragedy into spectacle. One more in a long list of "favorites" is "Christian Rock Hard", which satirizes the creepy, "Jesus is my boyfriend" feeling that a certain strain of Christian music creates. A post-9/11 episode in 2001, "Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants", showed that the world is bigger than our American Perspective usually realizes. The show has succeeded by making somber things funny without being (too) irreverent or crass.
As a disclaimer, I don't support everything ever done by South Park. I could do without much of the coarse language and there's a lot that I wouldn't watch again. It isn't a show I would recommend to everybody and it is definitely a show that requires a strong filter to wade through the gunk. Some may suggest that the costs outweigh the benefits; I'm under no illusions that we all have anything remotely resembling an obligation to watch South Park. All that being said, I still enjoy the show.
Over the years of watching South Park, I've found myself agreeing and disagreeing with its ideas on a regular basis. Through it all, I've been equipped with a finely tuned Baloney Meter. I've adopted the critical---not cynical---eye with which South Park views and portrays the world. Its satirical nature has led me to ask meaningful questions about meaningful things. I have seen the capability of my Christian worldview through its ability to respond to non-biblical ideas.
In the "safe space" of cartoons I've been forced to wrestle with choosing between two bad options; I've been guided into thinking about grief; I've thought about what it means to be a good friend; I've considered the roots of racism; I've wondered about the benefits of social justice.
Yes, there are other ways of thinking through these ideas. And yes, they may be more wholesome than South Park, but words spoken from the mouth of a donkey are no less words. Praises cried out by rocks are no less praise. All truth is God's truth. South Park has never been my primary source of truth and it should never be yours. However, it has served as a proving ground for the strength of my convictions. Convictions that have been formed by God's Word. Other times, its just been good for laughs.
If you find that you do not at all agree with me, I'd love to know your thoughts. There was a period of several years where I abstained from watching South Park on moral grounds, but have since rescinded this position of mine. On the other hand, if you agree, I'd love to know why in addition to the little I've said here!
One final word is that this was a hasty blog post as I am yet an amateur blogger. It's something I have been thinking through for a while, but it's likely I overlooked something in my line of thought. Be gracious!