South Park, a widely popular animated television series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, debuted August 13, 1997 on Comedy Central. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become infamous for its crude, surreal, satirical, and dark humor that covers a wide range of topics. This type of comedy is widely successful across a variety of shows, due in part to societies conformation to social archetypes, which prohibits unacceptable behavior. These shows display characters who have freedom to act however they desire with no consequences from doing so.
Simply, people are entertained most seeing portrayed in television what they themselves cannot, or are not permitted, to do in everyday life.
Diversity and Discrimination
South Park, by nature, exploits the taboo by using it as a means to draw in the attention of it’s viewers. Captivated, they watch as their beliefs, social tendencies, and media are senselessly torn apart and twisted into an unrecognizable form. However, instead of acting in revolt, or criticizing the remarks made, they find it amusing.
Naturally, this crude humor has been called out for ‘crossing the line’, but the negative publicity the show receives only serves to draw in more viewers. The viewers, in turn are convinced to sit and watch as they are stereotyped and bashed by a show meant to entertain them. An fairly well known quote, of unknown origins, goes something like, “If you can’t laugh at yourself, then how can you laugh at anybody else?” This is fitting, as many of South Park’s viewers are prompted to do just that. If anything, this self-criticism is beneficial as it raises awareness to diversity in our culture and in the show, as silly as it sounds, everyone is discriminated against equally.
So, the answer as to how people can watch a show, such as South Park, who’s every line is laced with crude and satirical humor is actually quite simple. As viewers laugh at each other, they in turn laugh at themselves. Equality isn’t necessarily an overwhelming factor to entertaining the masses, but instead opens the door for South Park, and other shows alike, to make fun of any subject, or topic, the creators so desire. This goes back to societies tendency to be entertained by character portrayals that are unrestrained by everyday rules or normalizations. The simplistic cartoon is in fact a cunning play on basic instinct, and because of this deceit, is widely popular amongst many who enjoy the shallow humor that delivers a quick, yet gratifying, laugh.
Many are quick to blame the dark humor for directly changing views of proper conduct in adolescent individuals. They believe the show itself poses a negative influence upon those who are unable to comprehend that it is purely meant for humor, and that it does not demonstrate socially acceptable behavior. They firmly declare that the unrestrained nature of the show itself leads to the aforementioned pliable individuals acting in ways they otherwise would not. They insist that the network airing such shows are solely to blame, with little to no responsibility falling on their own shoulders. Such a stance is ridiculous at best. Those making the claims are too naive as to what truly influences society, and a comedic cartoon, while on the list, is not going to be near the top. This is due in part to the restrictions placed on programs via TV rating systems, which classifies South Park as MA, for mature audiences only, and the parental enforcement against those who should not be watching it in the first place.
The critical argument against consumption of any kind, whether it’s media or otherwise, is the unhealthy or negative side effects it may impose. South Park, while crude, surreal and satirical, provides a view into unrestrained consequence free life which surprisingly offers an alternative yet informative view on unfiltered criticism of the diversity of American culture. This fact alone stands to counteract the previous argument and displays that the basis of the show is to provide entertainment to mature audiences who will understand the dark humor and will respond with decency knowing that in the end, it is simply just a cartoon.