Originally posted on Medium.com
Update: read my post-episode thoughts: “Memberberries.”
Tonight, “South Park” Season 20 begins. It will also be an anniversary (of sorts) of my having been “covered” on Breitbart and The New York Post for questioning if what they are doing on the show is counterproductive, as well. Since then, I’ve seen lots of criticism that ascribes reactionary viewpoints to Matt Stone and Trey Parker — which, despite a deep ideological difference between myself and them, I want to take some time to talk about because it’s ridiculous.
The promo for the new episode of “South Park” is of the town singing a “new version” of the national anthem. It goes as follows:
Colin Kaepernick is great. Cops are pigs, cops are pigs. Wait, someone just took my stuff, I need to call the cops. Oh, no, I just said cops are pigs. Who’s gonna help me get my stuff? Why did I listen to Colin Kaepernick, He’s not even any good. Oh, I just got all my stuff back Cops are pigs again, cops are pigs. Colin Kaepernick’s a good backup...
- I am 100% for Colin Kaepernick and I am so happy to see professional athletes use their fame to attempt to change things for the better.
- “South Park”’s target appears to be the fact the public can’t make up their minds. Through context, it accuses the American public of hating the police, but the moment it needs authority, it turns to appeal to them. Then when no longer needed, they again voice dissent. The implication in the “South Park” promo is that people are against police brutality (to the point of hating them) until they need the police (a publicly-funded branch of the government, might I add).
The target is middle-America, and I’d even go as far to say that they honestly have a good point. Milquetoast America likes to feel dangerous, but doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of being dangerous.
They also pointed it directly at people’s tying of Colin Kaepernick’s skill as an NFL player to their opinion of his protest. When people are against cops, Kaepernick is a good player, but he apparently “sucks” when the public is on the police’s side. This actually is real satire, but it’s wrapped in several layers of “how can we piss as many people off as is possible?” Ultimately, people will likely take the point to be “Colin Kaepernick is lame, bro! People who protest cops are hypocrites! lol”
This 20th Season premiere “South Park” promo is the essence of “South Park”: pointed at middle-America in a way that, because of Poe’s Law, harms the disenfranchised. And to be entirely truthful ― I always have hope because Stone and Parker are smart people ― but their dedication to finding only the fault in both sides of an issue is always disheartening.
“’South Park’ is anti-change,” the chorus rings. The leftist has written their criticism and that is the other leftists’ cue to regurgitate that one post from Reddit:
South Park has always been fundamentally reactionary; those pushing for change are wrong no matter what change they push for. Nothing is a bigger crime to Matt and Trey than Giving a Shit. Their ideology is apathetic-libertarian; whether you’re on the left or the right, if you’re asking me to change my behavior, you suck. As it stands, the political left tends to push for more change than the political right does; as it stands, Matt and Trey admit they dislike conservatives and “really fucking hate” liberals. It isn’t about left or right; it’s about change versus comfort. If you’re trying to change something, they think you’re annoying. And they think you’re lame, because caring about stuff is lame. It’s the same attitude that establishes “u mad” and “butthurt” as the ultimate trump cards in internet arguments: caring is for losers, and if you become personally invested in politics you’re part of the problem. Uncritical, detached acceptance of the status quo is the only morally upright posture, and those who draw a distinction between is and ought are all smug bullies, outlandish freaks, and/or closed-minded zealots. It’s a show that teaches its audience to become lazy and self-satisfied, that praises them for being uncritically accepting of their own biases, and that provides them with an endless buffet of thought-terminating cliches suitable for shutting down all manner of challenges to their comfort zones. South Park is a place where you never have to have your assumptions challenged. It’s a place where you’re always right, you shouldn’t bother to think, and the people asking you to change your mind are annoying busybodies and prigs who should just shut up and leave you alone.
- wsgy111 on Reddit
I need to say this: I’m really tired of people repeating other peoples’ opinions as though they’re some kind of revelation — and not just this one specifically. We’re constantly seeing, hearing, and reading people word things the same way some post did and pretending it’s their opinion. In this case, the go-to for criticism of “South Park” is this angry post some angry Reddit person made about how angry they are about “South Park”. Guess what? It’s wrong.
It’s also contradictory; reactionaries don’t hate both the right and left (as Matt Stone and Trey Parker do). Reactionaries hate individuals to their own left.
“South Park” is not anti-change. It’s anti-doctrine. The show does not espouse any actual ideology at least 99% of the time. Simply put, “South Park” is pure post-modernism. It deconstructs without any intent to reconstruct. I don’t personally like this philosophical underpinning regarding “South Park”, but I also think calling it “anti-change” is just a way to ascribe to this show to one’s enemies, which makes it A Super Righteous Move™ to take them down (read: say your opinion on social media). “South Park” is not reactionary; “South Park” is incredibly cynical and offers nothing constructive. But destruction is change.
While I think cynicism and neoreaction are both counterproductive viewpoints to hold, they are not the same thing. Also, change isn’t automatically good. We are living in a situation that does need change, but let’s say we elect Trump. That’s change.
Post- and Meta-Modernism
Post-modernism deconstructs and leaves the rubble where it lands. That’s “South Park”. A better approach, in my opinion, is meta-modernism. A meta-modern approach deconstructs then reconstructs. As the “South Park” creators grew older, it’d been good if they’d adopted this approach, but they didn’t. They’re still stuck in Gen X post-modern “fuck everything” purgatory. It’s not so much that they are anti-change, it’s that their base instinct on everything is to deconstruct (and only to deconstruct).
I haven’t seen a single reactionary that hates Donald Trump — and if you’ve seen their Trump episode you can see pretty plainly that they do. On top of that, they say things like this:
“Political correctness” — I feel like that’s becoming a catch-all term for just “shit that you don’t like.” I don’t agree with Donald Trump, but we did a whole bit about political correctness last year. We’ve been interested in that debate for a long time. But not everything is political correctness gone mad. Sometimes you just shouldn’t say something. And there’s a huge difference between what can be said in a cartoon or through the mouths of fiction, and what somebody who’s going for elected office should say. Those are two different standards. We identify with comedians, but then you hear some comedian say, “These college campuses, these kids aren’t laughing at my jokes anymore.” It’s like, maybe you’re fucking old. Maybe we’re fucking old! If people aren’t laughing, they’re not laughing. If the laugh is that people are afraid to laugh because of some strict P.C.-police speech code, that’s something to tackle with. But maybe they’re just not laughing. — Matt Stone
I don’t agree with the philosophical foundation of what’s said here, as I come from a completely different place, but a reactionary wouldn’t say it.
This isn’t in defense of the show.
I dislike cynicism, to be honest. I also don’t like that I get called “cynical” myself, but I understand it — deconstruction is still very much a part of metamodernism. While I don’t claim to have solutions, per se, I’m typically able to offer at least a starting point. “South Park” never does — though, to be fair, it’s not their responsibility to.
“South Park” is post-modernism. It’s cynicism. They saw that the “political correctness” debate is becoming heated again, so they intrinsically need to deconstruct it. But the moment they see that criticizing “political correctness” is popular, they find what’s wrong with that. Matt Stone provided us with enough to back up that assertion in that excerpt from earlier.
The real problem lies in that they work too much with context and allegory for people who aren’t extremely tuned in to understand what they are saying. They often take a false middle stance but it’s also always targeted at middle America. But, because it’s fart comedy, it’s taken entirely at face value.
Even “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” makes the ongoing (and fairly obvious) implication that its characters are bad people and not a good idea to mimic.
Last season may not really have been nearly as bad for leftists as most thought. Wisecrack did an absolutely superb job analyzing it as a critique of neoliberalism, and in truth, I think is probably correct. The logic of that video does an amazing job of gluing together this reading the content, and the creator soundly backs up every assertion with lines from the show. However, Stone and Parker are too intent on obfuscating exactly what they mean for the actual season to be anywhere nearly as useful as Wisecrack’s video about the season.
Though, they aren’t under any obligation to. They are satirists — not economists, philosophers, or diversity consultants.
That being said, I’m also a satirist (though you’d probably never guess from my long, unfunny essays) and am also under no obligation to attempt a metamodernist approach. I just think more voices trying to be constructive helps. I’m just one person adding to the totals and swinging the average some — not much, but some.
Does that make me funnier or better than “South Park”? Eh, probably not. Humor is about perspective and taste, and a lot of people have a very cynical taste in humor. “South Park” scratches that itch for them, whether they consider themselves “liberal” or “conservative.”
Is “South Park” funny? Yeah, I think it is. Is “South Park” intelligent? Yes, again, I think the understanding they display indicates a pretty keen grasp on the skills of analysis. Is “South Park” constructive? No. It’s destructive.
It’s a wrecking ball aimed at whatever is popular or prominent — whether that thing is good or bad. Even if season 19 was a criticism of neoliberalism in disguise (and I think there’s compelling evidence that very well could have been), it’s still way too easy to interpret it as right-wing trash for it to be legitimately helpful.
Hell, there’s a number of reactionaries who think even the Wisecrack video is catering to them just because it says “political correctness.” They don’t seem to understand or care that it’s quoting Slavoj Žižek, a pretty “out-there” lefty, rather than Thunderf00t.
Said critique of neoliberalism present in the Wisecrack video (and possibly in “South Park”) actually indicates an inherent philosophical incompatibility with reactionaries. “South Park”’s total shunning of belief itself is at odds with anyone who believes it’s even possible to label someone a “degenerate” of any kind.
“South Park” isn’t reactionary — and reactionaries don’t get to claim it. “South Park” isn’t anything. Though, that’s not a good thing, in my opinion.
But it’s also not enough to get tossed into the Basket Of Deplorables.
Watch Peter Coffin in his latest: “Very Important Documentaries: How Donald Trump Won” and support on Patreon.