The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"South Park" is annoying...

You know?  I actually love that show.  And I've found their attitudes on many social ills to be refreshing and bizarrely intelligent.  but there is also something about South Park that hits my button, and after watching an episode last night, I thought I'd finally talk about it.
rather obviously, these guys think that they are above sexism, racism, elitism, or any "isms" at all.  I'd say that their politics are rather conservative (note that they primarily attack liberal celebrities and causes, although they will lambaste the right as well, at times.) But there is one way that their social attitudes show that they probably aren't aware of.  It's simply this:  the creators of South Park take the position that an American human being is, by default, white.  Yes, they have Chef.  Yes, from time to time another black or non-white character is depicted on the show.  But there is almost ALWAYS a specific reference made to the character's race.  AI remember once being surprised to see a black plumber show up at Cartman's house.  Nothign was made of it.  Then immediately he began having anal sex with Cartman's mother.  Oh--another play on a favorite degrading image from porn (Cartman's mother is a porn actress)--a specific racial joke.
When does this show the most?  In crowd scenes. The boys travel to New York to see John Edwards' "psychic" show.  An audience is shown.  Every face is white.  I've seen this many, many times--huge stadiums, filled exclusively with white faces.  If they are depicting a basketball team, team members will be black.  If it is a street scene that takes place anywhere in America, the faces are exclusively, or to a rediculous degree, white. 
I am sure this is unconscious. Their attention is elsewhere, on some social ill or joke they are setting up.  And when they do that, they are in their private la-la land, their private dream world.  In which the default position for humanity is white.  White people are people.  Black people or Asians are not--they are black people or Asians, not just "people."  I remember growing up in that world, when Hannah-Barbaera and Loony Toons and Disney made the exact same assumptions--that a human being is whtie, and if they depicted anything else, it was always to make a specific joke about it (Disney, of course, never did, in their theatrical division, during the entire 20th Centry.  Not one single image of a black human being.  Not even whenthey set two films in Africa.)
And that is, I think, at the core of some discomfort I have with social Conservatives.  Please forgive me, but I've had the sense my whole life that if you ask them to close their eyes and imagine a picnic, or a day at the beach, or a classroom, they are likely to be imagining nothign but white people.  And with socal Liberals, they are far more likely to imaginea mixed group.  I'd say that from a lifetime of watchign the movies, reading the books, and reading the articles they produce.  The position of "human" is by default, a white person.  Others are often welcome, but only with the label attached. 
The best way to watch this is the unconscious stuff, the fantasy worlds.  In the privacy of their own heads, this is where people reveal who and what they are comfortable with.  I am getting annoyed with this aspect of Stone and Parker.  They've avoided criticism from the Right for their scabrous potty humor and sexual misconduct among children because they espouse Right-wing political positions so strongly.  But in their secret nasty little hearts, they have, I think, absorbed some of the less pleasant Right-Wing aspects. Again, I'm sure this is all unconscious.  That's what makes it so telling. 


dorsey said...

hi i think your creating perfect blog. your blog is very informative This is nice tv show. i download south park every season and episodes

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