I’m a huge fan of South Park, and I would never give into insecurity to argue that South Park “goes too far.”
But I will point out when South Park does not go far enough.
The Season 17 finale of South Park (The Hobbit) shows that photoshopped women hurt the self-image of girls. If you can’t see the episode, see the plot summary on Wikipedia. The most powerful scene is when Wendy Testaburger, a feminist girl, surrenders her campaign to ban photoshopped images and photoshops herself so she could be socially accepted by her peers.
The discussion on how media affects impressionable children is a valid theme of the Hobbit, but only the feminist perspective is dominant. Any conflict Wendy experiences is set such that she is a victim of men or allegedly “male” attitudes. Anyone not supporting Wendy is ridiculed.
This is not the first time South Park was sympathetic to a feminist perspective. Wendy also pulverizes evil incarnate Eric Cartman in Breast Cancer Show Ever (S12E9) because Cartman mocked breast cancer incessantly to annoy Wendy. Few discussing the episode would defend Cartman’s raunchy jokes from a free speech perspective because it means associating with Cartman. Sometimes a position is as good as the face people give it.
The Hobbit marks another time where South Park defends a position by evoking feelings of sympathy. South Park normally satirizes everything, so watching them defend something weakens the creators’ claim to “not [be] on anybody’s fucking side.” South Park stops poking fun if feminist values could be caught in the crossfire. And I don’t mean it “stops” in the sense that there was a transition. I mean it STOPS. Faceplant-into-brick-wall STOPS.
In any good conflict, both sides have a point. If only one side is reduced to a caricature to mock, the morality becomes black and white, leaving an ideological lecture.
In The Hobbit, additional sides could include absent-minded parents who don’t teach their kids the difference between reality or fantasy, or people in the mass media that use the profit-motive to justify creating a Photoshop fantasy. All of these sides are ripe for mocking, but they were excluded in favor of a feminism-versus-the-world narrative.
Such a simplistic approach expands egos, not awareness. I expect better from a champion of social commentary.
But maybe I’m an idiot for suggesting a comedy show take jokes so seriously?
Yes, I would be an idiot if I were actually hung up about jokes. But I’m talking about an absence of jokes. We are left in the realm of the serious where critical thought reigns. What happened to “we’re on nobody’s fucking side?”
South Park makes fun of Mormonism, Christianity, atheism, Scientology, gamers, blacks, whites, Mexicans, Jews, men, women, Ethiopians, Canadians, Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Vatican, pedophiles, Obama, Bush, Cheny, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Hillary Clinton, anti-smoking activists, pro-smoking activists, Democrats, Republicans, homophobes, gays, traditionalists, Barbara Streisand, Kim Kardashian, Carlos Mencia, Snooki, Steve Irwin, Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, James Cameron, Phil Collins, George Zimmerman, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Kazuo Hirai, Jesus, Satan, Santa, Muhammad, the Virgin Mary, John Edward, Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, goth kids, gingers, poor people, rich people, voters, non-voters, crack babies, the disabled, PETA, the NSA, Game of Thrones, Pokemon, The Hobbit, 21, memes, people from New Jersey, people who zipline, and people who like rainforests.
But not feminists. Feminists are off-limits.