Media

Why Kids Should Watch South Park

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Earlier this week, I wrote a column for The Daily Beast celebrating the debut of South Park's 18th season, which took place on Wednesday night.

Here's a snippet:

The show is great because it's true parody and satire not simply of particular people and causes, but the very way we tell stories, and the media forms we use to delude ourselves. It has this in common with Parker and Stone's Team America: World Police (2004), the R-rated, all-puppet movie that holds up long after most of us have forgotten exactly who Janeane Garofalo, Helen Hunt, and Hans Blix ever were. Team America targets buddy movies, Broadway musicals, United Nations gatherings and self-important celebrities, and so much more that it deconstructs virtually all popular forms of persuasion.

So it is with South Park, which edifies as it offends—or maybe edifies because it offends. Curiously, back in 1997, South Park was the very first show to get a dreaded "MA" rating when networks started rating their shows to forestall legal action from Bill Clinton's Justice Department. That means it's for "mature audiences" only.

Yet South Park is actually the perfect show for kids and not simply because it takes seriously all the travails of grammar school and traffics in obsessions of childhood. Virtually every episode explains how people in charge wield power by whipping up hysteria over nothing, or try to force all of us into the same social or political straitjacket. Yes, there's a lot of cursing and blue material, but there's no better classroom for kids to learn the entwined lessons of skepticism toward authority and respecting true diversity of opinion.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. My eyes are glossing over in just the same way that they do when members of my church insist that watching Bible cartoons is good for my kids’ moral development — just a coincidence, I’m sure.

  2. Last night’s episode with them using the name The Washington Redskins was pretty funny. It was one of their episodes where you’re not sure what their point is or if they even have an overarching point, but they did get some nice digs in at most people involved, and the parody of Dan Snyder as the crying Indian was hilarious.

    1. Which is the discussion where I don’t get raped? This one, right?

    1. HM, you truly are the Youtube master.

  3. I say this as one of the biggest South Park fan as you can imagine…

    I was so stoked for the season premiere last night

    It brought a few chuckles but overall it was just pretty meh…

    Last season ended on a high note and in my opinion the hobbit episode was not just a classic for the ages but really funny and really insightful

    Any show that pushes as many boundaries and is of the nature that South Park is of course going to be uneven and I recognize that and I look forward to more episodes this season

    I need to get back and complete the South Park RPG for that matter. I bought it for PC and from what I played it was pretty fun but I just got distracted haven’t gotten back to it

  4. My sons love South Park which is fine with me. Unfortunately, they also love Family Guys which I cannot stand. Meh. Boys will be boys.

    Last Christmas, we saw The Book of Mormon in NYC – much fun was had by all.

    1. I used to hate Family Guy but now I like it although nowhere as near as much as South Park

      My primary criticism of Family Guy versus South Park is that the latter truly rips on people all the way across the political spectrum and while definitely having a libertarian streak skewers everybody

      I’ve heard people make those claims about Family Guy but it’s ridiculous. Seth wears his liberalism firmly on his sleeve and overwhelmingly points his satire at conservatives and totally gives liberals way too much of a pass on way too much stuff

      He’s also a bit Dawkins like in his atheism.

      Heck South Park went as far as even to lampoon agnostics and brilliantly so

      1. gives liberals way too much of a pass on way too much stuff

        Definitely. Did you see the ‘Tea Party’ episode? It was disingenuous to the point of being disgusting.

        1. Through the glory of the intert00bs I have seen every episode!

          Yer right

          1. Yes, the intertoobs are all glorious, all hail the intertoobs!

  5. At the risk of sounding Chestertonian…

    I think South Park may be a pioneer in moving beyond post-modern irony and detachment and back to old-fashioned earnestness and moralizing. They are so deadly serious and preachy, they make Jonathan Edwards look like Jerry Seinfeld. When South Park has a point, it drives in that point mercilessly, without trying to soften the blow or trying to ironically distance itself from its own argument.

    So don’t criticize South Park as subversive and irreverent, that misses the point. They have strong values, and use the program to denounce anyone they deem to fall short of those values. They may have *different* values than Jonathan Edwards, but the dead seriousness with which they enforce those values puts Edwards to shame.

    1. They sound like libertarians to me. I guess that’s why I love the show. It’s one of the very few TV series that I have watched in the last 10 years.

      1. Yes, strong libertarian/ine values.

  6. Fuck a you, whales! And fuck a you, dolpheeeennnnsssss!!!!!

  7. I started watching when I was 13, but I didn’t become a libertarian until college. I don’t know what that means.

  8. The human cent-ipad episode was particularly kid-friendly.

  9. There are other potential issues, though. When my son was 4 and I had time to watch TV, I would try (not always successfully) to watch SP after I thought he had gone to bed. Ahhhh, nope. Phone rings one day, it’s his pre-school teacher.

    “We had a little problem today with Jimmy.”
    “Oh, what’s that?”
    “He called one of his classmates a fat assed Jew.”

    She sounded very unamused so I did my best to hold back the hysterical laughter.

    1. Did you ask “Well is he?”

  10. It’s Jesus for Millenials. Whatever, Nick. Fuck off, dear. I love you, but I do NOT love this latest South Park hoopla.

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