It may seem odd Ė and it did to me, too, when I first thought of it Ė but
South Park actually demonstrates the power of writing. This occurred to me after one of my
very infrequent exposures to this enfant terrible of animated television. It is a
selectively offensive, satirical and often vulgar cult tv show, and now a movie. It
certainly ainít the pictures that drive its fascination among the rebellious.
"Itís smarter than you think"
Here is a television revolution passing oldies by. Much of the action is implanted in
the imagination, rather like books do it, supported of course by the crude, simplistic
images. Itís almost as basic visually as stick men, but with high grade and hip
dialogue, often dealing with solidly human and everyday issues. Which, of course, can be
quite dramatic to the participants and humorous to the observers.
The cartoon-inspired voices help link the pictures to the audience, making it all very
accessible. Itís smarter than you think, and perhaps thatís why itís so
insidious and potentially dangerous, as some moral conservatives believe. On the other
hand, it is just good fun with a wicked edge. It certainly resonates with aspects of life.
"An entertaining socio-religious lesson in
Previewing Volume 8 was a family experience. Our teenagers didnít think us oldies
would enjoy it one bit, so it was something of a shock when we laughed and giggled and
generally got into the smutty, the silly, the vulgar and the obscene that pepper the show.
Like the story of Ikeís Wee Wee, which is basically an entertaining socio-religious
lesson in circumcision, with hilarious and observant dry humour. If the word penis offends
you, donít get this one.
"a secret chicken rapist... in the Monty Python direction but without the
You may find the Chicken Lover harder to go past, its tale of a secret chicken rapist
almost sliding into a reverential nod in the Monty Python direction Ė but without the
restraint. A series of heinous crimes involving chickens leads to a startling revelation
Ė Officer Barbrady canít read. And thereís more, of course, that grabs our
Not Without My Anus (Volume 7 - each volume features 2 x 25 minute episodes, rrp
$29.95) explores just who is Cartmanís father. On Volume 9, Conjoined Fetus Lady
(note the mind-altering titles, part of South Parkís calling card) tells the story of
the South Park dodgeball team trying for the championships. Back in tow, the locals
declare a Conjoined Twin Myslexia Awareness Week in a misguided attempt to help the school's
nurse deal with a strange medical disorder.
The little bonus of these videos is creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker handling the
top-n-tail, in the confines of a retirement home, where the audience (at least one old
codger of it) is drawn into a running gag of cruel proportions. But it is funny.
"Ohmegosh, am I taking this stuff seriously?"
Time Magazine, with its well-practiced imagery, refers to South Park as "the
latest giant asteroid to slam into American pop culture." And itís also slamming
into ours. Those who despair at the banality of American television can find a haven of
bravado creativity at work here. And its piercing exploration of the layers of American
society provide not only a rare moment of Americans laughing at themselves, but through
that particular into the very universal. Ohmegosh, am I taking this stuff seriously? I
better go watch Neighbours.
AND A F **.. WORD ABOUT THE SOUNDTRACK:
A song about the worst word you can say? Sure, Itís Easy MmmkayÖ As for
the ills of society? Blame Canada (well arranged for symphony). Then you can sing along
with the team for a rapidfire Kyleís Mom is A Bitch. And so far Iím only at
track 5! There are another 15. Get the CD. The F word I had in mind is Funny. If rude
words offend you, it isnít. Musically, it owes everything to every musical
youíve ever heard, happily, breezily plagiarising all the trademarks of musical
theatre, from structure to orchestration. The best part is how the explicit lyrics sit
within this musical conservatism, like anarchists on the benches of Parliament.
PS: A word to parents of teenagers who watch South
Park (or will from now): get used to hearing it.