South Park Conservatives

I love South Park and watch it religiously. What I enjoy most is their equal oppotunity mentality — they will go after anything and everything, no matter how sacred, be it the pope, Terri Schiavo, Jesus Christ, idiot liberal loudmouths, gays, God and NRA gun nuts. No one is safe. Some say they are libertarians, I say they are more anarchists. And they’re hilarious, making fun of our very most sacred cows in a manner the Simpsons (which I also love) could never do.

Now, thanks to Brian C. Anderson’s book South Park Conservatives (published by Regenery, of course), the neo-con crowd is trying to usurp South Park as its own and claim that Matt and Trey cater to them and see things as they do. We neo-cons are, they tell us proudly, South Park Conservatives, taking liberals to task for their hypocrtitical tongue wagging and effette Michael Moore-style activism.

There’s grounds for neo-cons to say this: the show has been famously merciless to liberal gas bags like Susan Sarandon and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn. But since Parker and Stone are anarchists and go after all sides with an equal ferocity, the theory of the “South Park Conservatives” falls on its face and implodes. Media watcher Frank Rich provides the proof.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the publication of “South Park Conservatives”: Emboldened by the supposed “moral values” landslide on Election Day, the faith-based right became the new left. Just as Mr. Anderson’s book reached stores in early April, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, true to their butt-out libertarianism, aimed their fire at self-righteous, big-government conservatives who have become every bit as high-handed and meddlesome as any Prius-pushing movie star.

Such is this role reversal that the same TV show celebrated by Mr. Anderson and his cohort as the leading edge of a potential conservative victory in the culture wars now looks like a harbinger of an anti-conservative backlash instead.

In the March 30 episode, Kenny, a kid whose periodic death is a “South Park” ritual, lands in a hospital in a “persistent vegetative state” and is fed through a tube. The last page of his living will is missing. Demonstrators and media hordes descend. Though heavenly angels decree that “God intended Kenny to die” rather than be “kept alive artificially,” they are thwarted by Satan, whose demonic aide advises him to “do what we always do – use the Republicans.”

Soon demagogic Republican politicians are spewing sound bites (“Removing the feeding tube is murder”) scripted in Hell. But as in the Schiavo case, they don’t prevail. Kenny is allowed to die in peace once his missing final wish is found: “If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please for the love of God don’t ever show me in that condition on national television.”

Well, it was a fun theory whole it lasted. But it was a stupid theory, too. Anyone who knows the show knows it was only a matter of time before far-right caricatures like James Dobson and Bill Frist came under fire. They don’t care if it’s a liberal or conservative target. If it’s blatantly idiotic, they’re going to go after it. The Terri Schiavo fiasco was perfect fodder for them, and as the Evangelicals continue to insist on teaching Intelligent Design and banning books by gays, the show will tear them apart. It thrives on lunacy performed in the public square, be it Sean Penn pontificating on Iraq or Tom Delay calling for revenge on “activist judges.”

Read the article; Rich is in great form, and it’s mercilessly funny.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

The regressives also conveniently forget that Trey Parker (or was it the other one?) was interviewed by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine, and was fairly sympathetic to Moore’s POV.

Not to mention the little animation thingie he made for that same movie.

May 1, 2005 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

Well, actually the South Park guy, whichever it was, told a reporter he was pissed at Moore for taking advantage of him. He said he had nothing to do with Bowling’s animation and that he found some of the ideas expressed by the cartoon to be offensive. It only looked like the cartoon had something to do with him because it resembled the South Park style and came on right after his interview. He called the juxtaposition a clever but dishonest use of montage, of which he said Moore was a master.

But the SP guy did find it worth his while to sit down with Moore in the first place. So we can assume the guy has some leftism embedded in in his general anti-establishmentism. It’s just that, politics aside, he is one more guy to have found Moore less than trustworthy.

May 1, 2005 @ 4:47 pm | Comment


But the SP guy did find it worth his while to sit down with Moore in the first place. So we can assume the guy has some leftism embedded in in his general anti-establishmentism.

Nevertheless he made Michael Moore die a horrible death in Team America, so perhaps we can discern prevailing rightism in his leftism embedded in his general…

Please. If we can’t break away from the tyranny of the Left-Right dichotomy when talking about South Park creators, we probably never will. Many people (like Frank Rich) will see no problem with that, of course, but I do think it’s a real shame.

Anyway, for those who insist, here’s what the South Park duo thinks about what Americans call “conservatives” and “liberals”, in their own words:

fuge: are you two guys liberal or conservative? me and my friends have had debates about this.

Trey: We avoid extremes but we hate liberals more than conservatives and we hate them.

Matt: I hate conservatives but I really fucking hate liberals.

And if you follow the link, you’ll find that the poster isn’t exactly a “neo-con” trying to co-opt them.

Also, just for the record, here’s Stone and Parker’s account of their Michael Moore experience:

Matt: It wasn’t so much a falling out. He asked me to do the interview for Bowling for Columbine because I grew up in Littleton, Colorado. So I thought, okay, I’ll talk about growing up in Littleton, Colorado. What he did that made us a little angry is he put an animation in right after my piece in Bowling in Columbine that is very South Park-esque in its look. And I think 99% of the people who saw Bowling for Columbine think Trey and I did that animation.

Conan: I thought it was yours until my producer told me that he talked to you guys. I thought that you had done that animation.

Trey: No no. He asked us if we would do an animated thing for him, and we’re like, “You know, we grew up in Colorado, our parents have guns, it’s just, you know, whatever.”

Conan: I’m wearing a gun right now. It’s just accepted. (Audience laughs)

Trey: Yeah exactly. We strongly believe in guns. So then he kind of did it anyway. So then later when he did Fahrenheit 911, people were like, well, Michael Moore kind of lies and manipulates to make people think certain things. We’re, like, personal victims of that. So we basically decided to make him into a puppet and blow him up. (Referring to Team America movie)

Matt: I mean, he didn‚t explicitly say, “Matt and Trey did this animation.” But he made it look like it. And that’s what he does in his movies. He uses two images together and creates meaning where there isn’t none.

Trey: And he’s fat.

Now is it any surprise that Matt Stone is a registered Republican? While I would never call these guys “conservatives”, I can almost — American political terminologies being weird as they are — understand why some people might take to calling them “South Park conservatives”.

P.S. Bill Frist is a “far-right caricature”, Richard? That’s actually something I could agree with, but I’m afraid “caricature” means different things to us.

May 2, 2005 @ 5:11 am | Comment

By the way, Trey Parker is a registered Libertarian, which probably means he is a libertarian.

May 2, 2005 @ 5:41 am | Comment

I never said he is not a libertarian. I said I think he’s more an anarchist than anything else. He goes after Moore in Team America, he goes after the Frist evangepsychos in the Schiavo spoof. Liberal or conservative, they are all fair game. Think about their ongoing and merciless satire of hunters, a clear snipe at NRA gun nuts. Equal opportunity satirists — no one is safe, and I don’t think either can be classified as conservative or liberal.

May 2, 2005 @ 10:05 am | Comment

My Gawd! Break away from the tyranny of the Left-Right dichotomy? What the hell do you and Richard expect us to do next, Mr. Vamvanij? Reason??? Where is the “Duque de Alba” when you need him? Or at least, the Grand Inquisitor!


May 2, 2005 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

I think you guys are making things overly political and nuanced when they aren’t. The creators of South Park aren’t libertarians or anarchists, they are overgrown kids with a pottymouthed sense of humour taking advantage of contemporary pop cultural perceptions and mercilessly satirizing them.

May 3, 2005 @ 2:41 am | Comment

No Jing, they are muyh more than overgrown kids. They are that, too, which is why they are so endlessly creative. But every episode has a deep moral message, and most of the humor is pointed at topical political/social issues, from antisemitism to liberal elitism to terrorism. The humor is on a very adult level.

May 3, 2005 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

They came out of Boulder, CO, sippin’ coffee at Penny Lane coffeehouse like all the other real hardcore freaks used to chill. The freak population in those parts is very, very small and weak now compared to even 10 years ago.

But of COURSE they talked to The Fat One, if nothing else to see if they could find something to poke fun at!

Boulder is a great place to hone satirical insticts, liberal AND conservative gasbags to offend in a small radius! Tucson is a bit like that, as is Austin and some other places. MUCH more lively than some places, where you only get to poke fun at one end of the idiocy spectrum.

May 9, 2005 @ 12:31 am | Comment

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