East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Like Eminem's "Stan" with the stakes raised

No show in TV history has taken the risks that South Park has, and the current "Cartoon Wars" storyline (torrents), of which the first of two parts has screened, may be a watershed, or their Waterloo. In the episode, national security is threatened when Fox prepares to air an episode of Family Guy featuring Muhammad. Of course here Family Guy stands in for their own show, but they go to some trouble to rip on their colleagues: when a fatwa is declared, a clip of al-Zawahiri plays and is subtitled "Seriously, 'Family Guy' isn't even that well written. The jokes are all interchangeable and usually irrelevant to the plot." (The criticism is sharp enough, but has distracted the blogs from the larger issues at stake.) Cartman decides to take action and proposes riding down to L.A. to get the episode pulled.

Kyle: The writers are standing up and saying they're not going to be intimidated.
Cartman: Intimidated? Is that what you think this is about, Kyle?
Kyle: Alright, dude, what the hell has gotten into you? I don't trust for one second that your sudden concern for the Muslim people is real.
Cartman: Alright, fine, Kyle. Forget the Muslim faith for a minute. People can get hurt. If ten people die because Family Guy just had to have their little joke, will you still think it's funny?

At a South Park community meeting, a professor advises that the best way to deal with the controversy is for everyone to bury their heads in the sand. A man in the audience stands up and begs to differ.

Man in tie: Look, people, it's been real easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. But those are going to come. And one of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have, then we just believe in free speech, but don't defend it.
Randy: I like the sand idea.
Mackey: Yeah, me too.

By the end of this first episode, it's clear where Trey Parker's and Matt Stone's sympathies lie. They're consciously trying to prove that what they do matters, that they defend free speech more vociferously than anyone because they make better use of free speech than anyone. The original Muhammad cartoons were easy to dismiss because they were so poor as art and thought. So Parker and Stone have taken it upon themselves to create a work that's rich -- and that, in the forthcoming second episode, promises to feature an image of Muhammad (who they've shown before, as one of the "Super Best Friends" with Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Sea Man et al, but the climate has changed). Do we praise them? Condemn them? Will they provoke riots? Will Comedy Central let them show it? I don't know, but I'll be watching.


  • At 10:19 PM, Blogger The Fed Ex of Funk said…

    OK, they're standing up for free speech, but where's the funny? The whole cycle off a cliff scene was like watching a train wreck of predictability. Clunk, clunk-cl-cl-clunk, clunk. Wait for it. It blows up. So formulaic. A little piece of me died with that Power Wheel.

    So many opportunities were missed. Kyle's reaction to Cartman's hypocrisy was little more than a raised eyebrow. The Family Guy spoof was OK on paper but delivered poorly. The imitators aren't even trying to get the voices right anymore. Along with last week's episode about hybrid cars, SP just feels like there's no wind left in its sails.

  • At 3:09 AM, Blogger athousandmilesthinking said…

    Holy crap, you're watching television now? I guess television on the internet is different. More... illegal. It's the only way I ever catch South Park now, so thanks for the torrent link. The thing is (Ms Funk), from here on my obscure little isle, it would seem that as America can only expect sideshow entertainment and masterclass absurdism from its politicians these days, the onus on satirical comedy programmes (Jon Stewart, comedian is the official saviour of the left?) to conversely deliver insightful sociopolitical commentary on current events now outweighs the entertainment-motive. That said, I thought it was a pretty good episode. The Cartman feint was powerfully played. I'm still waiting though, for anyone on a serious satirical comedy programme on a major fake news network to point out that all the Iraqi journalists getting killed, and all the Chinese journalists getting imprisoned and tortured, sure would love some of that free-speech-defending that the Western cartoonerati are throwing themselves into at the moment. Yeah, that'd be ...hilarious.

  • At 11:49 AM, Blogger Dickolas Wang said…

    I thought it was pretty funny. Whoever did Peter's voice on "Family Guy" was pretty good at first but then completely lost it.


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