South Park and the American Experience (Satire’s Brew)

Satire’s Brew “American Experience” discusses the general and personal experiences Americans face in their daily lives. One of these aspects is freedom of speech and the price that must be paid for it. Another focus is the ever growing division of opinions between the populace in regards to politics and society, in which media plays an exponentially large and leading role. At times, the show South Park touches on some of the hypocrisy, controversy, and overall ridiculousness of the media, politics, and the general population’s thought processes.

In the Crack Baby Athletic Association episode, South Park satirizes the argument of whether or not the NCAA should pay their collegiate athletes, especially considering they are all at risk for injuries. The athletic program brings in hundreds of millions annually through TV and marketing, yet the athletes do not receive a dime since the money goes to administrative expenses, staff and coach salaries, grants-in-aid, and student assistance. Eric Cartman creates a similar association with ill babies and rings in cash for it, yet the babies who need medical help and an improved facility for recovery are not benefiting from the association’s earnings. The association is down right horrific for exploiting babies, but Kyle tries to remedy this by “at least” distributing the earnings to the babies health care and new facility. Again, this episode is a mirror to the NCAA’s exploitation of unpaid student athletes, and it suggests a “gray area” solution.

Obesity is an American epidemic which South Park shed light on in Raising the Bar, along with American’s penchant for “trashy” entertainment, such as reality shows. The show clearly voices its opinion on the obese and how many have abused the health care system, even claiming that the condition is a disease (which in few cases it is). On the other hand, everyone is aware of the health risks that comes with being massively overweight, and Kyle expresses concern for Cartman. Within the episode, the show Honey Boo Boo is picked apart for glorifying obesity, and is an example of how low America’s standards have lowered as a society.

South Park keeps to date with current events and controversies, and the show does a fine job at conveying the ever widening perceptions of left and right. It also does a fine job of mirroring the absurdity of both extremes and offending the extremists, all while remaining neutral. Such is stated in Satire’s Brew: “This quick turn around makes the commentary on current events possible, and when they do weigh in on such controversies, they become the middle voice in the cacophony of left versus right.”(Dunphy 138)

It has been years since the last time I’ve watched South Park. I remember enjoying it thoroughly, but I think the character’s assessment has made the show more than what it actually is: crude entertainment. South Park as a trusted voice that “educates, informs, and entertains”… well sometimes yes, but is this the show’s overall intent? I doubt it. Unadulterated entertainment its main intent. And while the creators are “satirists holding up a mirror to society in hopes of improving it,” (Dunphy 138) I also can’t help but think that this is South Park we are referring to here. The episodes are meant to make us laugh and even offend, although sometimes information and education arises amidst the fart jokes. Again, I believe that some episodes end with the hope of improving society, but most other times the show is simply poking fun at America’s buffoonery.

For what it’s worth, I do agree that it is a better show than the heartless, formulaic Family Guy.

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