That park in the south

December 11th, 2013

My parents have always talked about how when they were growing up, they only had three channels available on television, and of those three channels there were only a few shows to watch. Nowadays, the number of shows you can choose to watch on any given day is endless. This is a dangerous thing when you have no life, like I did over the summer. So, yes, I spent my free time checking out new television shows that I had heard good things about. There were a number of really great ones that I got into, but the one that has stuck out to me the most and I can’t help but keep writing about is the infamous “South Park.”

For the longest time, I refused to watch “South Park” because I had heard from a pretty substantial number of people was the show was crude, offensive and tasteless. After watching my first episode, I agreed with this reaction. However, a friend of mine basically forced me to keep watching it, and after just a few episodes, I started looking past all the vulgarity and off-color comments to the main theme of each episode. And, honestly, I can say now that I’m very impressed with both the creativity and audacity of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

They do indeed break boundaries in each of their episodes. No, actually, break isn’t the right word. Parker and Stone straight up OBLITERATE the normal social boundaries that we as a nation have when it comes to media and television programs. However, I have grown to appreciate their nerve in doing so because, in a way, they are doing something that is critical to the populace at this point. They are choosing very controversial topics on which people tend to be both very opinionated as well as very one-sided and present these topics in a way that makes you realize how ridiculous the situation is and how ignorant a majority of us are. Plus, they do so in a way that makes your abs cramp up and tears run down your face from laughing so hard. Or, at least, that’s what happens to me.

An example of a fantastic episode that really socks it to our political system is the episode “Douche and Turd” in season eight. The premise of this episode is that the children of South Park hold elections for who will be the next mascot of the school. The two candidates for the mascot are a giant douche and a turd sandwich. One of the characters, Stan, realizes the stupidity of having to choose one of two completely awful mascots to represent his school, so he decides not to vote. Upon hearing this, his family and friends freak out and go off on him about the importance of voting. The argument his mom brings up, which is an argument I hear a lot when discussing the importance of voting with others, is “Do you know how many people died just so you could have the right to vote?!”

I love this episode because I think it really hits the nail right on the head when it comes to voting. The sad truth is when it comes to political elections, most of the time we are forced to choose between, well, a douche or a turd sandwich. People love to stress the importance of voting, because that’s what they have always been taught basically since they first learned about history and democracy and politics. It’s incredibly disheartening, though, when we are presented with two less-than-satisfactory choices, and we have to pick one to represent our beautiful country. Despite the mocking nature of the dialogue, I think this episode of “South Park” did a wonderful job of shining light on this subject and posing the important question: “How can I make a difference?” The message at the end of the episode is that, in reality, your vote often doesn’t make a difference in the outcome of the election. This, of course, is not always true, and I definitely don’t want my readers to think I’m unpatriotic and think voting is stupid and unnecessary. I am just acknowledging that there is something important to be considered here.

This is not the only “South Park” episode worth giving a watch, because they all, in one way or another, include a social commentary that may be scathing but is almost always on point. I agree that the offensive nature of the show is off-putting in many cases, but maybe we should also stop taking things so personally and start listening to what the writers are really trying to say. I can say that I’m glad I gave the show a chance and have come to love the satirical commentary and in-your-face humor, and I think the same could apply to many others. All you have to do is give it a chance. Best case scenario? You find yourself enlightened on many political and social issues and get yourself a new favorite television show. Worst case? Just turn it off and forget about it. Either way, it’s worth taking the chance in order to expand your perspective of the world.