The political correctness, or PC, takeover of modern culture is an increasingly talked about subject just about everywhere.
The conversation is largely focused on the phenomena’s effect on college campuses. In the most recent edition of The Atlantic, two of the magazine’s main stories are about the overbearing PC presence in every facet of American university life—from class discourse and campus events to the very nature of education itself.
It has also had a profound impact on the relationship between collegiate life and humor. Over the past year, several of comedy’s most prolific personalities (such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld) have completely given up on trying to perform at universities out of fear that their routines will come across as offensive.
Often times, guest speakers, particularly comedians, get their words or messages misconstrued by the hypersensitive college audience, which is why most prefer not to bother with the trouble. It was looking as if comedy had no place in the PC campus.
Then the Season 19 premier of South Park came around on the 16th, in a performance that was “stunning and beautiful.”
The episode, called “Stunning and Brave,” was very well-received throughout the media, gaining praise from all sorts of critics.
In case you haven’t seen it, the episode begins with the kids of South Park Elementary School being introduced to their brand new principle, an intense, overly macho, stereotypical-frat-guy literally called PC Principal, whose mission is to rid the town of its cultural insensitivity, which, if you watch the show, you’ll know it has in abundance. Kyle (who, it is worth mentioning, is easily the most socially considerate member of the main characters) is given two weeks detention for saying that he “doesn’t believe that Caitlyn Jenner is a hero.”
The rest of the episode is focused around Eric Cartman’s plight in trying to get rid of the Political Correctness Principal, including an ill-fated attempt to frame him for sexually harassing another student which results in the PC Principal beating Cartman to the point of hospitalization.
The episode ends with a set of hilarious allusions to Deflategate and with an irresolute victory for the Political Correctness Principal and his violent fraternity of social justice-seekers, suggesting that he will be a recurring character.
South Park’s rhetoric, per usual, is brilliant in this episode. It goes without saying that the PC Principal’s violent takeover of South Park is meant to represent the phenomena’s invasion into society. And they chose the perfect conduit to metaphorically embody the PC invasion—an aggressive, young college student (who somehow is also eligible to be the principal of an elementary school). Their message is clear. Political correctness is so out of control that it has taken away one’s ability to criticize (keep in mind that Kyle never said anything blatantly offensive, only that he personally didn’t see Jenner as a hero). And, it is our generation who is spreading the PC everywhere, principal’s character suggests.
But what is funny about all of this is that South Park’s target audience is us—university students, particularly male, and people aged 18-24. It is immensely popular, having been on the air for nearly two decades and continually appealing to the next batch of young people who become capable of understanding its humor. In fact, it is potentially the least politically correct program in television history, and the most recent episode is no exception.
So many loved the satirization of the “Politically Correct Police,” the mocking of the Poltically Correctness culture. Paradoxically, the very people who enforce the culture also find the humor at its expense to be a breath of fresh air. It is enough to make one wonder if the articles in The Atlantic are right, and if the overly-PC culture on campus places too many restrictions on one’s ability to criticize. Maybe South Park’s popularity proves that the culture is too domineering.
Whatever the case, it is refreshing that even though Jerry Seinfeld is too afraid “to go there” in his comedy routines, South Park and its ridiculous antics never will be. It will always be “stunning and brave”—and above all, remarkably politically incorrect.