28 votes

In retrospect it seems hard to overstate the cultural damage done by South Park

@danaschwartzzz:
In retrospect, it seems impossible to overstate the cultural damage done by SOUTH PARK, the show that portrayed earnestness as the only sin and taught that mockery is the ultimate inoculation against all criticism

37 comments

  1. [12]
    Death
    (edited )
    Link
    I feel like the whole "Is South Park actually good or bad" conversation has been running in circles for years now, I remember even in 2012 people were already writing op-eds about why it's equal...
    • Exemplary

    I feel like the whole "Is South Park actually good or bad" conversation has been running in circles for years now, I remember even in 2012 people were already writing op-eds about why it's equal opportunity offender stance was kind of a lazy cop-out and how people would use it to justify their cynical or nihilistic worldviews. It seems like it's been getting more popular to be more absolute in condeming the show, and I don't think it helps because it kind of betrays that we're running out of new things to say.

    Personally I feel like South Park has a similar issue to Rick and Morty. Both are shows with fantastic comedic writing and good storytelling chops, they both have a big dimension of commenting on phoniness and some of the absurdities inherent to their settings (society as viewed by the layman for SP, Sci-Fi/twillig zone storytelling for R&M), and they both have ideas in there which show the writing team wants to caution against nihilism and not to take their devil-may-care attitude as a kind of philosophy to espouse. But both shows actually struggle to carry that self-reflective aspect to it's logical conclusion. South Park has some episodes commenting on cynicism and political inertia, R&M has some clear moments of condemnation for Rick, but both shows always seem to reset the clock on things and just carry forward with their regular setting. Whatever commentary on themselves they can have barely matters because it's never consequential and there are just as many episodes that don't have any.

    Compare this to other shows like The Simpsons which kind of held as holy writ that people like Homer needed to face both the good and bad of their own selfish actions, or a show like Bojack Horseman where facing the consequences of destructive behaviour is one of the main themes. These shows don't seem to inspire the same kinds of reactions and maybe that really is because the actual text of the show manages to both have us both enjoy it's cynical takes and also make us reflect on how it can be self-destructive.

    18 votes
    1. [11]
      envy
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      South Park started propagating a clear ideology with ManBearPig in 2006. Scientists were fairly unanimous even back then. South park, in mocking what Gore was saying, instead of attacking what he...

      South Park started propagating a clear ideology with ManBearPig in 2006.

      Scientists were fairly unanimous even back then. South park, in mocking what Gore was saying, instead of attacking what he was saying, was too much for me.

      The concept of ManBearPig quickly permeated social media.

      It created a whole generation [of South Park fans] who dismissed global warming with "ManBearPig."

      [Edit]

      9 votes
      1. [3]
        kodystriplin
        Link Parent
        Which generation dismisses climate change? I would bet that it's not the one that watches South Park. South Park also backpedaled hard on ManBearPig a few seasons back, including highlighting the...

        Which generation dismisses climate change? I would bet that it's not the one that watches South Park.

        South Park also backpedaled hard on ManBearPig a few seasons back, including highlighting the absurdity of people who say "well it's too late to do anything about it now". They could've EASILY stuck to their guns and continued to make fun of Gore and climate change or ignored the issue altogether to save face.

        9 votes
        1. ibis
          Link Parent
          I think the main damage of "manbearpig" was not convincing people to dismiss climate change, but it did convince a generation that it was lame to care too much about it. Who wants to publicly talk...

          I think the main damage of "manbearpig" was not convincing people to dismiss climate change, but it did convince a generation that it was lame to care too much about it.

          Who wants to publicly talk about the danger of climate change when you know that others are going to be sniggering about manbearpig behind your back? I think this ties back into Dana's main point - that South Park convinced a whole generation that it was lame to care about anything too much. Trying to take a stand on literally any issue just set you up for ridicule.

          9 votes
        2. envy
          Link Parent
          Oh sure, the younger generation are much more open to change. The boomer generation are much more likely to be dismissive of global warming. But Boomers use whatever they heard on Fox News last...

          Oh sure, the younger generation are much more open to change. The boomer generation are much more likely to be dismissive of global warming. But Boomers use whatever they heard on Fox News last week, not the ManBearPig line.

          My point remains, that South park did indeed massively damage the American culture by so effectively skewering global warming. I personally don't care if South Park back peddled. The damage is done.

          Now I used to like the show. A lot. So I am not trying to make you feel bad for watching it.

          6 votes
      2. [3]
        Death
        Link Parent
        I think South Park's disbelief of Climate Change being a thing was already pretty clear way before ManBearPig, that particular episode just happened to take aim at Gore when he was in the...

        I think South Park's disbelief of Climate Change being a thing was already pretty clear way before ManBearPig, that particular episode just happened to take aim at Gore when he was in the spotlight because of An Inconvenient Truth.

        And that really seems like it's the only real ideology South Park has: that nothing is sacred, that everything people get worked up over is dumb and stupid, and that everything would be just fine if everyone just settled down. It honestly kind of reminds me of some center-right political cartoonists like Scott Stantis or David Horsey, whose only real political opinions seem to boil down to "everyone else has lost their minds except me".

        8 votes
        1. envy
          Link Parent
          Yes, but I strongly believe there are things worth getting worked up over. Over population/ global warming/ pollution/ the massive loss of earths natural ecosystem is one. The ability of rich...

          Yes, but I strongly believe there are things worth getting worked up over.

          1. Over population/ global warming/ pollution/ the massive loss of earths natural ecosystem is one.

          2. The ability of rich individuals or foreign nations to sway democratic elections in order to make the rich even richer.

          When South Park started attacking what I fundamentally feel is important, I went from loving the show to despising it.

          4 votes
        2. onyxleopard
          Link Parent
          I think the show did a good mea culpa on this topic, though. They roasted themselves (along with other climate change deniers). Only 12 years late! Clip on YouTube here.

          I think the show did a good mea culpa on this topic, though. They roasted themselves (along with other climate change deniers). Only 12 years late! Clip on YouTube here.

          4 votes
      3. [4]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        I think most of the millennial generation gets it about climate change. The South Park bit gave the shitheads among us a thought-terminating cliche to not have to accept it, but they're still a...

        It created a whole generation who dismissed global warming with "ManBearPig."

        I think most of the millennial generation gets it about climate change. The South Park bit gave the shitheads among us a thought-terminating cliche to not have to accept it, but they're still a minority. I wouldn't say it "created a whole generation."

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          envy
          Link Parent
          Have you been exposed to rural America? It's a whole different world out there.

          Have you been exposed to rural America?

          It's a whole different world out there.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Rural America is the object of severe brain drain. Most young people who can leave, do and the ones left over are the ones who chips on their shoulders about the system that left them there that...

            Rural America is the object of severe brain drain. Most young people who can leave, do and the ones left over are the ones who chips on their shoulders about the system that left them there that manifests as all kinds of anti-social behavior.

            1 vote
            1. envy
              Link Parent
              So we agree? I didn't mean the whole younger generation is at fault, I should have stated that a significant portion of those that grew up watching south park were influenced against even thinking...

              So we agree?

              I didn't mean the whole younger generation is at fault, I should have stated that a significant portion of those that grew up watching south park were influenced against even thinking about global warming by ManBearPig.

  2. [2]
    rkcr
    Link
    Maybe it's because it's a tweet, but this feels like a really vague complaint without any evidence. I'm not even sure what the author is complaining about. Is it that the author of the tweet...

    Maybe it's because it's a tweet, but this feels like a really vague complaint without any evidence. I'm not even sure what the author is complaining about. Is it that the author of the tweet doesn't understand satire, or that the earnest characters are foils against the things South Park is satirizing?

    15 votes
    1. TheJorro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Is that not Twitter? A very limited character allowance with which to share ideas, which means almost nothing seems to be substantiated enough to fight off misunderstandings or misgivings, and...

      Is that not Twitter? A very limited character allowance with which to share ideas, which means almost nothing seems to be substantiated enough to fight off misunderstandings or misgivings, and there's no room to navigate and build nuanced views unless you basically split a proper sized argument into 10+ Tweets, or use Twitlonger to basically circumvent it entirely.

      She dropped what is basically a thesis without argument and now nobody knows exactly what she means, or how to interpret it. You're basically left to your already preconceived notions and suppositions and to interpret the thesis how you will, with no clear guidance. Even here, off of Twitter but with only some Tweets to discuss, the comments are all over the place: snarky Tweet content in indirect response, suppositions about what she's talking about, shots in the dark about her character and intentions, and kneejerk defenses.

      How much real discussion does Twitter really create? What few good things have come out seem to be more the exception than the norm, since for every good Tweet there's always about a dozen bad ones if you scroll down. I swear, you can trace the steep rise in internet toxicity and misinformation campaigns with the rise of Twitter becoming the most important and primary avenue of discourse.

      13 votes
  3. [8]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    I was okay with the thread – not caring about South Park, just looking into the cultural overview of an important piece of the American zeitgeist – until this tweet popped up: In other words, "I...

    I was okay with the thread – not caring about South Park, just looking into the cultural overview of an important piece of the American zeitgeist – until this tweet popped up:

    To be clear, I don't blame the show itself as much as I do the generation of boys who internalized it into their personalities. Which maybe isn't the show's fault!

    In other words, "I blame the boys who have internalized into their personalities the same vices the show's been promoting". Which is... myopic? I'm assuming she means "boys" as in "adolescent males" (rather than a playful reference to adult men)? In which case it's indefensible to claim that the kids are somehow responsible for having the only source of their mental architecture be South Park.

    "Even though I think it's likely that the show has had an effect on a whole generation of boys, given more than a handful of connections present between the generational outlook and the characters portrayed in South Park, maybe it's not the show's fault! I do directly say that the show's inflicted cultural damage, but of course, who knows with these things!.."

    I can't help but see Dana's argument as at least a little bit disingenious, especially when you also take the final two tweets of hers in the thread into the account: one is a picture of a list of replies by "some very normal well-adjusted south park fans!" (all of which are different degrees of nasty, but it's the stance she takes that throws me off), and the other is "If you are offended by this tweet I'm sorry you're so easily triggered!!!!!!!!". The latter could be mockery of the mockery – the reference to the "butthurt" culture – but... uhhhhh... I dunno.

    8 votes
    1. [6]
      Death
      Link Parent
      Honestly the tweets you referenced kind of make it seem like she's trying to have her cake and eat it too: "Maybe it's the shows fault, but maybe also it isn't? Maybe I'm trying to make a point...

      Honestly the tweets you referenced kind of make it seem like she's trying to have her cake and eat it too: "Maybe it's the shows fault, but maybe also it isn't? Maybe I'm trying to make a point but maybe I'm also just joshing and if you're angry it's actually you who are the loser".

      It's kind of confusing to start of trying to call out a show's intellectual cowardice and then immediately retreat into plausible deniability.

      9 votes
      1. [5]
        Grzmot
        Link Parent
        So in short, the classic completely pointless "conversation" led on Twitter.

        So in short, the classic completely pointless "conversation" led on Twitter.

        14 votes
        1. [4]
          Eylrid
          Link Parent
          Twitter is a spectacularly terrible place to debate anything. Nuance doesn't fit in 280 characters.

          Twitter is a spectacularly terrible place to debate anything. Nuance doesn't fit in 280 characters.

          5 votes
          1. [3]
            teaearlgraycold
            Link Parent
            Should we even allow tweets as a topic on tildes?

            Should we even allow tweets as a topic on tildes?

            2 votes
            1. MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              Perhaps it depends on whether the tweet is on the scale of a declaration of war? Truly momentous things can be short too.

              Perhaps it depends on whether the tweet is on the scale of a declaration of war? Truly momentous things can be short too.

              1 vote
            2. NaraVara
              Link Parent
              Some twitter threads can be pretty interesting. Or this. They're usually anchored to an article on a non-twitter site, though not always.

              Some twitter threads can be pretty interesting. Or this.

              They're usually anchored to an article on a non-twitter site, though not always.

              1 vote
    2. krg
      Link Parent
      Getting pre-defensive gives you a bit of a pass for dealing with critique. SORRY IF THIS UPSETS YOU, SNOWFLAKE. (i don't even know if i'm using the right-wing version of "snowflake" or the...

      Getting pre-defensive gives you a bit of a pass for dealing with critique.

      SORRY IF THIS UPSETS YOU, SNOWFLAKE. (i don't even know if i'm using the right-wing version of "snowflake" or the appropriated left-wing version...)

      1 vote
  4. [5]
    krg
    Link
    Edgy assholes will be attracted to edgy asshole shit. I haven't watched South Park in a while*, but I felt it was at least a bit smarter in their edginess than some other satiric shows. Well,...

    Edgy assholes will be attracted to edgy asshole shit. I haven't watched South Park in a while*, but I felt it was at least a bit smarter in their edginess than some other satiric shows. Well, smart in the sense that it was self-aware of it's own dumbness as a cartoon. Of course, with any brand of satire you run the risk of attracting people that don't see the satire but instead see the stereotypes...and, maybe that ends up being most of the people.

    Should satiric art take into account the fact that many people aren't able to get past face value? I'm sure this is a topic that has been dealt with...


    * the last episode I think I watched (that left an impact) was You're Getting Old, which was a caution against cynicism.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      Death
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I mean "clarity of purpose" is something people sometimes argue satire requires to be effective. But I'm not sure it's universally achievable, if only because somebody may just choose to...

      Should satiric art take into account the fact that many people aren't able to get past face value? I'm sure this is a topic that has been dealt with...

      I mean "clarity of purpose" is something people sometimes argue satire requires to be effective. But I'm not sure it's universally achievable, if only because somebody may just choose to reinterpret something satirical as completely genuine anyways, consciously or subconsciously. I've seen people argue that Startship Troopersn by Paul Verhoeven fails as satire because you can very much just take it as face value and not think about what it is actually trying to say, I don't agree that that makes it functionally the same as not-satire.

      But you can contrast this with Verhoeven's other notable work of Satire: Robocop, which seems much less divisive as to whether or not it's satirical or genuine. Maybe it's simply a matter of how ridiculous the diegesis of the world gets, or maybe it's a question of Robocop not being easily reinterpreted as somehow glorifying police militarization and unfettered corporatism.

      5 votes
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        It's a tough balance to strike, because a lot of people are really really dumb and don't think too hard about what they're looking at. By this standard, I'm not sure if anything could ever pass...

        I've seen people argue that Startship Troopersn by Paul Verhoeven fails as satire because you can very much just take it as face value and not think about what it is actually trying to say, I don't agree that that makes it functionally the same as not-satire.

        It's a tough balance to strike, because a lot of people are really really dumb and don't think too hard about what they're looking at. By this standard, I'm not sure if anything could ever pass the bar for satire. Just think about the people who got mad that Star Trek had political themes of inclusivity and equality in it. There were people arguing that the damn Twilight Zone remake was too "political." People watch Goodfellas and think the mob life is good and cool even though everyone ends up dead with their families wrecked or hating them.

        It's kind of like with pop music where most people just care about the beat and rhythm and don't pay attention to the lyrics at all. With movies and TV, people just fixate on the visuals and don't pay attention to the content at all. If something looks cool or badass they're down with it and they don't even pay attention to what is actually happening in the plot or how cause and effect works. There are just events and scenes without sequence to them.

        4 votes
  5. ubergeek
    Link
    This smacks me of complaints about "Doom" promoting mass shootings, personally.

    This smacks me of complaints about "Doom" promoting mass shootings, personally.

    8 votes
  6. [2]
    moocow1452
    Link
    I was always of the opinion that South Park was a response to cynical patterns of thought, rather than the cause and inspiration. People made the show popular because it pulled no punches and...

    I was always of the opinion that South Park was a response to cynical patterns of thought, rather than the cause and inspiration. People made the show popular because it pulled no punches and wasn't like anything else that was on, it didn't create the idea of cynical nihilism out of whole cloth so much as enforce what was already there, and if it wasn't South Park, it would have been something else.

    6 votes
    1. onyxleopard
      Link Parent
      I also perceived a decrease in the puerility of the show over time. Maybe that was just the creators maturing, or my own maturing. If I go back and watch earlier episodes, there seems to be a much...

      I also perceived a decrease in the puerility of the show over time. Maybe that was just the creators maturing, or my own maturing. If I go back and watch earlier episodes, there seems to be a much higher nihilism:satire ratio. It’s hard to separate my own experience from the show’s creative direction and the overall shift in collective cynicism that I think America has seen over the last few decades (basically my entire life), because the show has seemed to keep up in tight lock step with the culture.

      2 votes
  7. JamesTeaKirk
    Link
    I don't know what "cultural damage" really means. South Park was absurd for the sake of being absurd. I could have predicted that Dana would bring up ManBearPig, as it's the only example I know of...

    I don't know what "cultural damage" really means. South Park was absurd for the sake of being absurd. I could have predicted that Dana would bring up ManBearPig, as it's the only example I know of that really giver her overall point any weight. The episode missed the mark (as did many other shows of the time, i.e. "Bullshit!") about climate change and so they addressed it. I would say they have a pretty good record for the hundreds of episodes they've aired.

    I'm really confused by what point she's trying to make, it seems like she just doesn't enjoy absurd humor. Maybe I'm just one of those "boys" who has been culturally corrupted by Cartman.

    5 votes
  8. [3]
    DanBC
    Link
    This thread sums up how I feel about South Park. This, from Reddit, is pretty good too. https://twitter.com/_aaronbnb/status/1228020462535315456?s=20

    This thread sums up how I feel about South Park. This, from Reddit, is pretty good too. https://twitter.com/_aaronbnb/status/1228020462535315456?s=20

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Tried to go find the original comment, but it seems to have been deleted. I grabbed the copypasta instead. https://www.reddit.com/r/copypasta/comments/6i2zg6/the_truth_about_south_park/ This...

      Tried to go find the original comment, but it seems to have been deleted. I grabbed the copypasta instead.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/copypasta/comments/6i2zg6/the_truth_about_south_park/

      South Park has always been fundamentally reactionary; those pushing for change are wrong no matter what change they push for. Nothing is a bigger crime to Matt and Trey than Giving a Shit. Their ideology is apathetic-libertarian; whether you're on the left or the right, if you're asking me to change my behavior, you suck.

      Manbearpig was almost ten years ago. What an idiot Al Gore was to think climate change was real. As it stands, the political left tends to push for more change than the political right does; as it stands, Matt and Trey admit they dislike conservatives and "really fucking hate" liberals. It isn't about left or right; it's about change versus comfort. If you're trying to change something, they think you're annoying. And they think you're lame, because caring about stuff is lame. It's the same attitude that establishes "u mad" and "butthurt" as the ultimate trump cards in internet arguments: caring is for losers, and if you become personally invested in politics you're part of the problem.

      Uncritical, detached acceptance of the status quo is the only morally upright posture, and those who draw a distinction between is and ought are all smug bullies, outlandish freaks, and/or closed-minded zealots. It's a show that teaches its audience to become lazy and self-satisfied, that praises them for being uncritically accepting of their own biases, and that provides them with an endless buffet of thought-terminating cliches suitable for shutting down all manner of challenges to their comfort zones. South Park is a place where you never have to have your assumptions challenged. It's a place where you're always right, you shouldn't bother to think, and the people asking you to change your mind are annoying busybodies and prigs who should just shut up and leave you alone. South Park is, if you'll excuse the expression...a "safe space."

      This helped me understand why I've always been uncomfortable with people who really enjoy South Park. Satire has a critical role in social commentary, but the flavor of SP's satire is one of universal apathy. Making fun of everything is somewhat admirable to an extent. Having the self awareness to criticize even the things that matter to you takes courage. However if nothing matters, then there is nothing left but distain and apathy, and trolling people for lols.

      14 votes
      1. JamesTeaKirk
        Link Parent
        I suppose I would argue that SP has little to do with a cultural shift toward apathy that I see as inevitable either way. I can understand the argument that SP participates in a toxic form of...

        I suppose I would argue that SP has little to do with a cultural shift toward apathy that I see as inevitable either way. I can understand the argument that SP participates in a toxic form of satire. I think that's really relevant in today's world where (probably because of social media) it seems difficult to have an interaction that doesn't become toxic. I think South Park had an important role in a time where we were just starting to get over our cultural religious/moral hangups as a society. I can concede that it has overstayed it's welcome and that its brand of satire is lacking the level of nuance you need in today's cultural environment.

        1 vote
  9. culturedleftfoot
    Link
    I've never particularly been a fan of South Park, having just watched the odd episode here and there, but this seems a pretty textbook blame-the-symptom-not-the-cause scenario. I'm not familiar...

    I've never particularly been a fan of South Park, having just watched the odd episode here and there, but this seems a pretty textbook blame-the-symptom-not-the-cause scenario. I'm not familiar with this person or her work, so I've reached a couple questions since looking her up.

    • How exactly should I take her retrospective seriously if the show came out when she was four years old? in other words, what frame of cultural reference does she have for a world without/before SP?
    • Why is her opinion any more (un)notable than any other rando on Twitter? I'm not sure why I should care about her having a possibly misguided, mildly controversial opinion.

    The Twitter thread isn't helping me figure out the answer to either. *shrug*

    4 votes
  10. nothis
    Link
    Wow, so I’m not alone with that opinion? I’ve long found it baffling what Southpark gets away with.

    Wow, so I’m not alone with that opinion? I’ve long found it baffling what Southpark gets away with.

    3 votes
  11. JamesTeaKirk
    Link
    Blaming a cartoon for people being toxic seems like an easy cop-out.

    Blaming a cartoon for people being toxic seems like an easy cop-out.

    7 votes