There’s certain things in life that are just undeniably true. Yeah, those things are few and far between, but occasionally it happens. And just as you’re sure that dropping a burrito from any height will cause it to fall, you can be sure that, at some point, South Park will satirize, and poke fun at, something you’ve thought, or a position you’ve taken up for. Hell, you might even still believe in that “thing” today. This leads to a lot of people being offended. Offended by everything, as is our social leanings in the modern era. I mean, god forbid we discuss anything and challenge our own preconceptions. No, that would be crazy, because if you’re already the “right kind of right,” then why should you have to?
Remember that time you were so right it hurt? God, that was a good time… You self-righteously put so many people in their places. It was quite the sight to see, let me tell you, but what I loved the most about the whole thing was how graceless and indignant you were about it all. That’s what I was really impressed by, or how you brow-beat someone into agreeing with you… I’m pretty sure they just said what you wanted to hear to end the conversation and get you off their backs, but, god damn, it felt good to hear those empty words. Those agreeable and proper pro-nouns, those tweetable platitudes, the “right kind of right” positions. That’s what’s important. That’s what matters, kids! Fuck your Trix, let the rabbit have ’em! That shit’s racist anyways. White kids, white rabbits? Yeah, we see what you’re saying General Mills, and we’re not having it!
This isn’t a war for your mind, no, it’s a war for your heart. You’re feelings are malleable, you know, just like soft sciences and other broad statistically driven information from which people derive their beliefs from. I mean, if these two thousand people we polled about this thing aren’t representative of the entire world, then I don’t know what to tell you. You must be a crazy person. You must not have any respect for anyone. Where’s you’re heart at, bro? Why don’t you feel? WHY DON’T YOU FEEEEEEL!? Well, why don’t you feel the right kind of feelings, I should point out. Listen, we can’t be feeling whatever we want willy-nilly. No, so here’s some literature by “our” approved list of feelings feelers. These should set you down the right path. No, not the right path politically, I’m talking the “right kind of right,” where you are on the political left. You get what I’m saying, right. Be right, but be on the left side of right. No, seriously, this is important. Being semantically correct about arbitrary labels is paramount….
Okay, that was fun. Now I guess I’ll start being serious? Sure, why not. I do have some serious thoughts on these issues. I was, you know, engaging in a little broad satire. I was poking fun, and you know what’s crazy? Not a single person was actually hurt by any of it.
So, this past Wednesday night South Park had it’s 19th season premiere, which, first off, is crazy and made me feel really old, and, secondly, offended those that are easily offended. Who would have thought such madness was possible? You know, while reading a bunch of reactionary think-pieces about the episode and scrolling down my twitter feed(Which, more and more, feels like some kind of “darkest timeline” alternate universe.), I couldn’t help but kind of chuckle as I witnessed the exact behavior that was being lampooned. Sure, superficially they didn’t look like PC Principal, but the attitude was undeniably recognizable. Just because you don’t look a certain way, doesn’t mean you’re impervious to that behavior, to those ideological leanings, that unearned sense of entitlement. You know what I mean, bro? The lack of self-awareness is palpable, and it’s really hard not to make fun. Well, more than I already have, but still….
I think what surprised everyone, those that agree and disagree with the sentiments put forth, was that the idea that being PC was re-contextualized as boorish frat boy behavior. That’s what blew peoples minds. It didn’t have a lot to do with the actual content, or the message. No, it was about perception, which, ironically, was the prevailing joke that lorded over the rest of the episode and it’s contents. Again, that lack of self awareness, and inability to be critical of one’s self, is palpable. It’s almost as if the PC/Social Justice inclined take themselves a wee bit too seriously, and have come together and begun gathering all the power that random blogs(Just like this one!), and 140 characters can muster, declaring South Park as officially “problematic”(Oh, that fucking word…), and therefore irrelevant. Therefore, dead. “It’s been this way for years!” they proclaimed. I guess they just randomly felt like this would be a good time to remind everyone of that.
South Park has always had a precarious relationship with it’s audience. Depending on your social and political leanings, you’ll either love or hate the show from episode to episode.b It’s always been a difficult one to pin down, and often laughs in the face of those that try to. They are equal opportunity offenders, comedy egalitarians, but it normally doesn’t feel completely empty or without a point. Sure, they’ve had a misstep here and there, but it’s never done with malicious intent. If and when they get preachy, it’s always come from a moderates perspective. It’s only in the past few years the term “moderate” has become a dirty word. You know, because advocating for understanding and listening to all sides of a discussion is weak sauce, and denotes a milquetoast attitude. It means you don’t care, because “caring” means drawing a line in the fucking cement, and choosing a god damn side, you reprobate!
In my opinion, extremism on any issue, much less “social politics,” is incredibly misguided. At best, being an extremist is petty and childish/immature, and at worst petty and reprehensible. But no matter what side of the extremist coin a person falls on, one thing is the same: You are asserting yourself as a moral authority. In other words, the “right kind of right.” I mean, you would have to be, right? If what you believe in, if what you think is the unequivocal truth, then my phrasing is fair. In all honesty, though, I don’t blame most of the people that engage in this kind of posturing. Well, up to a certain point, I guess, but in general the reality isn’t as simple. The vast majority of people are well meaning, and kind. They just want to do the “right” thing. It’s important to keep that in mind, when discussing people in broad strokes.
The more unfortunate aspects of all this stuff is that it is wrapped up in reductive and pedantic circle-jerk conversations about identity politics, and privilege; all driven by the fear of being shamed for having an opinion that doesn’t completely fall in-line with whoever you’re engaging with. There’s a legitimate fear out there about discourse, or, to be more specific, the “right” way to have discourse, and only a select few groups are allowed to dictate how these conversations happen and what’s allowed to be spoken about. If you spend even a little bit of time on social media(Twitter, Facebook) you see this kind of thing all the time. People spend more time talking about proper labels than anything of actual substance. How does a persons skin color, gender, or sexual orientation make them more informed? I mean, beyond anecdotally, people have their own “truths,” to be fair, but we all have access to the same information, the same ideas, etc. So, what gives? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that question, but you know what? Good. I’m not sure anyone does. How could they? It would be awfully presumptuous of a person to speak in didactic terms about something as ever changing and malleable as culture and society. Well, in my opinion, anyways. Don’t let that stop you, though.
Oh, good, it hasn’t. Glad we could get through that unscathed!
Before the episode aired, I figured that if there was going to be a controversy about the episode it would have had to do with Caitlyn Jenner. I figured they would have called out reality show narcissist for what she truly was: An asshole. Listen, trans or not, Jenner has been an asshole for a long time. This new period in her life doesn’t change that. Thankfully, we as a society were able to side-step this potential controversy. You see, as part of what I assume is Caitlyn’s “victory lap,” she made her first talk show appearance on Ellen, wherein everyone was apparently shocked to find out that ol’ Jenner wasn’t in full support of gay marriage, and much gnashing and gnawing of teeth was made of it, and now we all have permission to go back to treating her like a piece of shit. A fame whore, piece of shit… I’m sorry, was that over the line?
The second thing that could have potentially courted controversy was the whole thing at the end of the episode with the taco cannon and the Syrian refugees. But no, that’s not what people got in a tizzy over. The thing that bloggers and slacktivists took issue was PC Principal and his PC Bros. The mere idea that someone would criticize the methods by which these group-think bullies spew their inane, “think-tank” born nonsense was unacceptable. They weren’t having it, and took to various outlets to defend themselves, basically, and in doing so identifying themselves as the very things that were being made fun of. Who would have thought? Like I said before, much lack of self awareness occurred.
They were called out for being just what they are, in my opinion. A vocal minority of myopic, single-minded, faux intellectuals that are presumptuous enough to consider themselves moral authorities. Because at the end of the day, what they’re doing has a name. It’s called proselytizing, and the way it’s done is no different than the way it’s always been done. The differences being that instead of pulpits they have twitter accounts and blogs. This, in of itself, isn’t a problem, really. It’s kind of just what people do. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and however misguided I think it is, they should be able to have it be heard. What I find weird, though, what I always find strange, is the uniformity of opinion. Seriously, it’s almost as if this stuff comes off an assembly line. You would imagine that the law of averages would see to this, but, more often than not, it’s found sleeping on the job…
Well, that all came off more aggressive than I wanted it to; than I meant it to, but it’s hard not to be perpetually frustrated by all this stuff. I mean, “PC culture” has gotten so out of control, especially when it comes to our institutions of knowledge, that the President had to make a statement. Yeah, I know it doesn’t take much for that dude to make a statement about, like, anything, but the point stands. Instead of advocating for actual “progress” and understanding, it’s been turned into a self congratulatory circle jerk. The great irony of all this is that this new era progressive politics is being ushered in by single, pasty, white, middle-aged bloggers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read an article or a column on diversity, or how to properly engage with minorities and marginalized people, to get to the end and realize it was authored by some “enlightened” white person.
So, it would seem, that’s the great crime that South Park has committed. You know what though, they did discriminate against one group in particular, one group more than any other: Those who have no sense of humor. Seriously, lighten up, folks.
Growing up, South Park was one of those shows that actually challenged my preconceptions and gave me things to think about. It did what good comedy often does and highlighted some of the more absurd parts of our lives, of our surroundings, and this episode is no different. So, it’s telling that this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. There’s nothing wrong with being socially conscious. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have basic respect for those that are different than ourselves. Just because a show or a comedian makes broad generalizations in order to make a satirical point, doesn’t mean you’ve somehow been “attacked,” or invalidated. Basically, don’t be a fucking idiot.
At the end of the day, people seem to be putting a lot of stock in empty platitudes. If someone is bullied and shamed into supporting a cause or belief, then it’s probably safe to say that they don’t actually believe what they’re saying and doing. Back in the day, we called that being disingenuous, but, hey, that would probably be too correct of a word usage for the modern crowd. I guess we’ll just say it’s “misogynistic.” Yeah, nobody actually knows what that means anymore, and just uses it as a placeholder for whatever, so sure, let’s call it misogynistic.(No, I’m not explaining this joke to you. Stop being a misogynist. Thanks.)