Friday, April 04, 2008

Awful South Park

I need to vent about one of the worst South Park episodes I've ever seen, which aired this week. My annoyance is two-fold. One is that this episode-- a not-even-veiled metaphor about the writers guild strike-- appears to fully take the side of the fat cat studio executives and mock the writers for wanting a bigger share of the pie they created. While Parker and Stone put their money where their collective mouth is (note that I linked to a free internet download of their show), they totally oversimplify the larger issue and put their tired, predictable libertarian slant on it.

My second complaint is that, while their commitment to contemporary issues makes them unique, they often whittle down an issue to a mere fraction of itself and thereby distort what actually happened. I still like the show, but I feel like Parker and Stone haven't matured alongside their fans who discovered them as teenagers. Too often they just end up playing to a new generation of teenagers.

Now I need to admit that the show may have taken a crazy left turn in the last 5-6 minutes and I wouldn't know because I turned it off. But that's my feeling based on what I saw.


Via Chicago said...

Oh boy, well you’ve certainly opened up a whole can of worms here.

For my money, I thought that was a great South Park. Slightly behind the recent Britney episode, but still one of the best in recent memory. Did they take the side of the studios? Sure. But honestly I just don’t really care about their political stance that much. And you must admit – their views are consistent. They are anti-spoiled people, and, in this case, are pro-supporting your fans. Which they’ve always been. The message here was quite similar to the message in Christian Rock Hard (the Napster episode) which is that it’s better to make art for those who appreciate what you do then sit on the sidelines and grump for more. I’ve got no complaints about that. But again, I also don’t care so much. There have been times when I disagreed with their politics (end of the Bin Laden episode comes to mind) but if it’s funny, it’s funny. And to me, the Butters video, the Canadians, the musical number – it was all funny.

I also can’t get behind the argument that they haven’t grown and still cater to teenagers. They have episodes these days that are indeed complex in their views – the Britney one again is the best example of this. I will agree that in the past few season (since season 9 really) they’ve gotten more obsessed with showing graphic gore, which is not my favorite thing, and is a bit teenaged.

I won’t monopolize the conversation here though – but do have a question for Drischord. What are some of your favorite South Parks? Just curious as it helps illuminate what you like about the show.


drischord said...

First let me address why their viewpoint of the writers' strike is stupid. Although the writers are already well-compensated for their work, the reality is that millions and millions of dollars are generated from the work they do. If they aren't getting the money, someone else less deserving is. And yes, I do believe that the "talent" is more deserving of that revenue than management. The example of Comedy Central is a perfect one. Is Comedy Central one of the most popular and profitable networks on cable because the execs running it are so much more brilliant than the ones running Spike TV or CurrentTV or some other network catering to the same audience? No, Comedy Central is successful because of Trey Parker, Matt Stone and the people behind The Daily Show/ Colbert Report. The network is worthless without the shows these people dreamed up. Most network suits are merely placeholders and some could be replaced with computers-- to favorable results. Sure, there have been innovators in the field, like the people who developed target-market advertising or those people who took a chance on a fringe show they believed in. But most people running these networks and studios are just doing what the guy before them did, while people like Parker & Stone created a show that had no real precedent.

The other way that they're wrong is by claiming that there's no money to be made from the internet. If that were true, then the writers and networks/studios never would have fought over that in the first place. The episode made it seem like the writers just wanted illogical sums of money delivered to them, when what the real writers wanted was a percentage of revenue.

Now the writers are stupid, too. They only made those demands because they got so incredibly screwed on DVD residuals-- a place where there really was a lot of money. Whether they were victims of the studios' nefarious deception or their own representatives' ineptitude, I have no idea. But that was at the root of this internet royalties dispute.

As far as my favorite South Park episodes go, I'd have to say I love "Faith Plus One," the "Russell Crowe Show," the "Giant Douche/ Turd Sandwich" episode, the episode where Shelly babysits and sings in her boyfriend's band and "The Passion of the Jew." And then the movie of course. I like the show, and you're right, Via Chicago. They hold pretty true to their values and I love the fact that it's all available online. I hope that when we get as rich as they are, we'll all be equally generous.

Curious to know others' favorite episodes and general opinion about the show.

drischord said...

I should add that when I said Comedy Central is "worthless" w/o South Park, Daily Show and Colbert report, I mean monetarily worthless. Some of those stand-up specials are kind of funny, but that's not where the money's coming from. (And besides, as stand-up goes, HBO is better.)

Quinapalus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quinapalus said...

I mostly agree with Via Chicago. It actually went totally over my head that they were talking about the writer's strike, I thought they were just making fun of Canada...and the internet. I'm a pretty huge fan of the show, but I often have to put aside my political feelings to enjoy it. Quite often, when they make a "statement" of some kind, it's simplistic and silly...what about that Night of the Living Homeless bullshit? Or when they said that Alcoholics Anonymous was worthless? I thought both those episodes were much worse than the most recent one both aesthetically and otherwise.

For what it was, the Canada on strike episode was well crafted and funny, with all kinds of unexpected and hilarious absurdities keeping it interesting throughout. I'm about to make a comparison that's going to sound ridiculous, but I'm only doing it because this is the first example that leaped to my head, and I think it's roughly analogous: when I read Shakespeare, or Tolstoy, I have to put aside all their terrible conservative political leanings and enjoy the art on it's own merit. It's the same with South Park, and once in a great while, South Park will even make a statement about something that totally blows my mind and makes me look at the world in a different the last third of the otherwise revolting Britney Spears episode.

Which is all to say, if you're going to judge the show by evaluating the level of political discourse, there's a lot of it you're going to hate. And personally, my favorite episodes are the ones in which they don't have an agenda, and just let the characters totally drive the story...Scott Tenorman Must Die, My Future Self and Me, etc. But there's something to be enjoyed about the other ones as well, if you let yourself get past the fact that they seemingly can't stop themselves from being preachy sometimes.

drischord said...

I agree that Night of the Living Homeless was awful.