A few weeks ago, I addressed the question of whether Liberals were really right in their idea that they are the best at comedy. They like to cite the success of Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report as evidence of that. But I pointed out, at the end of that article, that The Daily Show wasn’t even the most successful show in the history of Comedy Central. That would be South Park.
I had promised to explain why I thought that South Park has actually done more to change the face of politics in America than either of those two progressive favorites. Last week the premiere of the new season was a blockbuster that many considered one of the show’s best episodes yet. So I guess it would probably be a good time for me to follow up on that.
In last week’s premiere, South Park tackled the subject of the new progressive totalitarianism, as only South Park possibly could. They mocked the college-liberal fake activists by showing just how similar they are to one of the groups they most hate: violent frat boys. Obnoxious pushy bullies who want to force everyone to do what they say or else. In the process, they made it obvious just what a shallow mob these people are.
The PC frat’s chant about being the language police for everyone was hilariously on the mark:
— South Park (@SouthPark) September 17, 2015
“I want to be PC! It’s just the way to be for me… and YOU!”
The climate of fear they create terrifies everyone into not saying anything, without actually changing anyone’s mind, except Stan’s dad (one of the dumbest characters on the show). He joins the PC frat because he always wants to be in on the latest thing, and for the partying. At the ridiculous end of the episode, Cartman tries to fight back by unleashing a literal army of politically incorrect stereotypes against the PCs in retaliation. This pushes Kyle (a target of the PCs’ bullying) to just tell the PCs what they want to hear. No one actually changes, Cartman gets away with it, and the PC frat boys are convinced they made real change. It was an incredibly clever expression of how these fights in colleges and the internet usually turn out.
Liberals often want to accuse the humor they don’t like of being somehow less smart than their approved comedies, because they always want to imagine themselves to be smarter than everyone else. And yet last week’s episode and its metaphors had layers that could fill a book.
But what’s really important about South Park isn’t how smart it is, or how funny it is â€“ even though it is both those things. The important thing is just how many people it has reached. And how the audience being reached is very different from the audience that loves Colbert or Stewart.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that Colbert and The Daily Show were funny. They were. I watched them and laughed often. Now of course, there are lots of other vaguely liberal comedies or comedians that weren’t nearly as funny, which kind of puts the damper on the idea that being liberal automatically makes you funnier. Colbert and Stewart weren’t funny because they were so preachy, they were funny in spite of that.
And the thing about Colbert and Stewart is that they regularly wimped out when it came to subjects or people that their progressive audiences approved of. They could hit really hard at the right-wing extremism of Republicans but played softball with the left-wing extremism of Democrats. A lot of what we saw on those shows, if you strip away the satirical hipster irony, would just come down to completely insignificant liberal Talking Points like “Women Good!” or “Global Warming Bad!” or, most often of all, “Republicans Evil!” That was actually a big part of the appeal for progressive viewers. It was a type of comedy that depended on telling you stuff you already believed and then making you feel smug about believing in it. A big part of those shows was not just that liberals could watch it and make fun of conservatives, but that they would also get to feel like they were so smart just for watching and agreeing.
On the other hand, South Park is Libertarian. It has no problem with mocking the absurd parts of the Left and the Right alike. South Park is not only way funnier than most liberal comedy, it also makes more significant points and pulls no punches.
And it has actually reached more people. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report‘s audiences were largely the already-converted. They were loved by smug, self-satisfied college students fully indoctrinated in the progressive talking points that those shows repeated for the over and over again. Most of the fans were already believers before they even started.
But South Park‘s audience was mostly kids for a lot of its run. Kids, teens and the college stoners who didn’t give a crap about politics but like a good joke about asses. These people were so molded by South Park that it spawned a whole new category of political ideology: the South Park Libertarians.
Source: South Park Studios
The show raised an entire generation of free thinkers distrustful of liberal social engineering douchebags and neo-con and social-con authoritarian assholes alike. The kids raised on South Park never meant to be political, but ended up getting the message every time that Stan and Kyle “learned something today” about how you should never let some self-serving hypocrite trick you into having “authoritah” over you.
You can summarize the Libertarian message of South Park as: “People who think they’re smarter than everyone else trying to run things for the rest of us are almost always actually idiots who screw things up.â€ť That’s a message that a whole generation of young people took up and it’s part of why Libertarian ideals have become so popular with people under 30 who aren’t too busy enjoying the pretentious airs of their own gases. They heard that message, and took from it that no one should get to tell you what you do with your own body, no one should get to tell you what you do in your bedroom, and no one should get to tell you how you have to live or what you should think.
So I would argue that this is a vastly superior form of political comedy. It used jokes to reel people in and then actually changed their way of thinking.
South Park‘s first season was in 1997. The people who watched as teenagers in the first few years are just now hitting their 30s. A lot more are still in college. There are teenage kids who probably watched last week’s episode and maybe got an idea for the very first time in their young lives that maybe these things that all the other media tells them they should believe is something they’re allowed to question after all. How many new South Park Libertarians were born just last week? Maybe more than the number of new Progressives that The Daily Show could create in an entire season.
These kids are already changing the face of the American Right. They might end up changing the whole world.
Photo via southpark.cc.com
Kasimir Urbanski doesnâ€™t write on a specific subject; heâ€™s EveryJoeâ€™s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
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