Evaluation Essay of the Television Series (South Park)
South Park is a renowned animation series that first hit our television screens in the year 1997. The men behind the creation of the satirical cartoon series are Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Stratyner and Keller 1). This American television cartoon series targets an adult audience. The name ‘South Park’ originated from a small village in the Colorado state that bears a fictional name that is similar to the title of the series. South Park focuses on lives of four 8-year-old boys residing in a rural isolated village that is commonly referred to as South Park. The four boys, who are the main stars of this television series, are Stan Marsh, Kyle Broslofski, Kenny McCormick and Erick Cartman (Nixon 12). Even though they all reside in the same locality, each of them has discerning traits due to their family background and unique upbringing. For example, Erick Cartman is a self-centered person while Kenny McCormick embodies the personality of a hapless boy whose family is dishearteningly poor. On the other hand, Kyle Broslofski is a staunch Jew born and bred in a Jewish family whereas Stan Marsh is described as being wussy due to his polite and soft persona (Nixon 12). Even though the main characters of this series are children, South Park ironically requires parental guidance for its audience. At the beginning of the animated series, “mature content/parental guidance” disclaimer is usually displayed in capital letters on the viewer’s television screens (Stratyner and Keller 1). The disclaimer is further followed by vital instructions informing the viewers of the fact that the “real” people in the show are fictional and that the cast would be using foul language that is not suitable for children and the underage population. However, despite the given disclaimers and guidelines, a vast majority of people from different age groups got captivated and glued to the animated television series. South Park has been rated as the most watched animated television series program on Comedy Central. Besides being nominated the best comedy series over the years, South Park has won an array of awards primarily with the support it has gained from the viewers. Obviously, it must be interesting to know what exactly attracts the viewers in this series, which is possible through evaluation of the way the topics of gender, race, ethnicity, age and others are developed in the plot of South Park. Therefore, the analysis and evaluation of several episodes of South Park will allow to formulate the message the series sends concerning the topics mentioned above. The basic criteria used for evaluating this animated television series is with regards to realism, plot, characters, entertainment value and originality.
Message of the Series. This American animated series has continuously gained immeasurable popularity over the recent years due to its uncompromising humor. South Park presents itself as a boldly topical satirical series with parody scenarios of celebrities (Gournelos 8). The movie is also depicted as controversial due to different scenes that have been regarded as insensitive. The main objective of the television series is to subvert and question the assumptions of its audience (Nixon 18). Actually, the award-nominated movie that became entitled as South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut utilizes an open disclaimer to attract more watchers. The creators of the movie use reverse psychology as a strategy of attracting more curious viewers to watch as opposed to scaring them away.
Objective on Gender
The animated television series explores the society’s views on gender transformations and sexuality. Since then, the topic of gender transformations has spurred a lot of discussion among the audience. The creators of South Park adopt the controversial issue of transgender to depict a clear picture of what haunts a vast majority of silent citizens in America. The animated series displays the issue of transgender with the help of a character named Mr. Garrison. Mr. Garrison, a teacher by profession, is convinced that he ought to be a woman and not a man as he was naturally created. He further views himself as a woman in a man’s body. Furthermore, Mr. Garrison is portrayed as a gay man who is yet to fully embrace it due to the harsh treatment by the society (Gournelos 180). In one episode, Mr. Garrison is accused of molesting a male student, an act that gets him immediately fired by the principal. At this moment, he begins to embrace his gay status after which he fully accepts his homosexuality (Gournelos 182). Even though people in the South Park village seem to be happy for him, the principal stands with his status by refusing to reinstate Mr. Garrison. In another episode of the series, Mr. Garrison is seen to have made up his mind to seek gender transformation surgery to become a woman. Mr. Garrison thereby undergoes a transgender surgical operation and vaginoplasty in a bid to embrace a feminine look. The operation does not take much time and Mr./Ms. Garrison could be heard enquiring for clarifications from their doctor (Gournelos 181):
Mr./Ms. Garrison: Do I look like a woman?
Dr. Biber: Pretty much.
The new Ms. Garrison is thrilled by her new looks as she embraces new posture, walking style and lifestyle as a transformed woman. Apart from Ms. Garrison, other characters also sought out for plastic surgery, for example, Bebe and Mary (Stratyner 162). Being at puberty, Bebe does not like the fact that her breasts are enlarged. She feels excluded from other children and, consequently, she goes to a plastic surgeon for a breast reduction surgery. On the other hand, Mary is unsatisfied with the small size of her breasts and, therefore, she goes to a plastic surgeon to get breast enhancement. Therefore, this animated series focuses on a society that has seemingly accepted the fact that people could go for a transgender operation to change their gender or better yet go for a plastic surgery operation to enhance or reduce the parts of their body.
Race and Class
In the South Park television series, race has been used to point out political hypocrisy, issues with “tolerance”-oriented legislation and several instances of “forgotten” racial histories in the United States (Gournelos 181). This television series uses race as a factor which is commonly mentioned by different American politicians. Furthermore, South Park displays a certain criticism to the White America. According to Gournelos, “South Park is a town filled with “white trash rednecks” (121).
On the other hand, other races such as the African Americans and the Jews have been included as part of the cast to describe different social classes in the society. In one of the scenes, the African American community got discriminated and flown out of the South Park Estate due to their wealthy status. The Jews also faced racial discrimination in a number of episodes such as S1E05 “An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig”. In this episode, Cartman is clearly heard insulting the Jews using the following words:
Cartman: Why don’t you go back to San Francisco with the rest of the Jews!
Kyle (Who is a Jew): There’s no Jews in Francisco, you retard!
It is thereby clear that South Park develops the topic of racial discrimination and portrays how the today’s society is still haunted with racism which is the main reason for segregation.
Even though the animated series strictly warns its audience to adhere to the parental guidelines, a majority of the viewers are teenagers and young adults. Only 40% of the viewers are adults whereas the rest of the audience consists of teenagers between 13 and 17 years of age. On the other hand, a majority of the movie characters deployed in the series are children, most of whom are still yet to reach puberty (Nixon 12). These children have been regarded as the “cool kids” by most of the viewers, as they have the freedom to use foul or vulgar language without being reprimanded. This acceptance of the inappropriate children`s behavior by the viewers reflects a drastic transformation the society has undergone. Today, one often can hear a child using vulgar language and the F-word while communicating with an adult. While such behavior can be interpreted as sarcasm or a joke in the series, it constitutes a serious societal problem in real life. Thus, in a sarcastic way, the series touches upon the acute problem of children`s behavior and education. Besides, the series is also considered blasphemous due to several scenes that seem to mock the Christian religion and beliefs. In fact, the entire series totally contradicts the Biblical guideline with regards to the use of vulgar or foul language, homosexuality, transgender, and racism among other key vices.
In conclusion, even though the South Park series is considered to depict satirical humor, it also displays a rotten society where certain vices are regarded as a norm. Since in the current society children are not allowed to use vulgar language or change their sexuality, the series exaggerates the real situation while depicting evident changes underway in the society. Thus, the show contradicts religious, cultural and moral norms of the society, but at the same time, it draws the attention of the viewers to the way these norms are not followed in their daily life.
Gournelos, Theodore P. The Tao of South Park: Dissonant Visual Culture and the Future of Politics. 2008. Print.
Nixon, Helen. “Adults Watching Children Watch” South Park.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 43.1 (1999): 12-16. Print.
Stratyner, Leslie., and James R. Keller. The Deep End of South Park: Critical Essays on Television’s Shocking Cartoon Series. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009. Web. 11 February 2017.