Sunday, March 15, 1998

The secret of "South Park" is ...

It's a buncha cute little construction paper cut-out kids in a cute cartoon show.

Various media critics suggest the show's cute, deliberately amateurish animation style lets Matt Parker and Trey Stone get away with their disgusting over-the-top satire. (Kenny's violent death every week, talking turds, etc.) I say it's the other way around.

All the torture, mutilations, fire, death, anal-probes and cuss words give cool young adults (who'd never be caught dead watching, say, a Peanuts special) permission to enjoy watching a cute cartoon show. It's a warm batch of nostalgia disguised as sulfuric acid.

Teens and twentysomethings can return to the happy days of childhood, and keep their Rage Against the Machine CD collection. To be fair, Parker and Stone can happily throw sulfuric acid on all the targets they hate. Which seems to be everyone involved in show biz, marketing and the relentless popculture churn besides Parker and Stone.

This gave me the wrong impression at first. The endless GenX popcult references. Brian Boitano, Scott Baio, blahblah. Who the fuck are these people? I didn't watch their shows. Why the fuck should I care?

I assumed it was star-fucking. Trendy name-dropping. Parker and Stone, stroking their GenX audience. Hey, you get the references! That's how cool you are! Wrong. Now I get it. Parker and Stone are slapping their audience in the face. You're obsessed with actors and TV shows? You're a bunch of fucking idiots. You think trends are important? You're a bunch of fucking lemmings. But they have it both ways. There's shameless nostalgia too. Stone and Parker clearly dig The Cure.

They also dig satire. Multilayered, intelligent satire that refuses to be pinned down to a left/right position. OK, the animation sucks ass. But it's some of the smartest, funniest comedy writing on television. Call me crazy, but I detect a Monty Python influence. On American TV?

They get away with it. The show's cute.

As R. Crumb observed long ago, you can get away with anything if it's cute.

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