Thursday, September 17, 2009

"South Park" -- Closet Religious Guys?

All in all, I have an enormous amount of respect for Trey Parker and Matt Stone and "South Park." Timmy and Butters and Tweek are three of my favorite fictional characters ever. I find the episode where Timmy has a pet turkey named Gobbles to be profoundly moving. If I'm not mistaken, this was the one and only time Timmy ever said anything other than "Timmy!" He said: "Gobbles." And, two words: "CRIPPLE FIGHT!!!" That's just magnificent TV.

I know, they make a lot of fun of religion. On "South Park," for example, God looks like this:

Their reaming of Scientology is justly famous, and it cost them their longtime cast member Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist.

But I think I have to call them out for being soft on religion. What first concerned me was the ending of the episode where the Marshes have Mormon friends. Sure, Mormonism was made fun of, but the kid who was briefly Stan's friend had the last word. He tore Stan a new one for pointing out that Mormonism was "Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb." I believe his little speech wrapped up with something like, "You've got a lot of growing up to do, Stan. Suck my balls."

And then last night I saw the episode with the Jonas Brothers, and Mickey Mouse is their abusive manager, and they want to stop peddling sex to little girls, but it looks like Mickey really has them in a jam, until he's exposed when the kids get him on audio when he's going on backstage about the master plan, winding up with how stupid Christians are. That statement is put into the mouth of an arch-fiend, Mickey Mouse.

And I also vaguely remember Stan wrapping up some episode with a wishy-washy feelgood monologue about tolerating religious people and how hardcore atheists are just as much huge douchebags as religious nuts.

And, of course, Jesus is a recurring character, and although He's pretty ineffectual, He's also presented as being a pretty nice guy.

Maybe He was. (If he existed.) And Parker and Stone are right that a lot of Mormons are just awfully nice. And perhaps Parker and Stone is also right about Disney enriching itself by cruelly manipulating guileless Christians.

So what exactly am I so upset about? That's a tough question. This is the point where I usually become inarticulate from anger. Not just in discussions about "South Park"'s treatment of religion, but in discussions about religion generally. I suppose I'm angry because I'm accused of intolerance. I haven't tortured or executed anyone because their beliefs converge from mine. I'm not interfering with scientific, historical, philosophical, or theological inquiry, or teaching anyone that certain sexual orientations are evil. I am not preventing anyone from attending religious services or handing over their money to religious organizations. I'm not withdrawing my friendship from people because they have religious beliefs. I'm not insincerely playing on people's religious beliefs in order to get their money.

Why exactly did Parker and Stone have that Mormon kid tell Stan off? What exactly did Stan do that they themselves don't do on a regular basis?

The inarticulateness is here again, unfortunately. Anger is welling up inside of me, making me feel congested in my chest and clouded in my thoughts. I think I'm angry because I feel an inconsistency here: apparently it's all well and good to mock religion as it's done on "South Park," but only in an agnostic way. If you cross some line from agnosticism into atheism, or from criticizing dogma to criticizing believers of dogma, you're a douche, apparently. Sorry, this post may be a jumbled mess, but it was that or just be silent. This is the best I could do at the moment.

1 comment:

  1. I thought last night's episode was hilarious. Even though it was evil Mickey who called Xtians stupid, remember that the whole reason the guys were even there is because wearing the purity ring (which seems to = xtianity) had turned Kenny into a douche. Also, the ep was no so much about religion as it was about Disney, the general mass marketing of sex, etc. I also seem to remember, in the very early days of the show, it was traditional for Stan to make a soppy speech at the end of the ep and be completely ignored by the others. The original 'christmas card' that started the SP phenomenon ended with Stan making a speech about the meaning of Christmas.