Posted: June 30th, 2021
Introduction South Park has been around for a while now. Since it was aired for the first time on 13th August 1997, the show has constantly pushed the boundaries taking on everything, leaving out nothing. The reception among the wider population and the media had a wide range from “shocking” to “excellent”. One of the aspects of this success story is that, because of its provocative tone the show has managed to stay in the limelight.
Public debate was evolving around certain episodes, bringing more and more attention to the show. As it was constantly picking up contemporary themes, topics or events, expectations were growing and “‘How will South Park deal with x’ has become a common catch phrase” Oohnson-Woods 257). Another reason why South Park is so appealing is its humour which is absolutely unrestricted and irreverent Oohnson-Woods 257). Seemingly, the creators of the show do not set any boundaries for themselves, taking on everything and everybody.
Even public fgures and celebrities are not spared. The viewer witnesses events like Barbara Streisand mutating into a giant, destructive monster, Martha Stewart taking a turkey up her ectum, or Ben Affleck having a sexual affair with a nine-year old boy. People apparently enjoy the stylistic, humorous and critical social approach of the show, making it the most successful satire so far. Being full of toilet humour and foul language, South Park is pushing “the boundaries of good taste. Few shows have dared to go where South Park goes” Oohnson-Woods 244). It is also full of introspect and unbiased social commentary’ (Khodasevich 2) and is characterized by its libertarian attitude, which is granting freedom to everyone and especially to itself. As it is a satirical approach to social conventions. South Park tries to make a point on various discourses within our society by “filtering these problems through children” Oohnson-Woods 163, 164). These children are a group of elementary school boys, namely Stan Marsh, the normal kid, Kyle Broflovski, a Jew, Eric Cartman, the fat and selfish kid and Kenny McCormick, who is the timid kid dying in every episode without further recognition.
There’s also several other characters that get developed throughout the seasons. However, it is interesting to point out that it is mostly male characters that grow. Female characters in the show are prevalently portrayed “as he boys mothers, classmates, and authority fgures”, and do “rarely develop past a specific role” (Khodasevich 2). This very fact, among others, “raises many red flags” among feminists (Miller 177). Furthermore feminist criticism is extended to the vulgar language and the derogatory words that are used in labelling females.
Also the prevalent sexual inequality between men and women, namely the sexual objectification that is supposedly depicted makes the show a target for feminist criticism. So seemingly, feminists rarely do belong to the wide fan-base of the show. However, the show is actually, despite the hateful, vulgar, and derogatory language which is often misinterpreted and misunderstood and therefore labeled misogynist, incorporating feminist standpoints and theories like the objectification of women, patriarchal views and stereotypical gender roles, and strongly supporting them.
As sometimes” (177). 2. South Park and Feminism “South Park is a show that can either be considered as “cruelly funny and hysterically satirical [… that] took animation one step backwards and five steps forward intellectually,” or as “degrading toilet humour, depending on your point of iew’ Oohnson-Woods X’). This description by Johnson-Woods is perfectly serving as a transition to the main part of this paper. Is it “intellectually’ challenging or is it simply “degrading” nonsense that feminists and feminist critics can not endorse? . 1 Use of Language Many feminist critics are focused on the derogatory and vulgar language in South Park. The choice of words is, for the most part of the series, bound to swearing and oaths which are mainly used by the male charactersl . Words like “bitch”, “whore” “chicks” or “cunt” are seen as generalizing terms for women, used to degrade their tatus within in the series and thereof for women in real life. This assumption might be conceivable, as most women in the TV-show are far from using comparable phrases to describe men.
There are simply less words which would have the same descriptive and generalizing effect as the above-mentioned terms used for women. However, women in South Park are not expelled from using derogatory and vulgar language. Robin Lakoffwrote in his book Language and Woman’s Place that little girls should not use rough language like boys because this would not enhance their status and prestige among men within the patriarchal system. In fact it would expose females to ridicule and ostracising (5).
Within this scope South Park makes a feminist stand in “Tom’s Rhinoplasty’ (episode 11 of the first season). When Wendy Testaburger is, driven by Jealousy to the new class teacher Ms Ellen approaching her after class to have a word with her, she Just explodes with furious swearing and threatening. Wendy: Miss Ellen, can I talk to you Ms. Ellen: Of course Wendy. Wendy: I couldn’t help but notice that you taking a liking in my boyfriend Stan Ms. Ellen: Well IVe taken a liking in all of you. You’re all so young and cute and full of life.
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