South park and the american culture

Essay Goals

  1. To explore the process of representation on television with some depth. 
  2. To conduct close textual analysis of a set of related episodes or shows.
  3. To apply the theories and approaches of course readings to an analysis of television.
  4. To provide critical insight into television as institution and as text.

Basic Requirements

  • Approximately 8-10 pages or 2000-2500 words
  • Use at least 2 outside academic sources (See General Requirements below)
  • Draw upon class readings and lectures
  • Analyze at least 3 representative episodes from one or more shows. So you can analyze 3 episodes of a single show or one episode from 3 different shows or 1 and 2 or 2 and 1 or 2 and 2, etc.
  • Format according to APA style
  • Include a bibliography or works cited page

Essay Questions

You may come up with your own topic as long as it fits within the course. If you have any concerns about your topic, discuss it with Jody or your TA.

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You are asked to write an approximately 2000-2500 word analysis of a TV show or shows that focus on the issue of social representation. You must provide a close analysis of at least three different shows/episodes. Essays must be relevant to class texts and lectures. You are required to draw upon class materials and least two outside academic research sources. You may use or adapt one of the following questions. Feel free to modify these questions. Lectures and readings should clarify the significance of all of the following.


I chose:


Consider animation’s relentless critique of both television and the culture as a whole. In the last few decades, animation has positioned itself outside the mainstream and has offered some brilliant social and ideological commentary. Long past are the days of the Flintstones and the JetsonsThe Simpsons, South Park and Adult Swim, Ren and Stimpy all offer intelligent, sophisticated cultural critique wrapped in the façade of crude humor and fart jokes. And yet… And yet why does The Simpsons always end in family unity and harmony? Why do we love Homer, Hank Hill, Daria, Peter Griffin, and even Cartman so much? How does a show like Bob’s Burgers redefine the TV family? Can the grotesque be considered subversive? If so, what exactly does it subvert?

  • How does a show like Happy Tree Friends challenge a culture obsessed with cuteness?
  • How do animated family show undermine the norms and values of the sitcom?
  • How do these new animated shows embody the carnivalesque and the grotesque?
  • In what ways are these shows self-reflexive toward television?
  • How do these shows challenge dominant beliefs by representing alternative characters, lifestyles and situations?
  • How might an animated family like the, Hills, Morgendorffers, Belchers, Griffins, or Smiths expose the economic conditions or the predicament of the middle or working class in ways live action shows do not?

Begin by thinking of the ways these animated shows stand in opposition to the traditions they draw upon. Try to recognize the ways they refuse or openly mock traditional values, beliefs and ideologies – like of middle-class decorum or the nuclear family. What do they express for us and how do we account for their popularity? Think about what the Flanders represent or the ways South Park takes on current issues and controversies. Consider the ways a show like King of the Hill exposes and mocks, in subtle ways, the values of Middle America in the flyover states.


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