Parker and Stone versus MacFarlane

I watched the newest South Park episode tonight, covering both Family Guy and the Danish Mohammed cartoons.

The episode itself almost seemed a little tame, until you realize that this was the setup to pressure Comedy Central to air part two (and for the fans to similarly demand it). It means the rerun value of this episode is minimal, but that's probably okay in the long run.

They actually spend more time insulting Seth MacFarlane and his hit TV show than the Muslim extremists, but promise to deliver even more (particularly against Family Guy) next week...if they are allowed. This whole time, you're supposed to remember that the real story is still the banning of the Tom Cruise episode from last season. Its really again the genius of South Park: blasting the cartoons and a TV show they don't like while the whole time sticking up for the abuses against them.

Remember that South Park has a history of this: it wasn't two weeks ago that they opened up an episode with "previously on South Park" voiced over scenes from a previous episode that didn't exist. Likewise, they also teased a 2-parter with Professor Chaos, only to wrap all the lose plot points up in 5 seconds:
Announcer:Will Professor Chaos' latest plot succeed and be the final undoing of earth? And which boy has been chosen to be the replacement for Kenny? And which of these six South Park residents was killed and will never be seen again? "The answer to those questions will be answered, right now... No. Tweek. Ms. Choksondik.
- Episode 606, "Professor Chaos"

Regardless, it should be interesting. They repeat one of the great criticisms of Family Guy: that its cheap humour using a barrage of sight gags, including references that make little or no sense and are usually throw up in the middle of nowhere completely irrelevent to the plot. This blog makes several of the same points and also a few more. Whilst South Park can't say much about poor animation, they can speak on the rest of the points. Of course, the poor animation means that episodes can be thrown together in just a few days, meaning that South Park can address the capture of Saddam, or Katrina, or Pope Benedict XVI with quick turnaround. Meanwhile, The Simpsons ends up covering current events long after the event itself is over. Family Guy of course does little current event parodying at all: the blog posted above notes Family Guy, like American Dad, is taking on the "easy" targets: FOX News, George W. Bush, tobacco companies, etc. South Park manages to cover both sides of an issue that will slam everybody in range: "Bloody Mary" last season ripped on the Virgin Mary while simultaneously promoting the idea that alcoholics shouldn't abstain from drinking but merely curb it, since they like drinking and its foolish to force them to stop. Likewise South Park came down hard on the anti-tobacco lobby in "Butt Out", used a homosexual slur to describe the goth lifestyle in "Raisins", while still throwing out episodes with such clever ideas as the children obsessed with the magical "future telling device" the girls possessed ("just roll with it if they start lezzing out") or an entire episode devoted to its disturbing ending shot of a dead whale on the moon.

The Family Guy fake cutaways are pretty clever, and remarkably on the mark... you could just picture MacFarlane throwing away his brilliant script idea of Shatner in his Star Trek outfit as the "Captain" in "Captain and Tenille" because Parker and Stone have ruined it. Also remember that any Family Guy ripping on South Park would be airing months from now, only to be subject to a potential reverse-slam from South Park less than a week later: Trey Parker and Matt Stone definitely have an edge over any other program in the insult game. In fact, since Family Guy scripts have to be animated months ahead of airing, its entirely possible that a South Park rip would be known of weeks in advance, giving plenty of time for South Park to have a response ready for 3 days later (South Park airs in the U.S. on Comedy Central Wednesdays, while FOX shows Family Guy Sunday night).

Though the episode was short on laughs, there were a lot of clever lines:
"Now put yourself in the shoes of a Muslim. It's Friday night but you can't have sex, and you can't jack off. There's sand in your eyes and probably in the crack of your ass, and then some cartoon comes along from a country where people are getting laid and mocks your prophet! Well you know, I'd be pretty pissed off too!"

"We bury our heads...in sand."
"No, no, that's ridiculous. What we need to do is just the opposite. Freedom of speech is at stake here, don't you see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Muhammed and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has the right to say what they want. Look, people, its been real easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. But those times are going to come, and one of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have, then we just believe in free speech, but we don't defend it."
"I like the sand idea."
"Yeah, me too."
"The sand idea sounds much easier."

"Its simple television economics Kyle: all it takes to kill a show forever is get one episode pulled. If we convince the network to pull this episode for the sake of Muslims, than the Catholics can demand a show they don't like get pulled. And then people with disabilities can demand another show gets pulled, and so on and so on until Family Guy is no more. It's exactly what happened to Laverne and Shirley."

Update, 3:57pm: A second post on this issue has been put up.


Anonymous said...

Great summary. The episode was genius and shows us again the stupidity of religion and the need to cease beliving in such ridiculous things. If we don't all come to our senses and realise our own mortality without an after life, the future of humanity is pretty bleak.