South Park and Choosing to Care

I was a late comer to the South Park train. While a lot of kids were watching it all the way back in ’97,  I was aware of the show, but never seemed to see it. Comedy was a big part of my life growing up, though. I remember watching things like Mystery Science Theater on Comedy Central late at night and Comic View on BET when I happened to be over at my sister’s late enough.

I had a healthy appetite for comedy.

South Park was edited and aired in syndication around the time I was in high school, I think. By then I was old enough to get a lot of the jokes and the movie had come to cable, which I had seen a few times. I had a South Park shirt and considered myself a fan of the show. I thought the guys writing it ‘got me’–that they were the kind of guys I wanted to be like. I didn’t just want to not care on a personal, emotional level. Not caring needed to be the default reaction when faced with almost anything.

When you’re fifteen or sixteen it’s easy to see how this world view applies to you. It’s hard to find somewhere to fit in and when you’re already attending a school where graduating classes numbered under fifty students there was a good chance that you might not have the friend group that even outcasts had at bigger schools. Not caring seemed like a good way to deal with the pressure. What you don’t care about can’t hurt you.

South Park takes that to a deeper level. It poked fun at everyone, a thing I once greatly respected. It reinforced my notions about the world, or it reinforced the notions that I figured I should have: gays are weird and okay, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, but you’re not doing any disservice by calling people faggots as an insult. The younger generation is past racism completely, so all that’s left is to let all of the older people die off (there’s no way that racism is still really affecting us!). The choice between Presidential candidates means nothing, they’re both horrible.

From about ages fourteen to twenty I probably held some version of these beliefs and others that lined right up with the show. I didn’t mind when they took aim at targets that I cared about or liked or believed in. It was okay because they were making fun of EVERYONE, right?

As long as you’re indiscriminate in your fun poking, what’s the harm?

Fast forward to I’m thirty and I still love comedy. I still can’t get enough crude humor as evidence by being able to quote Louis CK and Hannibal Burress’s albums like scripture. Until a few months ago I thought South Park had been canceled. No one had mentioned the show in years around me (probably a testament to having friends that are ‘keepers’).

The internet was set on fire by this past years South Park seasonal target. PC culture, the new boogeyman of the Alt-Right, Brocialists, and just your garden variety bigot. This isn’t to say that there isn’t problems with hard-left liberalism, but to hear some people talk about it liberals are to blame for terrorism, the break down of the American family, and pretty much everything else under the sun.

To see South Park make season long antagonists out of PC culture seems less like the brave thing that people always claim that the show is and more like the expected thing for an audience that grew up watching the show. A lot of them became the adamant Bernie Sanders supporters that refer to Hillary Clinton as ‘a cunt’ every chance they get and don’t understand why it’s sexist (and unwarranted). They are the ones who refuse to look at race, sexual orientation, or gender even when it’s undeniably a factor (Elliot Rodger shooting, for instance).

I was a lot more moderate the right leaning when I started watching the show and I would say that I was more easily offended back then.  Me now still has a bit of that don’t care attitude. But I care when it counts. I care when you’re selling me a value system that’s flat out wrong and trying to reinforce views that don’t really work.

Yeah, it’s just a show. South Park isn’t the news or some politically commentary, except that it’s being used that way this past season and people have cited it before in the past to refer to their views. There are still some moments from the show that I can relate to, everyone expecting me to just like Family Guy because of my sense of humor (spoiler alert, I’ve hated Family Guy for almost the entirety of it’s run), but I think that I outgrew South Park years ago. I’m kind of glad that I did.

Some things are important to me and I don’t see that as a fault. Equal representation of all races and genders (at least in the sense of how they’re portrayed, because not all situations would have all types of people there) is important to me. Caring about politics is important to me, being well informed, and who gets elected is all important to me. PC culture isn’t such a dangerous thing that you need to go on about it for thirteen episodes or how ever long their seasons are.

And yeah, maybe the nearly one thousand words I spent on this was too much care, but I think it extends to more than South Park. And more importantly, it’s something that is relevant, because we live in a world where people actually don’t care enough.

Orlando

It’s one of them ones. These days come all too often.

Our country has been hit by tragedy after tragedy (from my perspective) since Oklahoma City (1995). Sure, you can look back and find Jones Town or something like that, but for the people right around thirty those things seem like the distant past. We’re never more than a year from the next school shooting, the next terrorism act, the next letter bomb, hijacking attempt, or mass shooting. While most of those things are spread out, the mass shootings have been like the grout that hold these events together.

There’s been over 160 mass shootings in the US since 2000, a number that seems to have increased after the turn of the century. 

Yet I’m shocked every time that it happens. You’d think after about twenty years of this shit-show and the last sixteen years of it being in overdrive, I’d be used to it. Orlando, Florida has just proven that I’m not and that really is how is should be.

We shouldn’t be used to fifty people dead because of who they loved and choose to spend their lives with. We shouldn’t be used to the conversations follow this; the excuses about guns not being the issue and the play that it’s emotional to try and do anything in the wake of tragedy. I’m sure the detractors will trip over themselves between deciding if they should be calling for more pressure to be put on Muslims, trying to defend guns, or worse–blaming homosexuals for what happened.

We shouldn’t think that those possibilities for this conversation could go down like that, but they probably will. I know my America and my America hasn’t been the best place lately. No man with a gun could change that.

Fifty human beings died because they choose to be themselves and it’s a tragedy. If you can’t tell I support gay rights mostly because who someone loves is none of anyone’s Goddamn business. But the bigger tragedy than the lives lost over something no one should be dying for in 2016 is the fact that it won’t change anything about how gays are treated or the struggles they face.

And if you’re thinking “this is it” or that “this is the straw that breaks the camels back” I ask you to remember just where it is you live.

We Need To Adjust The Conversation

ljxgy8tgqqllxssvyl6wIt’s been talked about to death, but Aryan Michael Cera over here raped a woman who was so unconscious that the witnesses who saved her had to inform her of what had happened (the Aryan Michael Cera comment is courtesy of Brent Black from the podcast Trends Like These). Though he was caught in the act by two witnesses there are those out there still doubting that it was actual rape. There are some blaming her for being too drunk to defend herself; citing that if she didn’t actually have the ability to say no, that she didn’t. Then there are those who feel like if she doesn’t actually remember it, it couldn’t have hurt her that bad…

We so many of these cases crop up all over the nation. Colleges have taken the spotlight because it’s one of the first places that we as young people are tasked with looking after ourselves and being on our own. It’s one of the first places where things like this have a chance of happening. I remember back in 2004 when they brought us into a dimly lit stadium classrooms at University of Texas At San Antonio to tell us about the dangers of sexual assault and how to use the buddy system and how to stay safe.

And I remember just as distinctly the way in which I thought of the small play dramatization put on by the theater department: “This isn’t for me.” “This doesn’t happen to men.”

It does and it goes under reported if studies are to be believed, but what no one said in that half hour or so while we set in that chilly room was that it’s not alright to ply or coerce people for sex. It’s not alright to drug drinks. No one ever tried to tell us what consent was or how to ask permission. Everything was completely reactionary. It’s up to you to watch out for yourself and if you slip up or get tricked it’s your own fault.

That’s the subtle message there, though it wasn’t the message for me.

We can look back at all of the cases of a promising athlete or regular guy who was supposedly falsely accused of rape and try and put ourselves in their shoes, but you know what I don’t want to live in a world where rape is assumed to be the victim’s fault or them lying to get over.

I’m sure that any decent human being would be.