Monday, March 13, 2006

What's the Difference?

Isaac Hayes recently quit his role on South Park, a sitcom on Comedy Central. He said that the show crossed a line when it came to religion, and that he couldn't stomach it anymore.

I understand what he's saying. I hit that limit with the show myself, back around 1998-99. Originally, I found it humorous. However, after watching a couple dozen episodes, I noticed a trend. The writers were trying less to be humorous and more to be obscene. I'll try to explain my rationale:

Lines in sand exist on television and in the movies. Many things are taboo, or were taboo. A lot of modern tolerance can be said to be found as a result of efforts in the name of entertainment. We sweep the stuff out from under the carpet, as it were, and we become better for it. Examples might include All in the Family, or Lord of the Flies, or Mississippi Burning, or Boyz 'n da Hood. These shows/movies were vulgar, crude, at times obscene. However, they explained a part of our society that needed uncovering and explaining. In other words, the shows were obscene to make a point.

South Park, on the other hand, appears to have a different outlook. It seems to me that the MO of the writers runs something along the lines of "let's be as crude, vulgar, and offensive as we possibly can, but we need to think of a reason to justify that crudenes." And so they'll come up with a "message," much like those public service "don't fight each other" messages at the end of He-Man or GI Joe, so that they have plausible cover for their shows. In other words, they have a point as an excuse to be obscene.

Now, do I think it's wrong that the show goes like that? I don't care. If that's what the censors will let them do, and people continue to buy advertising space in their time slot, then I won't say they can't do that. Nor can I say the stuff isn't funny. Indeed, it most likely is to a certain portion of the populace, as they watch the show. I can say that it's not funny to me, because I don't think they work hard enough to make a joke, but I think that's the case with many comedies.

So in conclusion, Isaac Hayes quit. I don't blame him. The creators of the show glibly note that he didn't have any problems cashing the checks when they made fun of other religions, which I thought was inappropriate and unnecessary. I don't find the show humorous. Other people do. I would prefer writers and shows that work at creating jokes, and not resorting to crudeness just to save effort.


English Professor said...

He cashed the checks while he worked there; he quit (and quit cashing checks) when he decided he could no longer so do. It seems disingenuous on their part to be tacky about it.

Did you know that Matt Groenig didn't let his son watch "The Simpson?"

Cassie said...

I think that shows like South Park and Beavis and Butthead are geared more for the pothead late high school/early college age viewing groups. I think that they're disgusting and I was never interested in them even when I was the appropriate age.
Incidentally, I remember when the Simpsons was considered inappropriate for television and wasn't there a little bit of controversy over it?

Weary Hag said...

Uh oh. Red flag. I really enjoyed South Park up until the time when they started creating four new shows then aired reruns for the rest of each season. This seems to be a trend - which I cannot stand.

Though I don't fit into the typical audience which Cassie accurately defined, I seemed to fit into the 'can't sleep at night and there's absolutely nothing else on in that time-slot' crowd.

I don't find fault with Hayes leaving the show, and I guess if I have some oddball desire to hear Chef anymore, I'll just have to put on one of my old IH LPs. :)! said...

To quote "Dude, not sure how to break this to you, but for the last nine years you've been on the payroll of a show that's featured NAMBLA, "cripple fights," Christopher Reeve sucking on dead fetuses to get at their stem cells, and songs about how THE VIRGIN MARY CAN GIVE BLOWJOBS AND STILL BE A VIRGIN."

But if it's in fact the Scientology episode that was the proverbial straw for Isaac, I have to say that that episode was one of the few I've watched in the past couple of years (that and the Paris Hilton sucking things up into her scary vagina episode) and I thought it was HILARIOUS. I mean, what's not to make fun of about Scientology? It's the most absurd "religion" out there! Usually I found South Park to be boring and pathetically offensive. In fact, it's so pathetic, it's not even offensive, except for offending my intelligence with the horribly low-brow, lazy humor. But the Scientology episode was quite good. It had R. Kelly singing his ridiculous lengthy closet song! And John Travolta & Tom Cruise in a closet! Together! Sure, they didn't have to try very hard to come up with those jokes, but I liked it anyway. And they didn't have to make fun of gays or minorities or the differently abled. Just Scientologists. And come on, who DOESN'T make fun of Scientologists? I mean, aliens, volcanos...COME ON!!