Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Trey Parker – American Idiot

Don’t wanna be an American idiot; one nation controlled by the media

So goes the Green Day track ‘American Idiot’. It was a big hit, and resonated with a huge number of US teens. It’s hard to imagine the same sort of success if the song was about any other country. ‘Venezuelan Idiot’? Doesn’t really work. ‘Spanish Idiot’? ¡Que not! But ‘American Idiot’ is instantly understood by many in America and around the world: someone who believes the world according to Fox News; someone who believes you can win a war on terror by employing terror tactics; someone who may well believe the world is less than 10,000 years old*; someone who’s fiercely patriotic but loathes many within their own country due to race, sexuality or faith.

But South Park co-creator Trey Parker has made his name by being an American Idiot. And (ironically) chances are the same American teens who pump up the volume for ‘American Idiot’ are going to be huge South Park fans.

The Guru has dipped into South Park on and off for years. Kenny dying over and over again? Funny. Butters trying to take over the world? Funny. Cartman’s love/hate relationship with Kyle? Funny. The clunky animation, foul language, unrealistic voiceovers and zany storylines? Funny. And then there’s the twist at the end — the common sense that causes everyone to realise the error of their ways and ‘learn something’.

Every so often, there’d be an episode that seemed to cross the line. But hey, it’s South Park; it’s supposed to be edgy. And the next ep would consign any doubts to the brain’s dusty recesses.

These niggling doubts grew, however, and with the discovery of Family Guy it became clear that a cartoon could be edgy, (a lot more) clever and funny, without making you feel sick to the stomach, as the bigotry of Trey Parker and co. could.

The Guru started looking more closely at the episodes he’d been tending to steer clear of — and the results were disturbing.

Cartoon propaganda was dropped behind enemy lines during World War II. Because it was funny, soldiers often kept hold of it. The lesson from history is clear: we shouldn’t bypass our moral judgement just because something makes us laugh.

* Polls indicate around 45% of Americans believe this — more in future posts.

Coming soon: The Guru dissects a South Park episode.

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