Very good point. Parker and Stone seem to have gotten some honorary status as subversive and satirical when their show has always been fundamentally based upon making very easy jokes. And they were funny at their best, but once they decided that their show was going to be nothing but “social commentary” they lost it - they simply don’t have the knowledge or sophistication to really understand the things they’re “satirizing” on their show, which means most of the time they just repeat jokes about “Political Correctness” and “liberals” that have been out there for twenty years and are only funny to viewers that have similarly little understanding of what the creators are talking about.
It’s sad - the show really did used to be funny. But when they decided they were “political commentators” or whatever the hell they consider themselves, they just revealed how little they know about the things they’re making jokes about. Similar in their recent episode about alcoholism - they start by making some solid points about the “AA culture” and the tendency to label people as alcoholics and claim that AA is the only effective treatment for alcoholism. But once they started claiming that alcoholism isn’t a disease and suggested that alcoholics could just drink in moderation, they revealed that they don’t understand even the most basic facts about alcoholism - if you’ve ever known an alcoholic, you can see just how well it works to just try to drink less - it doesn’t work at all.
Hey man, I didn’t see the episode that way at all and I’ve known some Grade A alcoholics. Not that I particularly like South Park or even have access to it (we have 6 broadcast channels), I had to ask my folks to TiVo the thing. I read the “Drunk Dad/Menstruating Mary” episode as an attack on the Institution of AA. Specifically, the Religion of AA.
Alcoholism is best approached in such a way that the alcoholic can train himself to use booze in moderation. This is a much happier circumstance for almost everyone involved.
Of course it’s not as though they’ve broken anything that isn’t already essentially in the public domain – hell, I’ve known about the Xenu thing since 1988. (Though that was from living with a guy who worked two jobs to be broke and stay perpetually “on course,” and spending a lot of time going through his course materials and “technical bulletins” for amusement.)
Now, with the joy of commonplace internet access, anyone can find out the wackiest stuff if they are research-oriented and interested – but most people simply aren’t, and credulous members at the lower levels are even less likely to get anything from “out-tech” sources, even if they didn’t agree to use net filters that ostensibly protect them from attacks from those mean old PTS SPs. Whether it’s insiders or just potential rubes, up until now it has been much more likely that someone’s primary (or only) source of detailed information about Scientology would come from the organization itself rather than any other source.
Having the core beliefs of the higher levels spelled out on one of the highest-rated TV programs out there (with deep penetration across a broad spectrum of demographics) is something else again. People simply don’t know, cold, that if you take a free (and lengthy) Scientology personality test, you can expect only one result: “Your main weakness is communication. You’re usually correct about things, but you are often unable to communicate the correctness of your position to other people. We have a communication course that’s specifically tailored to help people like you overcome this difficulty and be more successful. And it’s only twenty dollars!”
I guarantee you that many more people recognize the formula:[ol][li]Collect Underpants.???Profit![/ol]…than have an inkling of:[ol]Take free personality test.Work on communication.Slowly get drawn into a ridiculous and incredibly expensive scam about a conspiracy of evil aliens that brainwashed and enslaved all sapient life in the galaxy millions of years ago.[/ol]Certainly many more than have the intellectual curiosity to actively seek out information about what Scientology is all about, beyond its attraction for sexy and popular celebrities.[/li]
Make no mistake – being skewered in an episode of South Park will have an effect on the organization several orders of magnitude greater than decades of discussion on the web and usenet could ever hope for.
The Simpsons managed to lampoon Scientology without Nancy Cartwright jumping ship, because when “the Simpsons did it,” they did it in a totally oblique way. People who already know about it will recognize it. Introducing the subject of Scientology by showing Stan at the familiar initial point-of-contact, and then segueing into the core beliefs with an unambivalent…
THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE
…that’s something else entirely, and is going to seriously effect their bottom line.
Personally, I wish they left off the whole “Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet” thing and fit in more of the particulars of how Scientology works – like showing Stan taking his communication courses, where one of the first things you learn in order to sway people to your way of thinking is the technique of emulation.
Instructor: “If you approach someone using a tone that’s much different from their own, your reality is too disparate from their own, so they will openly resist what you’re trying to tell them. To get past this, you need to emulate them. Agree with everything they say. Imitate their personality in every way, until they’re used to thinking of you as a trusted friend and will actively work to preserve that friendship. Then you can gradually bring them around to your way of thinking.”
Stan: “You want to lie to people to get them to like me and then manipulate them into changing their beliefs? Isn’t that dishonest?”
Instructor: “Yes, Stan. It is dishonest. You are so right. You know, you’re one of the most ethical people I’ve ever met. I like that! Ethics are really important to me. So let’s look at this ethically… If someone has a morally weak personality, and it’s in your power to strengthen their ethics, it is more or less ethical to change them or to let them alone…?”
Well, like that, I guess, only, you know… funny.
Actually, they don’t. Maybe a lot of people here know about it, but your average schmuck on the sidewalk outside the Scientology Center hasn’t got a frickin’ clue.
And yes, Parker and Stone can fit their entire heads up their asses – of this there is no doubt. Usually it’s just their bullshit political and social philosophy that pisses me off, although it usually doesn’t get the in the way of the funny.
That one episode was 23 minutes of ignorant hate, though, and it doesn’t help that every time they show Garrison now it’s a reminder of that.
Yeah, but South Park should never be held as a paragon of decency or even balanced commentary. It’s the opinion of two dumbasses who like to stir the shit. That’s Art, and that’s fucking cool but not to be proffered as medical advice.
Right. The theology of AA, though, is somewhere between Space Ship and Lutheran. He is not bound to Sin. Sometimes he can free himself.
Many, many people can stop hurting themselves with booze, but it takes discipline, and it takes something other than pseudo-science wrapped in a cheesy quesadilla of religion and fear.
Yeah, I suppose you’re probably right - the fact that the information is freely available and easy to find doesn’t mean that people go to the trouble of looking at it. I suppose their format probably works (and the whole “THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE” banner on the screen was hilarious.)
The episode was so . . . unnecessary. I mean, raking Scientology over the coals is something of a public service. But even if you have some private belief about the legitimacy of transgenderism, it simply doesn’t follow in my opinion that you should decide to viciously mock transgendered people. So you don’t agree with the idea that people can have sexual identities separate from their physical gender - that’s ignorant, but understandable to some degree. But deciding that you thus need to subject transgendered people to vicious attacks doesn’t follow in my opinion.
People talk all the time about how South Park makes fun of everyone equally, but they don’t - not by any stretch. The show has never treated black people (for example) in a way that’s even remotely comparable to how they treat gays and transgendered people. I have to wonder if the creators actually believe they’re “making fun of everyone” or if that’s just the cynical spin they give to their show to get a free ride on the “PC”-backlash that has been going strong for twenty years now. The show really is hate-filled at times, and that hatred is not doled out even remotely equally.
That’s not art. It’s trolling. Trolling is not “art” by any stretch of the imagination.
And of course they shouldn’t be held as balanced commentary - but their episodes are becoming more and more oriented around trying to teach specific lessons to their viewers. They don’t even try to hide it - they seem to regard themselves as some weird mixture of comedians, political pundits, and teachers. The problem is that while they used to be good at the first, they simply don’t have the knowledge required to do either of the latter two, and in trying, they’ve badly compromised the first.
I don’t agree since we haven’t defined “trolling,” but that’s a good fucking point. Stone and Parker are making like sand in the Astroglide. From whom are they trying to evince a reaction? Seriously. Twenty-somethings? Teens?
I think they’ve always been doing this. Maybe you’re not a faithful viewer, I can give you that, but they’ve always had an agenda. Misguided,
Puckish and ill-advised, an agenda nonetheless. In this case, it’s “abstinence is not a panacea.”
Are you suggesting their content is inappropriate?
In the episode with the “Movementarians.” In some ways they were a generic “wacky cult,” but there were more specific references to Scientology than any other single cult – the awkward compound-word of the cult’s name, the cheesy orientation film, the faux-naval uniforms, the billion-year contract, the red-headed portrait of the Leader, and, of course, the relentless lawyers brought in as soon as any doubts are raised. (And, of course, many other attributes that a common with most culty organizations, as well as Scientology.)
Little pokes, but nothing that really threatens the organization’s reputation with people who aren’t already intimately familiar with them.
Would Tom Cruise realistically not promote his movie? I mean, there are already cracks in his popularity, stories of his weirdness are showing up in the weekly rags. I feel that he’ll make these threats, but he knows that he’d better do whatever he can to make sure MI:3 makes as much money as possible. How much longer can he make the kind of movies that keeps him in high demand with the movie going public?
I believe that the Simpsons episode also used the Heaven’s Gate cult as a minor part of the beliefs of the Movementarians. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that outside of the Church of Scientology, it isn’t known what, if anything, the ultimate goal or afterlife of a Scientologist is. The Movementarians believe that a UFO will someday take them to the blissful planet of Blisstonia, which appears to be based upon the belief that the Hale-Bopp comet would take the Heaven’s Gate to another planet. It’s probably this mixing of cults that prevented The Simpsons from being sued by the Scientologists.
There’s little doubt that Blisstonia was a nod to the Heaven’s Gate cult, but actually it resembles Scientology’s goals/afterlife mythos more than you might think.
Scientologists believe that the Earth is a prison planet. At death (“exteriorization”) the thetan leaves the body and zooms away from the planet. But the evil aliens have space stations ringing the solar system, which collect escaping souls, erm, thetans, reprograms them with more controlling commands, and beams them back to earth where they are reborn in new bodies. There’s no escaping this terrible panopticon, unless you make it to the OT levels and get the tech to sneak past the guards.
Scientology promises to help you off the planet and out the solar system – not with a flying saucer, but by learning how to temporarily exteriorize and travel anywhere in the universe. (Basically astral travel.)
Penn and Teller are also like this. I’ve watched a few episodes of their series Bullshit and I’ve noticed they rarely make an argument based on rational evidence; they just ridicule and slander whatever side they’ve chosen to denounce. I was watching their show on second-hand smoke and I was thinking, “I already believed what they’re telling me but even so I don’t find them convincing.”
Nitpick: They didn’t say that they thought Condit killed her, just that he knew more than he was telling, and lied about the rest. Granted, putting him in the same ep as OJ and the Ramseys might’ve been a deliberate attempt to imply more, but what they said about Condit at the end of the ep was in sharp contrast to OJ and the Ramseys, whom they outright SAID “they did it.”