South Park is an adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. The show has become popular, and in some cases infamous, for its crude language and dark, surreal humor that derides a myriad of topics. The narrative continues to revolve around four boys—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick—giving viewers a new adventure to follow each time they tune in. The show was developed by two animated shorts they created in 1992 and 1995. After becoming one of the internets first viral videos, these shorts led to the production of South Park as a series. Debuting with great success in 1997, South park quickly became the highest ranking show over any basic cable program. Although ratings may have varied over the years, South Park still remains one of Comedy Central’s highest ranking series and is scheduled to air new episodes at least through 2016. Since its airing, South Park has continued to create new episodes related to current events and pop culture references.
The unique aspect of South Park is that every episode is created a week preceding it’s airing. This is often done to keep up with the changes of what may be happening that week in our country or even the world. For instance, during the 2008 presidential election with Barrack Obama and John McCain, Trey Parker wrote and directed an episode entitled About Last Night to reflect the outcome of the election. Therefore, they had to create the episode 24 hours before it was aired and were prepared to have the episode move in favor of whoever won the election. These are some of the methods that continue to keep South Park prevalent in pop culture today.
So what else qualifies South Park as a staple in our world of pop culture? Maybe it’s creators Parker and Stone’s ability to take our ubiquitous world issues and apply some sort of outlandishly comical twist. Their ability to recreate the issues that sweep our nation shows in one of their latest episodes entitled Gluten Free Ebola, which sheds light on the increasing number of americans who are developing a gluten intolerance, coupled with the current Ebola crisis.
Although many may find this type of humor centered around such serious issues offensive, it carries an airiness to it, allowing ourselves to indulge in the comedic thoughts that most may have had at one time or another. Maybe we in society like being entrenched in the interpretations of others. The Two Step Flow Theory suggests that
“opinion leaders pay close attention to the mass media and pass on their interpretations of media messages to others.”
Now, I’m not too sure if I could qualify Trey Parker and Matt Stone as “opinion leaders” per say, but they definitely take the issues woven between our day to day lives and put their crude and satisfying twist on it all and what do you know, hundreds of thousands of Americans tune in once a week to get there fix. (I just so happen to be one of those Americans)
However, maybe I could qualify the Parker and Stone duo as opinion leaders after all. For almost 20 years they have been keeping their viewers on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next way they’ll be able to poke fun at the things we take deathly serious. In an article by Linda Holmes discussing why certain subjects are considered pop culture and why we tend to have such fascination with them, she states
“it’s true that diversion and distraction are part of the reason too, no question, as is amusement.”
Although this is still accurate, at this point Parker and Stone have even wiggled their views into their episodes much like the episode where they blatantly spoke out against the church of Scientology. I feel it’s even safe to say that some of these views, which are often hidden between the lines of slapstick, are now being adopted by many of their viewers. Ultimately South Park, in my opinion, is hilarious and quite appetizing. Sometimes we have to take a back step and just laugh at the things that on most days are making us sick.
(the Scientology episode has since been removed therefore this was the only clip I could find)