Summer vacations are an amazing time for self-reflection. Summers are also a great time to catch up with the shows. Then there are these rare occasions when a show drags you into a prolonged state of contemplation, which is also great in summer, because there are no repercussions and time is your bitch. So when I was done watching South Park Season 19, I knew that I couldn’t just take the joke (see what I did there) and move on. It demanded more. It demanded me to shove an article up your faces. So here we are.
While micro-analyzing humour is a terrible crime that calls for a special place in hell for the offender, the aspect of South Park, Season 19 (or just SP19) in specific that deserves reading into is the social satire directed towards the cornerstone of modern society – the sovereign individual. The idea is not new – think George Carlin’s List of People Who Ought to be Killed, but hey, it does not get old – after all humans are an arrogant species and deserve to be brought down a peg or two. The selling point here however is how SP19 delightfully connects the intellectual bankruptcy of individuals with the big picture, which of course, is not a code for media(and political interests, of course, but I like the pun and the irony in my rhetoric). In short it takes a huge dump on the fabricated narratives,* be it the Liberals’ false sense of utopia or the Conservatives’ dystopia and how it is manipulated to the whims of greedy corporates.
“The show’s creators have now moved past simply making fun of social-justice warriors in favor of examining how the SJW mentality can leave one vulnerable to corporate manipulation. That’s a far more complex message than ‘PC culture = stupid and bad’”
-A.V Club. Dan Caffrey.
Season 19 begins with Principal Victoria being fired and replaced by PC principal, a fanatic who claims that he is “sick and tired of how minority groups are marginalized in today’s society”, and his answer to the problem to jump on everyone’s throats for using “words that have negative or offensive connotations” to “grant respect to people who are victims of unfair stereotypes”. He begins his reign of terror by handing Kyle two weeks detention for saying that “I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner is a hero”, which according to him is transphobic. Not very different from the recent outrage over the sexist X-Men movie poster
To those who are not familiar with the term PC or political correctness- it is a movement probably started with the better intention using ‘speech’ that didn’t offend people, like not calling African Americans ‘niggas’ or Northeast Indians ‘Chinki’ because the word has been used in a derogatory manner in past to suppress them, however it got out of hand when people started accusing people of being ‘insensitive’ when their beliefs were different from their own and used nonsensical rhetorics called microaggressions. For example saying ‘spokesman’ is offensive as it excludes the women-folk, ‘spokesperson’ is the correct term.
The rhetoric used by the PC squad is both misleading and dangerous – it is not rooted on a genuine feeling of concern towards the ‘marginalised’ but is a meaningless self satisfying gesture for the ‘Moral -Peacocking’ Social Justice Warrior(SJW), a distraction from the real afflictions of society and a means for those who feel ‘victimized’ to seek/demand appeasement. A feeling that is exploited by the the majority political class to bring the minorities into the fold – like the reservation system – I mean for how long are communities going to feel ‘reserved’
At the opposite end of the spectrum in the real world we have sensationalistic politics under the guise of anti-PC movement which has taken monstrous proportions in the recent years rallied by none other than the ‘biggest douche in the universe’- Donald Trump, who is none other than Mr. Garrison in the show -Both of whom think that America can only be great again when all the immigrants are lined up and fucked to death. The majority support of this base comes from an underlying disillusionment with the plastic support for minority which creates anxiety in the minds of the majority until they begin to feel that they are the victims themselves; sounds familiar. Ever heard of Hindutva politics? Maybe comparing the conservative Hindu movement to white Americans’ anti-establishment is a bit too far. But isn’t Trump’s show business and self promotion similar to our own ridiculous Lok Sabha campaign of 2014, which was completely devoid of any intellectual discourse, but rather a smear campaign. Mouthing “Bharat Maatha Ki Jai!” doesn’t add patriotism points to anyone without the right action. Divisive politics is neither patriotism nor right.
Now coming back to South Park, no thanks to Mr. Garrison’s ridiculousness, the shows (Jimmy Fallon) – make fun of South Park, calling it ‘a ‘predominantly white town’ a.k.a ‘shit heads of america’, which is rather brash because not all white people are so bad – This one is for you, Natalie Portman ((:. But, these are comedy shows, everybody is a fair target. However this doesn’t go well with the rest of the South Park’s inhabitants, who decide that the solution to their image problem is to have a ‘Whole Foods’ store, because ‘Whole Foods’ immediately validates them as a town that ‘cares’ about things. Yes, the people of South Park don’t change, they just adopt the ‘progressive ideals’ that everybody seems to care about like ‘no police is cool’, ‘charity shaming’, ‘gay kids must get an extra allowance.’
In order to convince the ‘Whole Foods’ agents that South Park is worthy of a ‘Whole Foods’ store, the town decides to put up a show – they decide to ‘gentrify’ the shitty part of town to an arts and culture district – which of course has no trace of South Park’s own backward culture but instead the adopted values of multiculturalism – which means sushi joints and organic food among others. But isn’t that a good thing, you may ask. Well have a look at what Urban dictionary has to say about gentrification
When “urban renewal” of lower class neighbourhoods with condos attracts yuppie tenants, driving up rents and driving out long time, lower income residents. It often begins with influxes of local artists looking for a cheap place to live, giving the neighbourhood a bohemian flair. This hip reputation attracts yuppies who want to live in such an atmosphere, driving out the lower income artists and lower income residents, often ethnic/racial minorities, changing the social character of the neighbourhood.
– ‘Gentrification’ according to the Urban Dictionary
Gentrification has made a spectacle out of rundown places around the world. The manager of the ‘Whole Foods’ store looks at Kenny’s shambled house against the new and hip structures of ‘sodosopa’ and says “I enjoy how you’ve retained the lower-income housing with the updated and quaint urban developments”. Capitalism has successfully turned poverty into a neat deal that can be sold to rich white people. And this does not end there, it also turns people and their identities into commodities. In the episode ‘TweekxCraig’ the whole town’s happiness seems to rely on the relationship between Tweek and Craig who are not even gay, it’s just that everybody thinks so. It is interesting how the buying habits of the town change with flux in their not-a-relationship. Even the progressive ideals that the town has ‘bought’ into are more of a ‘brand’ and not truly progressive. The show makes it pretty explicit that the whole ‘Whole Foods’ thing is a paint job over society which brings us to one of the show’s greatest one-liners
“What is PC but a verbal form of gentrification? Spruce everything up, get rid of all the ugliness in order to create a false sense of paradise.”
Political Correctness does not solve the problem of intolerance between communities, but by being PC. one gets to feel like they have been very progressive and have spread tolerance without working towards it. It is like patting yourself on the back for your own superior sense of morality. Over the years the liberal media has built PC into a cult sort of behavior to abuse people who disagree with their views – words like racist and sexist have lost their meaning, why Hillary called out on Bernie on not being “feminist” enough. This is not feminism, it is an irresponsible rhetoric, where fundamentally sound ideologies are abused for political gains and thereby belittling the ideology itself. Ideologies are not just used for political gain but also for corporate gain. No wonder, Trump has grown a stubborn immunity to such commentary. Even though he is a total bigot, a section of the populace cannot comprehend that he is really a bigot and it is not just because the liberal media thinks so.
“Our norms of civic decency were evolved for a reason. Watching Trump violate those norms is a really good reminder of why we evolved those norms in the first place. On the other hand, those norms have been profoundly subverted and corrupted for a while now, and used as often as mere cover for all manner of awfulness. Trump can exist because our norms have become hollowed shells of what they purport to be. Our norms have been gamed. It feels very much like we’ve gotten to a point where people in many of our institutions, in positions of authority, follow the letter of the law about civic decency, but have almost entirely abandoned the spirit of the law. Trump just takes the last little leap and ditches the letter of the law too.”
-A comment of an astute political observer called candles
Fast forwarding to the climax of the season the details of which I will not get into, because I don’t want to spoil too much. It turns out the whole gentrification and PC explosion in South Park is a sinister plot by the ‘things’ that want that want to subvert human beings by pricing them out of their own homes using PC and gentrification. (on what the things are, watch the season or read the wiki or whatever)
The ending of SP19 shows a deeply rooted anxiety in the society. Anxiety that we are being taken advantage of by special interests who pretend to represent ‘goodness’ and ‘progress’. Over the years, we have seen several powerhouses like the Congress or more recently the Clinton foundation come under scathing attacks of populist movements like Trumps. While there are many among us, who are disgusted by Trump’s shameless self promotion and hate speech, we should also realise that we have been part of the problem – individuals guilty of not substantiating themselves with action, the simplest instance of which is global warming – while there are many who ‘talk’ about its effect, the number of people who take any measures towards reducing their personal impact are few. Individuals need to substantiate what they state based on their respective thoughts and ideas instead of waving around the claim that they are liberal. It is important to be politically aware and accurate, not make morally superior statements and feel good about yourself or breed cult figures. As individuals, we shouldn’t be saying things unless we are ready to take a step forward.
.“The least we could is not to pretend that we always know, what to do or say; but one of the definitions of insanity is to change nothing and pretend that something will change”
If you still do not understand. Have a look at this.
So the least you can do is to not pretend and feel bad at how pathetic and pretentious you really are,at least for this brief period of summer when you are not busting your balls with academics. And maybe we can see some progress as a society. After all, democracy is still all about an individual sovereignty
–Ramakrishna R M