Modern satire is a glass, wherein beholders discover everybody's face but their own. Modern satire is commercialised, where provocation occurs not on social issues but through the lack of propriety and extreme abuse of language. Modern satire is dead, all thanks to shows like South Park... Ju Kim investigates into the world of modern satire.
It was last month when the world saw the consequences of publishing extremely satirical text resulting death of 12 people and 11 injured. Stunned like any other, I had a look at the controversial cartoons, a few which raised an eyebrow. I remember there was a time where satire was a significant weapon in society, addressing social issue. Why is satire so powerful? And what should we expect of it? Recent events in Paris inevitably prompt these questions.
Traditional satire alludes to the representation of perceptible contemporary circumstances in a skewed and comical manner in order to highlight their absurdity. There’s a noble motive behind mockery and satire, to call for a social change in behaviour or thought by alerting the audience about vice and folly.
If a satirical context doesn’t point toward positive change or encourage people to think in a more enlightened way, it has failed its job. An effective modern satire constructively provokes the audience to deliver its intended message. However, in today’s society, satire disregards the boundaries of what is acceptable.
Perfect example of modern satire is South Park, one of America’s most popular satirical comedy series, famous for its unnecessarily, excessive usage of crude language and dark humour that is supposed to “satirise” social issues. It tries its best to attract viewers by aggressively exercising its freedom of speech. It forces us to question our morality and consciously prevent ourselves from getting brainwashed by its revolting content such as the promotion of xenophobia and illustrations of negative stereotypes.
Producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone mock not only celebrities and political figures, but deride the genre of satire itself. This is a show, after all, that paints God as a gap-toothed hippo-monkey, portrays Satan as a simpering homosexual and features Jesus as a superhero in multiple episodes (Todd, 2010). The overdone caricatures in South Park lose their comedic value and are perceived as a personal attack instead.
Vulgarity and depiction of racism is painted all over South Park’s plotline; it certainly should be criticised for its excessive use of racial epithet “nigger” in the episode, With Apologies to Jess Jackson. Hearing the insolent little characters yelling out the uncensored word 43 times, I wish I was deaf.
The producers also cheekily claim that their show does not relate to any real people or events; each episode opens with a disclaimer:” All characters and events in this show even those based on real people are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated.....poorly.”
However we know otherwise, unless we are some brain-dead Neanderthals, that Parker and Stone purposely go to extreme heights to ridicule these ‘fictional’ characters in order to attract more viewers.
While satirists like Parker and Stone may have several intended messages, the audience is unable to interrupt due to its atrocious content. South Park’s general formula is this: score comic points by depicting every religion to their preference while emphasising their freedom of speech. But have the producers gone too far by depicting Muslim Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit and depicting him to be involved with violent riots, global protests and death threateners?
South Park completely rejects the notion of political correctness in order to express their freedom of speech. This dangerous approach influences the perspectives of the viewers on sensitive topics like religion, generating unnecessary prejudice and bias. What Parker and Stone don’t realise is that they are following