Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"Shockingly" conservative

Brian at Peeve Farm wonders why it falls to a shockingly obscene show like "South Park" to impart conservative values.

What's that you say? "South Park" a bastion of conservative values? Well . . .
What do you call a show that isn't afraid to stand up in favor of the word "morality" and restore the fading negativity of the word "whore", as though trying to reverse the lunge into licentiousness led by the madam of Springfield's beloved Burlesque House? That takes a stand against stem-cell research by showing Christopher Reeve sucking out fetuses' spinal fluid in order to regain his feet (as Frank J puts it, "The embryonic stem cell lobby group Others Must Die So We May Walk")? That argues in favor of tightened immigration restrictions to keep us from having to squeal, "They took our jeaarrbs!"? That spends a whole half-hour episode making fun of the Mormon religion, and then—in the last thirty seconds—spins on its heels and makes the viewer feel like an absolute ass for having laughed along with it with a single accusatory barb?

I call it conservative.

I don't know if I'd call it conservative so much as anti-libertine. (Full disclosure. What I know of "South Park" comes from reading about it. I think I've seen exactly one half of one episode, and thought it was terrible.)

Back in the early 90s I had a roommate (a conservative and an evangelical seminary student, in fact) who thought MTV's "Beavis and Butthead" cartoon was one of the funniest things on TV. Though I tried to ignore it when I passed by the television, soon I was watching, too (to my utter shame). But was "Beavis and Butthead" a show celebrating the sort of aimless youths it depicted, or was it making fun of them? I suspect it was the latter, although real-life Buttheads might not have picked up on that nuance. Mike Judge, creator of B & B went on to create the more successful "King of the Hill," which, though I haven't seen a lot of it, seems to offer some support for red-state conservative values by skewering the same kind of targets that South Park skewers.

The left hasn’t quite figured out that they are rapidly becoming a parody of themselves. While the bourgeois tout the enlightenment they've achieved, the damn'd proles are laughing at them. And the more they rant about it, the funnier they become. (Here's an example I linked to earlier this week. Seen as self-parody, it's a laugh-a-minute.)

Sometimes the preachiest left-wing entertainments even backfire.

Think back to Norman Lear's "All in the Family." "All in the Family" was considered quite a cutting edge and at times controversial television show. In "All in the Family," Archie Bunker was intended to be the very model of a backward-thinking conservative. But it may have come as a surprise to lefty Norman Lear when many in middle America saw Archie Bunker as a hero--a man holding back the tide of liberalism in his own blustery manner. Why would people side with this unenlightened blue-collar guy? Because the voice of the left on the show, Archie's son-in-law, was preachy, self-righteous and chronically unemployed.

And no one likes self-righteous jerks.

(Especially if they're chronically unemployed self-righteous jerks.)

The self-righteous--represented by certain Hollywood figures (and perhaps France)--are mowed down indiscriminately in "Team America," the movie from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Some Hollywood liberals, most notably Sean Penn, had shrieking hissy fits about the way they were depicted in the movie. Though I haven't (yet) seen the movie, I can imagine that it's a moment of catharsis for people on the right. "Can we do that? Can we say those things?" Yes, we can!

Brian at Peeve Farm asks:
What has gone wrong with our country, that we have to turn to our most outrageous and objectionable vehicle of late-night comedy in order to hear a compelling voice calling for the appreciation of traditional societal values?

Perhaps it's because conservatism is now the shocking thing or the obscene thing. Among the "enlightened," conservatism is that which dare not speak its name. In this column in The American Spectator, Ben Stein writes about secret conservatives in Hollywood.

Earlier in the day when I had been doing some looping at a studio on Radford Drive in Studio City for a movie in which I have a part ("Son of the Mask" if you must know ), a man on a forklift came by and winked at me. "Keep giving 'em hell," he said softly. "There are more of us here than you think. Bush rules."

This is the way it is here. We meet in smoky places. We give the high sign, we nod knowingly. We are like members of the Maquis in Occupied France. Or early Christians emerging from the catacombs in Caligula's Rome. We are the GOP in Hollywood, and on the West Side of L.A. The culture here is so dominantly left-wing, PC, vegan, hate-America that many of us feel we have to behave as if we were underground.

At a self-help meeting where men and women confess to drug use, betrayals, thefts, homicides with cars, at a break, a woman stealthily came up to me last Saturday and motioned me into a corner outside the room in Malibu. "I want to tell you there are some of us who agree with you. We have to keep it quiet because we want to get our kids into the right schools, but we're there. We're there. And there are more of us every day." Then she scuttled off into the night. Slamming crack can be spoken of with a smile, but not voting GOP. That could be dangerous.

. . .

Some idea of just why people whisper comes from another encounter this week among a group of Hollywood types in a hip night spot. I was saying how much I love my self program. "I'm a Republican, but I learn from Democrats," I said. "I'm a Jew, but I learn from Gentiles. I'm sort of famous but the meetings are where I feel safe."

And maybe that's it. Brian at Peeve Farm writes that no one who watches Comedy Central (home to South Park) will take conservative views seriously if they come from Billy Graham. So conservatives (if Parker and Stone are to be considered conservatives) have learned to speak in the raunchy, obscene, in-your-face language of the left. And in doing so, have found that there are a lot of people out there who appreciate the boldness of expression of their conservative views.

While I can't necessarily condone the vehicle for this expression, I'm glad the conservative message is getting out to people who otherwise wouldn't tune in. And the message is that conservatism is counter-culture.

So do Democrats think they can always depend on the youth vote? With people like Parker and Stone leading the way, a new generation of counter-culture youth may emerge. A generation that's shockingly conservative.


At 10:48 PM, Blogger Jib said...

Every episode of South Park does end up having a moral at the end, and it almost always has a conservative feel to it. I believe this is because Parker and Stone are Libertatians-the type who parallel conservatives. If you can see past adolescent humor, the show becomes somewhat admirable in the fact that it always tries to send a message to the viewer, and usually an admirable one.


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