Once more this week (it happens about once a year), I found myself the object of scrutiny because I neither watch nor enjoy South Park. And once again my interlocutors’ working assumption seemed to be that I must not like it because I’m some sort of prude who can’t get past dirty jokes to get at real intelligent comedy.
And once again I found myself cataloging the pop culture that I still have time to enjoy that cusses and uses off-color humor. I don’t know why I always find myself doing that, but I always do.
I don’t watch South Park because the episodes I’ve seen (I have attempted to watch it more than once) are stupid. Not offensive. Not edgy. Stupid. The humor (at least on the episodes I’ve seen) is about the same grade as the tuba players’ in my high school marching band–it abounds in poorly executed and repetitive sex jokes, uninteresting insertions of words that offend old women, and other such boring devices. I turn the channel every time not because I’m offended but because I’m insulted–every time I’ve tried watching that moronic show it’s been because some colleague insists that beyond the band kid humor, it’s intelligent social commentary. Then I watch about twenty minutes, and all I see or hear is the same, stupid stuff. What makes me mad isn’t the show itself so much as the patina of hipness that surrounds it.
Now I don’t have a grudge against all cartoons that offend old folks. I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Beavis and Butthead, with its endearing brand of over-the-top brainlessness. The difference, you ask? I can think of a couple. For one, nobody that I can remember ever tried to defend Beavis and Butthead as incisive commentary. Everybody knows it’s as dumb as its namesake, and nobody comes at it from any position of pretense. And for two, nobody that I can remember ever accused anyone of Philstinism for preferring not to watch it. And for three (this is a couple consisting of three elements), I don’t get the impression from watching that Mike Judge is trying to be nasty for the sake of hipness the way I do from South Park. Beavis and Butthead doesn’t seem to be trying to run people off so that those who stay can congratulate themselves.
I realize that the last of those three probably has Freud written all over it, but I don’t know my Freudian vocabulary well enough to say whether it’s displacement or transference or something else. So I’ll just reiterate that no, I don’t like it. And no, I’m not a prude.