Satire is an art form or stylistic device that employs sarcasm, cynicism, and humor to demonstrate some degree of folly, vice, or rot in society or in some individuals. Satire is used to point out flaws in some social problems and individual characters. In recent years, the genre has been used as a central component in expressing critique. Via cartoons, satire, and other networks, commentators have found a faster way to get their points out to the rest of the country. The sense of rebellion and radicalism was a big part of Parker and Stone’s animated series South Park’s popularity. From the first episode till now, the creators of the movie have been trying to break down the established tenets of the society. Besides, nothing in this world is beyond scrutiny and ridicule whether it is about celebrities or societal issues such as child abuse. The life of celebrities is satirized as it shows the level of deterioration of the society by making the red carpet event seem of great significance than other things in life. Hence, South Park has satirical content which shows the racial differences between blacks and whites and exposes the foolishness of the society possibly leading to improvement.
Satire as used in South Park
Parker and Stone’s South Park is a satirical kind of animated show that is made for mature audiences. Some might view the show as incredibly offensive, but it has an underlying moral lesson. It follows the four characters living in a fictional town that is predominantly white known as South Park, Colorado. Eric Cartman is a racist and self-absorbed schemer who is often seen as the show’s antagonist. Stan Marsh is the show’s protagonist and is among the more normal characters that tend to be the more reasonable one among his friends. Kyle Broflovski is another character who is Stan’s best friend and a very big enemy of Eric. He is Jewish, a fact that leads to being mocked a lot. Kenny McCormick is the last main character of the show and is the poorest in the group and would die throughout the first few seasons of the show.
South Park is now in its 14th season and not much has changed apart from an increased staff and budget. The jokes in the show are still dirty and are mostly directed to others. Just like the other cultural phenomena, the show has procreated all kinds of paraphernalia including t-shirts and video games. South Park is evidently a well-established cultural sensation which is still going strong after all those seasons. In episode 4 of season 14, Facebook finally got some South park treatment. It might seem a bit too late to incorporate it, but the cartoon perfectly mocked the social networking site. The episode is another classic example of pure satire that is crucial to the success of the show as a television series. The “You Have 0 Friends” episode seized perfectly how obsessive the site can be. Stan, who is a lone child, is forced to join Facebook just to please his friends. The act leads to some jealousy by his girlfriend and his father pressuring him to add every relative who has a Facebook account. All this pressure leads him to delete his profile due to frustration. Meanwhile Kyle becomes Facebook friends with a loser which leads to a breakout with a variety of his other friends in the social media site and a steady stream of unfriending. However, the best part of the episode comes with Cartman who offered the characters gems of advice. Cartman advices on the value of female friends and how to find some quality friends.
Social networking sites like Facebook have had a large role to play in the society today and “friends” is the most vital term that is played with in this episode. Normally, the concept of “friendship” is defined differently by most people. Some might consider the people close to them and those they are most intimate as their friends while others might find the ones they are merely socially acquainted as friends. However, South Park in this episode takes issue in the irrational and superficial definition of a friend that Facebook has introduced. A friend in the impersonal world of the internet and as suggested by the episode is a mere commodity to be traded and bargained with like stock. For instance, Kip would seem like a child without an ordinary childhood. He does not go out to interact with others his age and instead sits idle by the computer waiting for his Facebook friends to appear. This shows that he takes the Facebook definition of a friend to the extreme. Besides, when Kyle adds him as a friend, he becomes excited and ecstatic just as a child who has made a real friend. He even goes further to tell his parents about what he has learned about his supposed friend showing that he has a kind of real interaction (“You Have 0 Friends.”). The absurdity highlighted in this episode is the degree to which some people in the society today take with seriousness the social media friends. Additionally, a lot of importance is placed on the artificial relationships made through Facebook as well as the continual violent death of Kenny. The character is continually put to death only to be resurrected by the creators of the show. The meaningless existence of Kenny is equally absurd as the idea of anyone such as Kip placing so much value on the internet to create a meaningful friendship.
Further satirizing the extent to which the society values Facebook and the related games like Farmville once again shows Kyle’s absurdity. When he begins losing Facebook friends after adding Kip, Kyle goes to Stan in desperation telling him how he really needed a friend. Stan, not knowing the extent of Kyle’s obsession shows his support and concern but was later pushed to the edge after learning how Kyle has devalued their friendship (“You Have 0 Friends.”). The creators seem to point out how people nowadays place so much value on online personalities and games and forget about their real life relationships. South Park continually exposes the overuse of pop culture throughout the show. The same criticism is evident in the “Die Hippie, Die” episode where the hippie moments quickly turned into an obsession much like Facebook which has turned into something obsessive for many.
Another point of satire in the episode is the exposure of the superficiality of the profiles and status messages of Facebook users. When Stan wonders through the Facebook world, everyone is shown as represented by their Facebook profiles which are shown as superficial characters. Randy’s profile is the perfect example for this as it is shown running around yelling his status at others (“You Have 0 Friends.”). At the same time, the profiles do not talk to anyone but those who have them as friends which shows how just superficial the contest over friends is on Facebook. It shows the extent to which people have forgotten personal interactions due to the advent of new technology. The episode broadly aims at Facebook but is not intended to condemn it. The criticism found in the satire is that of the tendency of the society to use anything to access. Hence, the virtual world presented in the episode serves as a representation of the lack of interaction among people in the world today.
The episode also uses satire to create a sophisticated audience and still leave room for crude hilarity for people to enjoy. South Park provides an escape from the sophistication by challenging the comforts present in the society. Practices such as constantly commenting on people’s photos on Facebook and checking their statuses are some practices in the society that people are reluctant to challenge.
Conclusively, South Park, an animated sitcom revolves around four boys Stan, Kenny, Kyle and Eric and every episode in the film comes with its own topic. Season 14 episode 4 provides an insight into the use of social media and its challenges. The show, therefore, acts as a voice that people ignore that which challenges their actions. South Park especially this episode accomplishes all these while maintaining rich humor. It is this kind of cultural criticism and rich satire that people subconsciously seek which makes the show the most preferred adult targeted cartoon.
“You Have 0 Friends.” South Park. Comedy Central: 07 APR 2010. Television.