''South Park'''s obscenity is a sign of artistic integrity
Lisa Schwarzbaum explains why more filmmakers should emulate Trey Parker and Matt Stone
”South Park”’s obscenity is a sign of artistic integrity
I can’t stop singing songs from ”South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” The tunes jingle around in my head; they feel good in the mouth the way Disney ditties do, like Mars Bars — or maybe, given the rampant obscenity of the lyrics, like the Lark’s Vomit sweets the Monty Python’s Flying Circus gang used to extol in their famous candy-assortment-box skit.
The snappy tunes mixed with the rude, regressive words fill me with crazy joy: ”South Park” is indefatigably foulmouthed, but it revels in obscenity out of conviction, not calculation. It knows what it’s about — the pure amorality of children, the complicated hypocrisy of adults — and it has no interest in coddling its audience. You can take the comedy of Trey Parker and Matt Stone or leave it, Parker and Stone really don’t care. You have a right to be offended, they say; you just can’t tut-tut them into tameness.
If only more filmmakers had this kind of artistic conviction (not to mention talent)! If only more producers were willing to take such risks! One ”South Park” is worth 10 ”Wild, Wild Wests” in my ledger: A scene of crudely animated little kids gleefully mimicking the dirty words they have picked up from the culture around them is far more uplifting than a scene in which marquee idol Will Smith and comic standby Kevin Kline swap lame quips weighted with smarmy sexual innuendo.
Spike Lee has this kind of conviction, by the way. I may not always like what he comes up with — the assaultive insistence of ”Summer of Sam” flattened me numb after 2 1/2-hours — but by God, Lee’s got passion and I am always fascinated by what he does.
Does ”South Park” pose problems for parents whose children might sneak into the R-rated movie and sing the same shocking songs I now know? Sure. Will such poo-poo warp their fragile little minds? No more than ”Tarzan” will mess with the positive self-images of little boys who don’t grow up shaped like the cartoon Ape Man.
The politically conservative New York Post, owned by the Australian media buccaneer Rupert Murdoch (whose Fox TV network is filled with such examples of uplifting family fare as ”When Animals Attack Terrified Poor People After They’ve Already Been Run Over By Cars”), is on its own hypocritical anti-smut campaign against the evils of ”South Park,” and documented a couple of underage innocents who easily bought tickets. Piously, the pair didn’t use their tickets. That’s a pity, because I wanted to see Parker and Stone’s cartoon again last night — and the joint was sold out.