Religion and Culture in the “South Park Animation”
The “South Park Animation” started airing in 1997 and has had over twenty seasons. The use of fictional cartoon characters in the form of children, parents, and other adult figures in the society could confirm the uniqueness of the production. As such, the production focused on various topical issues in the American society in the modern era. Culture and religion have been dominant features in various artistic productions of the time. In a similar manner, the two aspects have been featured strongly in the various episodes of the animation of “South Park”, as prepared by Parker and Stone. In fact, the persistent appearance of the themes in the theatrical production raises the question of whether the animation could be better perceived as a comedy or blasphemy. Consequently, this paper pays particular attention in evaluating how the features of religion and culture are presented in the various episodes of the animation.
The animation series is made in the fictional park of Colorado called the “South Park.” Again, the town appears typically small, with all people knowing each other. Besides, the mayor is depicted to be forever concerned about the image and harmony of the town dwellers. The interaction of the people in the movie shows a strong cultural bond, with the inhabitants being extremely conservative and reluctant towards innovations and changes (Ewalt 1). Nevertheless, the portrayal illustrates a sense of modern trends that is typically used to illustrate the modern American society and the makers’ personalized views of the society. The main characters seen in the episodes are two young boys from the South Park who are friendly to each other. Marsh and Brovlowski appear different from the other boys and adults featuring in the animation. They are shown to have a higher understanding and curiosity of the world around them as they would always question any happening. Brovlowski comes from a Jewish background, the only family in the town.
Another character is Eric Cartman, who an over caring mother brings up. Consequently, he disregards everybody else and only cares about himself (Gillespie and Jesse 58). He plays the main character of his idol, Adolf Hitler, as seen in his racist, egocentric, social pathetic, and manipulative person. In contrast, the animation features the fourth boy, Kenny McCormick, who is shown to come from a poor background. He is depicted as a dare to all situations, although he dies in many of the initial episodes of the animation. The plot also features the character of a chef who works in the school cafeteria and is shown as a close ally to the four boys. In fact, his role is highly esteemed in the animation, as he appears to be the only close adult the boys befriend. Indeed, he understands and listens to them when other people ignore them (Pinsky1). Another controversial character presented is Jesus, God’s son and the founder of the Christian religion and a native of the South Park town.
One must appreciate that although the production features very serious themes and criticism, the use of comedy in the production makes the animation series humorous and attractive across different sections of the modern society. The different episodes highlight instances of mockery and criticism of the various religious beliefs represented in the society.
Various religious beliefs are depicted in the plot of the animation film. For instance, just as in the common society, the film features the interactions of people allied to the Christian, Catholicism, Mormon, Jewish, and Islamic faith (Pinsky1). Moreover, as a depiction of the modern society, various views in support of the atheism movements are raised and which forms the position of criticism.
The first depiction of the Mormon religion appears in the seventh season with the arrival of the Harrison family in the city. The household belonged to the Mormon religion, which Stan quickly admires due to the family unity illustrated (Tenety 1). Nevertheless, he would quickly start questioning the faith and could not easily accept the system of belief ascribed to by the people. Indeed, in all the Mormons episodes, the animation highlights the critical elements of the religion and answers questions that many of the Americans have had concerning the system of beliefs (Conner 1). As associated with Joseph Smith, the believers ascribed to the teachings of the Book of Mormon as provided by Smith (Tenety 1). However, the religion could be criticized for lacking a theology and being based on a personal opinion of the existence of supernatural beings and power.
Secondly, the animation series highlight the Catholic religion. However, the system of faith is highly criticized in the film, with the majority of the believers being depicted as ill-informed, hypocritical, and highly insensitive to the other people (Tenety 1). Priest Maxi and Jesus are depicted in the episodes to propagate the belief system centered on the Biblical God. Accordingly, the two characters strive to illustrate the strength of the Biblical God with Jesus engaging in miracles (Tenety 1). Nevertheless, a controversy arose when Jesus died, and the critics questioned how God’s only son could die. In fact, as the authors point out, the Christian faith was built on the belief that God had only one son who came to earth for humanity. In spite of the religion purporting that Jesus was God, he was to die in the animation.
On the other hand, in the episode of the cartoon wars, the animation makers focused on the Islamic religion and prophet Mohammad. The makers intended to highlight how censorship in American society has evolved (Conner 1). At least for Parker and Stone, they knew that showing the image of the Islamic prophet in any way could be considered a sin and blasphemous (Pinsky1). Nevertheless, the intention to touch to the core of the religion saw them write about the interaction between Mohammed, Jesus, and Moses in the fifth episode. The collaboration of the religious leaders in the storyline was important in destroying the tyrannical magician David Blaine. In fact, Blaine had been criticized for his magic that had made people question their respective faiths and ascribe to Scientology. However, the episodes on the Islam religion could be altered in the light of the rising controversies as warned by the staunch believers.
Consequently, the authors and producers of the “South Park Animations” are shown to intentionally highlight the theme of religion as the central story line. Accordingly, the animation has successfully evaluated modern day society from the perspective of religious beliefs (Gillespie and Jesse 58). In fact, as noted in the production, the world today has become more sensitive to religion than ever in the history. While some people could defend their religion by all means, an increasing number of people question the basis of the different systems of faith professed. Thus, the film touches on a very sensitive element of the society. The modern American society is divided along religious beliefs and systems of faith and the modern science (Wilkes 1). Christianity and Islam are the two most dominant religions in the country that attract a large following among the town and rural dwellers. However, there are also other forms of religion, as highlighted to include Jews and Mormons, among other believers. One could also appreciate that a significantly large number of individuals have been ascribed to the atheism, and such has been depicted in the animation by the increased criticism of religion by the authors (Gillespie and Jesse 58). In fact, the entire film could be argued to present the views of the authors in analyzing the society.
Nevertheless, the movie highlights a rising level of intolerance and an appreciation of scientific views. In fact, the effect of science has created a platform where many people can question the supportive evidence of the religions, without which many have turned critics of the various belief systems (Gillespie and Jesse 58). However, the animation of the South Park can be argued as being effective in highlighting the controversial issues in the modern society regarding religion. As a result, atheism has also featured as an important aspect of religious and belief systems, with the supporters questioning the existence of any form of a deity. It is worth appreciating that although the film and the constitutional provision of the right to worship could raise such criticism, the freedom of expression has been indirectly targeted.
The South Park production has a strong social cultural theme in the American society. In fact, one could point out that the presentation conveys a social message on how the society should be, how the people could interact, behave, and treat each other for harmonious co-existence. Nevertheless, the major political parties have been accused of associated subjective agendas with the animation, while the authors have been skeptical in the same aspect. Accordingly, the thematic direction of the animation has been diverted from the political aspects of the social and cultural effects (Kahn 1). The uniqueness of the show in passing the message is anchored on the ability of the fictional characters to engage the people at a personalized level. Consequently, the film effectively alludes to the people’s attention by touching on politics, religion, and issues such as the modern way of life in terms of sexuality, including homosexuality and bisexuality (Kahn 1). The majority of the episodes in the animation touch on particular historical periods and events in the history of Americans.
The South Park storyline focuses on creating a good person as seen in the context of relationships in the society. Therefore, the message can be said to promote morality, safe and respectful interactions between people and the authorities. The illustrations of morality and social interactions, as depicted through government and the celebrities, touches on the core of the American Society (Wilkes 1). In fact, the use of the family is tactical in illustrating the importance of the family unit in any society. The choice of the children’s characters in unraveling the mysteries of the society, as used by the authors, is tactical and supported by the inquisitive nature of the children (Kahn 1). While the children play the role of being inquisitive, the parents and the adults are used to answering the many concerns raised. Therefore, one could argue that the authors and makers of the animation intended to pass the message of social interactions and the role of the different people in any society.
The religious systems highlighted also depict a cultural factor of the American Society (Kahn 1). Accordingly, the authors use the animated children to unravel the mythical and cultural mysteries behind embracing a given system of belief. Although the authors could use the film to portray the nature of the children to learn and question, one can appreciate that the plot had critical themes embed. However, the animation has attracted as much support as criticism from the viewers. First, some people could raise the concern of using the children’s characters to air adult concerns in the film. Secondly, the choice of words by the actors was highly disputed for using profanity hence attacking the moral fabric of the American society (Cowan 1). Family values in sharing, worship, education for children, and marriage and unions are fundamental elements of the film. Besides highlighting the contrast between families united by love and religion while others divided by occupations, the animation film illustrates the roles of the adults in educating and setting the example for the children.
The storyline highlighted in the South Park animation illustrates critical thematic concerns. Among the themes discussed are religion and the modern culture in the American society. The animation series utilizes cartoon characters to discuss the themes. Among the religions touched by the plot include the Christianity, Mormonism, Jewish, and Islamic. Besides, the film regards the beliefs of the atheists who question the existence of any form of a deity. Similarly, the plot highlights important elements of the culture, with the family unity, work, and education featuring dominantly. Therefore, one can rightfully argue that the authors and makers of the film successfully highlighted the American life in the animation.
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