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Thursday, April 29, 2010

More South Park

I wrote last week about the controversy involving South Park and a Fundamentalist Islamic organization over the show's depictions or near-depictions of Muhammad and Comedy Central/Viacom's editing of the show by bleeping all mention of Muhammad's name, as well as a lengthy end-of-show speech about the problems of using fear and intimidation to chill others' speech.

Jonah Weiner, pop culture writer at Slate, has a different take. He argues that the extra editing of the episode actually gave it more power. He writes, "The episodes vibrantly illustrate the idea—fascinating both in its political and philosophical implications—that a U-Haul van, a bear suit, and a "CENSORED" bar can themselves come to represent precisely the thing they were meant to obscure." Similarly, by Comedy Central trying so hard not to "depict" Muhammad and thus not to offend, they arguably become more offensive--in an earlier (pre-9/11) episode that did draw Muhammad, "Mohammed was a hero. In '200' he is stuffed into a piece of moving equipment. Which representation is more sensitive?"

Finally, the bleeping of the anti-censorship "moral" gained power from being censored and thus not preachy. Again, Weiner: The "sequence winds up speaking as eloquently, startlingly, and hilariously to the issue at hand as a monologue ever could. That 38-second bleep is one of the best pieces of writing South Park has ever aired."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 29, 2010 at 03:25 PM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink

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