Last night’s season finale of Comedy Central’s animated satire series, South Park, stuck to its embrace of the now with multiple jabs at the media maelstrom surrounding Penn State and the Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
In last night’s episode, The Poor Kid, Cartman and Kenny end up, through accident and design, respectively, in the state’s foster care system. A social worker, Mr. Adams, assigned to relocate the children instead takes the opportunity to rail on Penn State through a series of jokes “appropriate” only for South Park.
“Would you like to go to Neverland Ranch, a Catholic Church, or Penn State University?” asks Mr. Adams as he talks to Kenny and his siblings about possible foster care. As his little sister begins to cry, Mr. Adams tries to cheer her up with a few jokes.
“A Penn State administrator walks into a bar?” with no response, Mr. Adams goes onto say, “How about this one, Joe Paterno doesn’t walk into a police station?”
While some jokes straddled the line of timely comedy, some other fell face first into the realm of “too soon.” I’m all about so-called shock humor, but some jabs even made a desensitized viewer like myself cringe.
While reading Cartman’s referral files to the foster care program, Mr. Adams says, “It also says here, Penn State prefers to be losing at half time, because at Penn State they like when you’re a little behind in the locker room.”
He then goes on to say, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how old should you be to stay away from Penn State?”
Later, the character goes further, saying, “You can’t just turn all of your frustrations on a little kid who can’t defend himself. I mean, what do you think this is? The shower room at Penn State,” as he scolded Cartman for making fun of a poor kid at his new school.
No matter how much I flipped out at my TV set, begging for the cruel and unusual punishment to stop, I couldn’t help but laugh at a few jokes, even though they were sick, twisted, and overtly offensive.
But Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have gone too far. They may not realize that the still shaken Penn State community will be deeply offended by some of the remarks. More importantly, the victims involved in this incident would in no way condone such sadistic humor. But if Tom Cruise, Saddam Hussein, Jesus Christ, Kanye West, and the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) weren’t exempt from Parker and Stone’s cruel yet comical degradation, why did you think Happy Valley would be?
To those whose jaws are still dropped from South Park’s cheap attempt at making jokes regarding the worst sexual abuse scandal to ever hit higher education, I empathize with you… In retrospect, maybe flipping a Comedy Central van would have made a much better statement than WTAJ’s (editor’s note: Comedy Central has vans?)
But the better opportunity here is not a chance to rage, but rather a chance to learn. The mainstream media sucks and they’ll milk every bit of drama for the consumption of our sadomasochistic culture. They profit off of America’s fetish with schadenfreude. What they don’t report on is that we’re bigger than this scandal.
Don’t take it the wrong way, Penn State. Laugh it off. And to Parker/Stone, recall Cartman’s own words from this episode: “Will you stop with the Penn State jokes? All you’re doing is taking something topical and revamping old Catholic jokes.”