Parodies are such a phenomenal thing. They feed off of humor to not only mimic, but mock ideas and established concepts. Through its comic effect, parodies accentuate the absurdity of some aspect of reality – hence, the phrase “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true”. However, parodies can use the same humor to address significant problems with the cultural, political, and economic conditions of a society. In other words, parodies can also be satirical. Through three specific moments, the South Park inspired take on police brutality and white privilege begs its audience to realize the ignorance underlying racial formation and racial inequality in the United States.
The first moment occurs when the newscaster says, “People are shocked that they would do such a terrible thing; a tragic tragic days and boy scouts are to blame” (0:08-0:13). Significantly, this instant epitomizes how our more or less “calculated” and “rational” way of perceiving others is implicitly influenced by a multiplicity of authorities, agencies, and media. Whether done explicitly or not, this newscaster effectively shaped the interests, beliefs, and understandings of the audience in manner that conflated race with conduct. This amalgamation integrates itself into the common sense and convinces the audience (i.e. society) to render conduct as something measured, motivated, and identified through physical characteristics. Additionally, the newscaster’s diction demonstrates how a reaction to an event caused by a distinguishable group of people implicates the “rational” way in which all people of that group are perceived. For the newscaster to say that all “Boy Scouts are to [be] blamed” and reprimanded for the horrific doings of some Boy Scouts is simply ridiculous but is nonetheless enforced through the emotional effect of knowing that people were murdered by Boy Scouts. Although this point is meant to be understood through the humor of the video, such an event happens on a daily basis in a very unfunny way. The closing of boarders to all Syrian refugees on the basis that they are to be “blamed” for terrorism and the Paris Attack is one example. In both instances, race – or specific acquired characteristics – becomes the way in which we determine who to blame and how we treat them. As a society, we essentially become intolerant for physical features that individuals are unable to control. Through the theme of taking one’s badge the video “hilariously” demonstrates how that intolerance is enforced through how ready society is to invalidate the value of that group of people. The rest of the video depicts the ways in which that intolerance develops into conflict. In this blog, however, I will like to focus on two specific moments.
Two other instances, when viewed together, radically emphasize the absurdity of racial inequality. The first instance occurs when the character Eric Cartmen is hitting a dog with a stick (1:20-1:40). It is important to first understand the situation between Cartmen and the dog. Clearly the dog is already restrained as its collar is firmly tied to a park bench. Nonetheless, the dog never reacts to Cartmen’s abuse. However, as Cartmen is hitting the dog, he says “Stop Resisting; why are you reaching for my gun huh? Why are you reaching for my gun?” Thus, the inequality in this situation becomes clear: Cartmen is utilizing his position of power to continually and wrongfully oppress another. Unlike the previous scenes, he should undoubtedly be at fault and penalized for such behavior. However, when a crowd arrives to condemn Cartmen, he smirks and says “I’m sorry. Apparently no one told you. I have white privilege.” A moment of pause pursues before a man says “He’s absolutely right. Leave him be.” Thus, Cartmen is “allowed” to continue the oppression with no consequence. The complete ignorance behind this moment is dramatized through its juxtaposition with the next scene, in which another character – Kenny – is murdered. The character, covering his face in a style similar to a hijab or burka, is shot by a police officer on his way to medically assist someone in need (1:45-1:55). It is critical to understand that he is shot and killed without question or hesitation as a result of presupposed beliefs and fears. Through these scenes we see how the conflation of race and conduct allows for the “rational” yet absolutely immoral decisions made by society. Cartmen, who clearly should have been judged and punished by his actions is left perfectly alone. The character utilizes the advantages of his race to maliciously oppress another without consequences for his actions. In addition, the man’s saying of “Leave him alone” accentuates how society is very much complicit in fostering such inequality by not stopping it. In stark contrast, Kenny is murdered for helping another. Let me restate that: Cartmen is left alone for hurting another while Kenny is shot and killed for helping another. Kenny’s death emphasizes society’s increased intolerance towards people who look a certain way or fit a particular description regardless of whether the person is good or bad. Thus, the audience is introduce to the ignorance of white privilege and racial prejudice. Although the video is meant to illicit humor, such occurrence are not funny when real people are involved. The misconduct of white officers, businessmen, etc. see very little reprimand by our justice system. In contrast, black men and women such as Laquan McDonald are murdered for just living.
This absurd racial inequality, stirred by the way race is formed, is what this video so desperately tries to reveal.
The South Park parody is funny. It was meant to be funny. However, it’s only funny because it’s true. The video serves a necessary critique of society and the world in which we live in. The video mocks the idea of way in which race is identified, differentiated, and marginalized. When you watch the video you can have one of two response: you can either laugh and ignore its blatant significance in everyday life or say “oh shit, we lived in world that has a long way to go before we can really tout equality for all.”