Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shot through the heart, and you're to blame...

Nearly eight weeks ago, a stingray off the coast of Queensland killed global celebrity Steve Irwin. The world was devastated. Memorials, vigils, building dedications all took place in his honor, even an unofficial backlash against the mild-mannered animal that took his life.

This past week, Matt Stone and Trey Parker displayed their memorial to Irwin.

While Satan was throwing a costume party in hell, a man showed up as Steve Irwin with a barb stuck in his heart. After declaring it “too soon,” Satan discovered the man was actually Steve Irwin, and was kicked out of the party for not having a costume.

Critics of this episode point out that it is indeed too soon to mention this. But when has South Park shied away from controversial content? Exactly.

In fact, the writers approach it very delicately. In the episode they even go as far and declare that it is “too soon” to use Steve Irwin as a joke. There was absolutely no disrespect made to Steve Irwin or his family in his animated appearance.

If he were depicted in an epic five minute long battle with a giant ray then yes, that definitely would have been offensive. But the truth is that he was represented in good taste. The comedic value from the scene stems around the awkward situation that Satan was put in which, ironically, is the same exact situation critics are in with this episode.

Two months have passed since the tragedy. Respects have been paid and people have moved on with their lives. People are waiting for an unspecified amount of time to pass before they will not feel bad about laughing at this.

In the same scene, Princess Diana, Adolph Hitler, Frank Sinatra, and Mahatma Gandhi all are in attendance at the costume ball, yet people do not see a problem with this at all? Satan is dressed as Britney Spears, and is throwing a costume party in hell. How is this show something to be taken seriously?

The “too soon,” excuse is just to get people to stop thinking about the tragedy that occurred. Comedy serves as a device to turn a somber situation into a happy one. The man did not die in a horrific car accident, but rather he was killed doing something he loved.

The creators of South Park are not making fun of Steve Irwin at all, but rather they are making fun of the entire situation. Comedy helps people cope with death, which is exactly why people suggest reflecting upon the happier times when a loved one dies. Remembering all the quirks and funny things about a person helps people cope.

People are just looking too far into it. They are looking into all the other controversial things South Park has done, or how much it has offended them in the past and unfairly attacking the show. Well, if the show were so incredibly ludicrous and offensive people simply would not watch it.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are not creating a show with a ton of character depth, but rather a satire that depends on controversy to thrive.

Displaying Steve Irwin with a barb in his chest is not offensive, while on the other hand, making fun of the way a man died is. Stone and Parker do not cross that line, but instead present the situation in a respectful manner.


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