Tragedy often breeds comedy, and darkness allows us to shed light on knowledge. Being the cultural satire that is South Park, War has been a hot button issue on the series, and creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have pumped out gold after gold episode to discuss the topic.
In an era where we may sit on the forefront of another lengthy strife in the middle east, I wanted to roll through some of the episodes about the topic throughout the series, and the primary takeaways from all of them.
To start the list, let’s start with the episode that captured my interest on the subject.
I’m a Little Bit Country (Season 7, Episode 4, 2003)
This episode could serve as South Park’s rallying cry for an Iraq war discussion. In I’m a Little Bit Country, the entire town of South Park is divided over the issue of the war in Iraq, and whether or not to support Bush. The kids are used by the parents as a ploy to promote either of their standings on the issue, whether the kids could comprehend or not. I think it’s a solid comment by the creators: Don’t drag young children into the discussion, it may be a bit over their heads. As the town literally tears itself apart over their divisive thoughts, Cartman is caught in a self-induced flashback after many attempts, where he is taken to answer the question posed to children by the town’s parents: What would our founding fathers think about the war?
Cartman finds said forefathers and notices them in the same heated discussion over the same debate: should we go to war or not? As both towns in both points of history continue to rabble rabble over the debate, it gets fucking crazy. The town once again, manages to break out into song. Besides this brilliant juxtaposition, Cartman helps the town come to a brilliant resolution about our feelings on the war. We need to be a country that has its cake and eats it too…a country that is hard enough to go to war when it has too, but has people that can make it look like we don’t want to, in support of our national image.
I think this issue may once again be relevant soon in our American media discussions.
The Imaginationland Trilogy (Episodes 10-12, 2003)
The Tongue-in-cheek is strong in this one, as well as Mel Gibson’s presence.
I think the whole title of Imaginationland is a good way to summarize the primary controversy over the ethics leading up to the war, we weren’t really sure if Iraq deserved the fight. regardless, right from the get-go in the first episode, it get’s straight to the point, terrorism is ugly, and it was a hard image to let go of in our heads when we contemplated the war as Americans, as we saw in the preceding Iraq War episode in this season.
“Terrorists have attacked our imaginations, and now our imaginations are running wild.”
This show goes to a literal dark side of our imaginations, and depicts the war of the good and bad imaginary creatures, triggered by Al-Qaeda’s usage of a missile. It’s full of gore, violence, and an actually troubling, more realistic dramatic depiction of Stan’s experience with being near a suicide bombing. Right from episode 1, we start to see the South Park writers venture into more high brow humor.
“It is called: Project Imagination Doorway.”
While the US military didn’t have an imaginative name for the doorway, this episode is laced with creativity, and manages to even poke fun at some of our favorite American Directors, in what I think is a jab at Hollywood hot shots opinions on the war, or at least the fact that they think they had the easy answer. All I know is that if Michael Bay was in charge of war, there would be hella awesome special effects, and nobody would ACTUALLY die at least.
Kurt Russell’s drawing even made a cameo in episode 2, because he was in that movie that was “kind of something like this, so he had the most experience of all of us.” Unfortunately, his acting experience doesn’t quite cut it, so the Woodland Critter creatures rape the fuck out him. It’s twisted as shit.
Even MANBEARPIG made an appearance in this episode, which is so catty at Al Gore, as Manbearpig is his brainchild in a previous episode of the series. It’s fucking hilarious. He’s also as badassed as Al Gore said he was, and manages to almost get Kyle out of sucking Cartman’s balls…even though it meant almost killing him.
The third installment of the series really gets lit. Luke Skywalker, that fucking Lion from Narnia, and Popeye all make an appearance as the alliance of good imaginary characters. They all go to war with Imaginationlands baddest mother fuckers.
“Believe in Santa, right now!”
The military also brings up the discussion of “whether or not we have to nuke our imaginations,” and like the episode questions, a journalist asks whether or not the bombing is “prudent.” As our imaginations are about to be nuked, we find ourselves out of options, and out of Kurt Russells.
You have to appreciate two-sidedness South Park creators take on the issue of the Iraq war. They play for both teams, and fire shots on everyone in the discussion, no pun intended. It even takes Iraq’s perspective into account, as everyone in Imaginationland promises to “let us get it under control,” and “bombing isn’t the answer.”
It even starts to mock the Political Correctness discussion a decade before it really became relevant, and really put into perspective our imaginary characters. I think Kyle’s monolog on the importance of not nuking our imagination (Iraq), Matt Stone and Trey Parker may be questioning the need for our intervention in the middle east.
In the end, the nuke still goes off, but as usual, Butter’s saves the day by reimagining imaginationland and everything inside it back to life, not cheesy at all. Cartman even still manages to get Kyle to suck his balls
As we look towards the future of our role in the Middle East, we can look back to what South Park had to say about the US in 2003. I think the creators of South Park just really take an educational, satirical approach to war altogether. The entire collection of South Park is on Hulu, one of the streaming sites I’ll be discussing in a later post for The Establishing Shot.