South Park got everyone talking last week, but not for the right reasons.
Now thirteen years old, the show celebrated its 200th episode a few weeks ago. This milestone should have received some more attention than it did: aside from basic longevity, South Park was and is the signature show that put Comedy Central on the cable map.
More significant than that, though, is the unique social commentary South Park offers up from a center-right perspective – and the fact that no other show does that as well.
One episode called out hybrid enthusiasts as presumptuous yuppies who enjoy the smell of their own farts. Two episodes made the point (using thinly veiled surrogates for Starbucks and Wal-Mart) that big businesses are big because people want their products, not because of some evil corporate trick. A sixth season episode managed to mock lawsuit abuse, political correctness, and draw a line between tolerance and acceptance. A two-part episode glimpsed into a future without religion and found devout atheists arguing over whose scientific logic was superior.
South Park has been a turn-of-the-20th-century incarnation of an Ayn Rand novel – telling a compelling story while making important and uncommon cultural points. In fact, a 2005 book about the rise of media-savvy conservative activists was titled South Park Conservatives.
But calling South Park a political show is a misnomer. Other efforts to become conservative or libertarian alternatives to left-leaning television shows, movies, or other media outlets have failed because those outlets put politics before content; South Park is a funny show that happens to be made by people with a libertarian-oriented worldview. It would be hilarious either way; the leanings of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone just make it different.
If you want to learn more about smaller government and individual freedom, Hayek and Bastiat are better philosophers than Parker and Stone. But it you want entertainment that comes from a different perspective than most of the stuff out there – and that is, despite some shock value jokes and toilet humor, pretty smart – go on down to South Park and have yourself a time.