Monday, November 12, 2012

South Park and the Sea

***Caveat! harsh language and subjects in the links***

Anyone associated with the ocean who also is a fan of the television show South Park may have noticed something recently about their program; there have been many mentions of the ocean, ocean conservation and ocean news. It is no secret that South has kept a political note in its lampooning of modern events. Episodes have covered subjects from protecting forests to Climate Change to freeing sea-park animals to ocean exploration to co-opting native cultures. You can find a few lists here and there of the "top green episodes" from places like Mother Nature Network but most recently these episodes have had a very ocean-centric feel. South Park is not always in gung-ho support of environmental issues and their messaging.

In one episode they poked fun at Al Gore for his fear of Climate Change and global warming with the invention of "Man-Bear-Pig." Another episode relating to smog and Climate Change lampoons the eco-minded drivers of hybrids as the leading causers of "Smug" which destroys San Francisco in the show. While the South Park creators have not been pulling punches on the eco-minded, they have definitely been bringing some awareness to ocean news and eco-awareness.

One of the most prominent episodes to deal with environmental awareness and climate change was through an allegory of head lice. In this episode head lice on the scalp of a character named Clyde become aware of changes in their natural environment. In this scene, an environmentally aware louse tries to inform the Climate Change denying "President" of the lice.

Eventually the environment, in this case Clyde, changes by introducing substances caustic to the lice in the form of shampoo. Through some harrowing events, back stabbing and the help of a wayward fly the environmentally conscious lice and a few others flee to a more hospitable environment. There they decide to "live more in tune with nature."


A friend pointed out to me that I was missing a few KEY segment from the show's 14th season relating to the BP oil spill in the gulf. In two episodes, the show goes after the Oil and Energy company's horrible record of reckless drilling in Ocean areas and their "Oops, we are sorry" campaign.

The creators of South Park again point to the hypocrisy of a company whose only solutions that they can come up to for the problems they create are to apologize then drill again.


It is hard to forget that Parker and Stone have covered ocean issues in earlier episodes. In one episode titled "Whale Whores" the character Stan discovers the harm being done by the "Japanese" to the Whale and Dolphin populations and decides to do something about it. He decides to join Sea Shepherd.

The fact that Parker and Stone hate the show Whale Wars is pretty clear from the episode and while others may claim that South Park is no friend to the environment and the cause, I am not so sure. In an interview with the pair and a Huffington Post Reporter they state:
We did a show last season called 'Whale Whores' about the 'Whale Wars' guys. Everyone is against whaling, we're not into killing whales, but if you watch ['Whale Wars'] it's horrible--super f*cking boring--and if you watch that show for long enough you will hate the people in it. They say on the show, 'We will lie for our political ends.' They SAY that. So our whole show was basically, 'F*ck you, you guys are liars.' I don't f*cking care if it's in service of saving whales, you're liars. But we got a thank you letter from them and an environmental award. There's NOTHING about the environment in that show...but it doesn't matter, everyone sees their own thing in it. So a lot of our shows where even we think we've taken a very deliberate stand, liberals say, 'That's awesome, you took on the conservatives' same show and conservatives say 'That's awesome, you took on liberals.'
Sea Shepherd is an organization whose goals and membership are to be lauded but South Park's main point was that it was a terrible show and did not portray the organization well. In episode in question, the issue of dolphin and whale killing is not what Parker and Stone are against, it is the smugness and the hypocrisy shown by the Sea Shepherd organization in the poorly created and executed show associated with them. The fact of the matter is that the character Stan actually takes over the organization, steps up the guerrilla methodology of the organization, keeps honest and true and creates an impact. In the episode the boys of South Park through manipulation actually solve the issue. Captain Paul Watson, who in the episode gets a harpoon to the head, actually lauded the episode and what it did for the movement;
This particular episode of South Park titled “Whale Whores” slams the Japanese culture, but it also takes shots at American culture. It smacks down vegans and meat eaters alike, it ridicules Larry King, myself and my crew, unleashes Godzilla on the cowardly whalers, sniggers at the Hiroshima bombing, massacres the Miami Dolphins, firebombs and sinks the Nisshin Maru, kamikazes the Steve Irwin, kills off my crew, wipes out the whalers, mocks television, bitch slaps the crew of the Deadliest Catch, and does all this in a mere twenty minutes of way over the top violence, racism, sexism, and every kind of politically correct ism there is in an perverse orgy of slapstick humor supporting a ridiculously silly plotline that these pathetically successful evil geniuses manage to pull off in their particularly nasty minded manner. 
In other words- it was frigging great!
One episode from the current season reveals that Butters is a "native Hawaiian." Anyone familiar with the show knows that Butters and his parents are not native Pacific Islanders. The entire episode pokes fun at "white" people who have live on the islands or vacationed there for a year or two calling themselves "native" and having disdain for the "haoles" (a pejorative term to refer to outsiders of the Hawaiian culture) and rely on "Chi-chis" for strength.

The "native" Hawaiians fight against the US government when the local resorts refuse to honor their club cards and bonus points, again pointing out the silliness of the situation they are lampooning. While this is possibly a reaction to the recent Clooney movie, the Descendants, the creators of South Park are drawing attention to the plight of the Pacific Islander culture in a round about way. It is a relatively accurate portrait of a culture that, through a history of forced oppression, forced abandonment and forced assymilation is dissapearing and being coopted in a shadow of its former glory by the "new natives" made up almost entirely of "haoles."

In one particular episode from this most season that deals with our cultures standards on entertainment and self-shame, the creators of South Park imply directly that James Cameron is "raising the bar" for American culture. How does he do this? Through physically raising an unseen "bar" through his Deepsea explorer.

Many fans of South Park out there may not even have been aware of Cameron's dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and though there is a little poking fun at Cameron's ego, Stone and Parker give implied credit to Cameron for literally raising the bar of American culture.

Why so much about the ocean? Is it the luck of the draw? The fact that after 16 seasons you are bound to pick up on ocean issues? Is it because they are from Colorado, a haven for ocean advocacy and events like making waves? One cannot be too sure but it is an interesting fact that this subject is so frequent.

Perhaps the ocean has a secret friend in the pair, or maybe it is just random coincidence. We may never know till we hear from those two inappropriate misanthropes.

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