In a recent discussion a group friends debated the relative quality of South Park’s satire. One argument was that South Park does a whole lot better with being crude and farcical and at times appropriately skewers someone or something that needs skewering. Yet on occasion, South Park gets too “messagey,” sucking all the humor out of an episode in favor of heavy-handed opinion. I countered that typically South Park, even when it is taking a counterculture stand (e.g. the presidential election episode), will depict both sides of an issue. They may not give each side equal time, but they’ll generate humor in both directions making it easier for me to believe they want me to laugh at the show rather than cheer for any sort of message it presents.
Last week’s episode took my argument and shoved it down my throat. “ManBearPig” was a completely one-sided and sad document to Al Gore’s resurgent environmentalist crusade. In this episode Al Gore is trying to spread the word of a dangerous ManBearPig that could destroy the world. The comparison between this campaign and his real life’s work is clear and the message is “Al Gore is nuts and just trying to attract attention to himself by spouting off on an issue that clearly shows him to be off the deep end.”
The episode went on and on. There was no attempt to show that “ManBearPig” was real. An actual “ManBearPig” was not depicted in the shadows. “ManBearPig” is a joke and no one – no one – believes in it but Al Gore.
I think there is room to argue about global warming. Climate change is a reality, but is it really the immediate reality it is often made out to be? Is there much chance for the U.S. to effectively alter climate change as China and India approach the modern world? Certainly Gore could take his hits, too. There is some fear-mongering on the environmentalist side that, if you step back and think about it, can be compared to the fear-mongering on the other side of the political spectrum. Fair is fair.
Exposing fear-based policy is a great place for satire. But to call Al Gore completely nuts and disingenuous with no alternative presented made for very ineffective humor. South Park was asking me to cheer for this goring, but instead its ineffectiveness has me eating crow.