ambiguity

April 23, 2010

Further Analysis

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 12:09 pm

When I was a teenager first discovering the wonders of South Park, I always suspected there was more to the show than just the unnecessary violence, or the occasional toilet humour, or the constant use of profanity. It was so overbearing, almost the central plot of the series. It felt like someone had made a delicious peach cobbler, and then poured an entire sack of icing sugar on it.

Bearing that analogy in mind, it eventually became clear that in order to enjoy that cobbler, one had to first scrape the icing sugar off, maybe just leave a tiny bit of it on, maybe get some whipped cream on top, perhaps some fresh peaches… South Park is a brilliant cobbler; people just have to know how much sugar to leave on, and how much of the other stuff is really necessary.

But what really makes South Park a special show is not the superficial. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t smirk at South Park and proclaim it to be an unintelligent program that only achieved fame and recognition by sparking controversy. While it is true that controversy has been a recurring theme for Parker and Stone, their design is in no way unintelligent. Au contraire, it happens to be one of the most intellectually stimulating programs around.

South Park recurring themes

1) Swearing Children

The idea of kids being demure and innocent is flawed. There’s a reason why William Golding made his characters from “Lord of the Flies” children. Children are easily influenced, learn quick, and are original, possibly because they haven’t seen enough of the world to conform. Parents, however, choose to view their kids in a different, and deluded manner. Parker and Stone’s little buggers look like angels, but swear like sailors, and that comes as such a shock to first time viewers, they can’t help but be intrigued. It isn’t just an addiction strategy, nor is it purely for entertainment’s sake. Parker and Stone expose the potential impact of society on kids, and the consequences that follow. They remind us that what we believe may not necessarily be real, and what’s real may not necessarily be pleasant.

2) Controversy

Think about the number of times you’ve watched a South Park episode and said to yourself, “Oh boy they’ve really done it now.” Have you ever wondered why? Why this blatant disrespect? Why this utter disregard for one’s pride and reputation? And why target celebrities, politicians and religion? Perhaps it’s because they are the big trio, the three musketeers who, consciously or not, are causing serious damage to society. Have you considered that it really isn’t that easy to taunt those three categories? Two of them have the power to summon lawyers, while the remaining one has magical deities watching its back. It takes not only courage, but an extensive knowledge of current affairs, a wicked sense of humour and a razor-sharp wit. And have you realised that they’re just saying what we are too afraid to?

3) Underlying Tones

A very good example of this would be the two latest episodes. There is something important to learn in almost every episode. Parker and Stone merely employ the main storyline as a decoy, and when the lesson is revealed, the entire episode, however ridiculous it may have seemed at first, starts making sense.

The two latest episodes, however, raise the bar. Possibly the best episodes I’ve seen in a long time, “200” begins with Tom Cruise accusing young Stan Marsh of ridiculing him by calling him a “fudgepacker”, even though Cruise really is packing fudge into boxes. He eventually leads a group of celebrities who have previously fallen victim to South Park residents’ ridicule and vows to sue the town unless they hand over Mohammed, who he believes has the power, or “goo” that allows him to be immune from ridicule. As the episodes stretches on, more and more characters from the past emerge, sweeping regular viewers off their feet with a gigantic wave of nostalgia. The episode eventually ends with Jesus and a bunch of religious figures, who are superheroes in that universe, rescuing everyone.

Parker and Stone have outdone themselves this time, not merely because the episodes were hilarious, but because they succeeded. They had accomplished what they had in mind.

The Plan

1) Lay the trap

The mere mention of Mohammed’s name marks the first step to the setting up of the trap. While Lars Vilk and Jyllands-Posten paid a small price for their cartoons of the prophet, the prospect of seeing an animated Mohammed would surely be too much for Islamists to take.

2) Spring the trap

The revelation of Mohammed, but behind a black “censored” bar, is the spark that sets the fuel alight. As if slowly testing the strength of the Muslim resolve, Parker and Stone patiently release bits and pieces of Mohammed. First his voice, then the bar, then him in a bear suit. And to top it off, the South Park characters break the fourth wall by questioning whether every little bit would get them into trouble. It was pure genius, and it worked like a charm. Revolution Muslim gladly trod into the meticulously laid trap.

3) Comparison

This is quite possibly Parker and Stone’s masterstroke. I’d like to name a few of the characters mocked in those episodes.

Paris Hilton – Coughs out semen

Tom Cruise – Famous Oprah scene re-enacted

Barbara Streisand – Depicted as a metallic Godzilla-like monster

Jesus – Addicted to internet pornography

Buddha – Snorts cocaine

Krishna – Transforms into Neil Diamond

Then, there is Mohammed, who besides being portrayed as a black “censored” bar, doesn’t really make an appearance at all (since the person in the bear costume was really Santa Claus). Yet, the only ones who seem ticked off are the Muslims.

Parker and Stone have hit the jackpot. Because of Revolution Muslim’s reckless threat, they have now revealed, on a gigantic scale, the dangers of Islam. Not that it was ever ambiguous before. Parker and Stone have successfully demonstrated that in order for freedom of expression to be present, in order for creativity and satire to flourish, the most offensive and oppressive entity must go. It is a stark, and very bleak comparison, that the Muslims would issue death threats over the mere idea of their prophet being animated on a television program while the Christians laugh at the image of Jesus on his laptop.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, Comedy Central then took the liberty of bleeping out Mohammed’s name, and the entire closing dialogue, thus shooting themselves in the foot. Parker and Stone have managed to not only bring forward their point on the qualities of Islam, they have successfully illustrated, at Comedy Central’s expense, one of society’s most glaring faults: we would rather shoot ourselves than be politically incorrect. We try to remain neutral in the face of such terror, simply because it is easy and convenient.

What happens now remains to be seen. The threat from Revolution Muslim is unambiguous: they want blood. Besides the photo of the late Theo Van Gogh and the warning on their website, they have also listed Comedy Central’s New York headquarters, the cable television channel that broadcasts the show, and South Park’s production company, accompanied by this chilling statement.

“You can pay them a visit at these addresses.”

Still think you can afford to sit on the fence?

April 22, 2010

Revolution Muslim “Calls for Protest”

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 11:39 am

In November 2004, Dutch film-maker Theodoor Van Gogh, great-grand nephew of Post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam. He was shot eight times with a handgun. Not content with merely annihilating him, his murderer, a man by the name of Mohammed Bouyeri, cut his throat nearly to the point of decapitation, before stabbing him in the chest and attaching a note onto his torso with a two knives. Despite his provocative stance towards religion, Islam in particular, and his delight in sparking political controversy, Van Gogh was an intelligent, talented man who willingly abandoned his self-destructive, nihilistic lifestyle for the sake of his son. He was murdered for his directorial role in the short film “Submission”, which portrays the violence women suffer in Islamic societies.

Today, six years after his death, Matt Parker and Trey Stone, creators of South Park, are the new targets. The latest episode of the popular animation series featured the Prophet Mohammed, first behind a black “censored” bar and later in a bear suit. Revolution Muslim, a New-York based radical muslim group issued what they described as a “call to protest”, which went like this:

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality that will likely happen to them.”

That is not a call to protest. That is a call to murder. That is a call to kill. A call to expunge. A call to wipe them out. And as much as I want to profess my shock, I simply cannot.

Keep in mind that this group was co-founded by a man who saw nothing wrong with 911, who felt that it was fully justified. Younes Mohammed had previously expressed his disdain for the US and his desire for a Muslim world.

“We’re commanded to terrorize the disbelievers and this is a religion… The Quran says very clearly, in the Arabic language… terrorize them. It’s a command from Allah.”

“I define terrorism as making them fearful so that they think twice before they go rape your mother or kill your brother or go onto your land and try to steal your resources.”

All this follows an interview with an imam from the 96th Street Mosque, who claims that the “real” Islam is a religion of “peace, moderation and friendship, and it opposes any kind of hatred against anybody”. The irony and contradiction makes me shudder with delight.

I applaud Matt Parker and Trey Stone for having the galls to challenge one of the biggest problems faced by modern society. Like I applaud Lars Vilk.  Like I applaud Jyllands-Posten. Like I applaud Salman Rushdie. It is time we got rid of our tendency to remain politically correct and recognise that evil is staring us in the face. It is time we stopped pretending that we don’t know it’s wrong to issue death threats for simple satire. It is time we stopped shoveling faux-tolerance and respect into the engine of religion and pull the emergency brakes. It is time to cease this madness.

April 19, 2010

The Words of Wisdom, Let Them Be.

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 11:26 am

The American Library Association on Saturday released a list of “the most challenged books of 2009″, featuring what American parents believe to be offensive and dangerous books. Among the names are classics such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”, ranked at number four and J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye” at sixth.

It perplexes me, to the point I question my own taste in literature. The “Twilight” series, which I maintain is not only poorly written, but poorly thought out, ranks in between the two legends. I won’t disagree too much with that, not because I find the books offensive(well, not morally anyway), but because if anyone is going to challenge a book, it better match the abomination that is vampires and werewolves fighting over a tomboy.

It really is fascinating, the reasons parents give for challenging these books. Reasons such as “nudity”, “sexually explicit”, “offensive language” and my personal favourite, “religious viewpoint”. Based on these four criteria alone, I wonder with every inch of my being, how the bible isn’t at the top of that list. It has everything, everything parents could possibly find offensive in a publication. Murder, rape, sodomy, bloodshed, offensive language, yet once again religion gets away with it. But that’s not the biggest thorn in my flesh.

Clearly, American parents understand the sort of influence books can have on us. But to want them removed from curricula, to deprive children of beauty in print, purely because they’re afraid of the potential knee jerk is cowardly, cruel, ignorant and a complete underestimation of their own flesh and blood. Parent’s don’t seem to give their children enough credit nowadays, and again, while I can understand that a good percentage of children are imbeciles, that shouldn’t mean that the rest of them have to suffer.

One of modern society’s biggest problems has reared its ugly head. Overprotective, anal, irrational parents who believe that they know what’s best for their children, who believe that they must regulate content being distributed so as to prevent their children from falling victim to bad influence, who believe that without controversial content, their children will grow up to be loyal, patriotic and intelligent individuals, who believe that if their children read only the bible and “Where’s Waldo?”, they’ll grow up to understand that the world is a messy and complicated place, and sometimes you don’t find what you’re looking for, but if you say a prayer, a magic finger will descend from the heavens and point that candy cane out to you.

Instead of lodging complaints, why not educate your own children? Why abandon the responsibility and accountability that is yours and yours alone? Why fault an external entity when quite clearly, there is more you can do about it than stopping them from learning? Simple. Because it is easy. Convenient. Because no one likes to blame themselves when their children don’t grow up to become what they imagine. Because it is much simpler to point a finger at someone else than to look into the mirror and admit that you failed as a parent.

Well the truth is, your vision of perfect children won’t manifest. But at least they will be who they are. They will have learned, they will have absorbed, they will know their loves, their hates, they will laugh and cry, all based on their own standards of humour and sorrow, they will understand, they will think, they will consider and make their own decisions, they will succeed, they will make mistakes, but at least it will be theirs. They will be John, Kevin, Sarah, Jane, Michelle, Adam, Stephen, Joanna… They will be unique individuals who know who they are. And if they turn out this way, you would’ve done your job as a parent. You would’ve helped nurture another human being into mental maturity. And while he or she may not be the perfect child, he or she is undoubtedly and unmistakably yours.

April 15, 2010

Heavy Heart Says There Must Be Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 10:25 am

As we began our descend and the temperature crept the other way, a revelation struck, hard. I was home, but not really. How could I be home? How could I bear, how could I live with myself, how could I have the nerve to call this place home? How could I watch as those around me continue to applaud the evident insanity? How on earth could I contemplate the notion of being contented, when quite clearly we’ve never been close to that prospect? How could I sit and take it all in, and not give them a comparison point? How could I just let them be one of the many frogs in the well?

No. This will not do. We are a nation void of identity. We are a nation with nothing to offer but exotic looking, easy women, unbelievable food and false GDP numbers. We ignore cries for assistance, we dismiss wails of injustice. We enjoy the finer things in life, without keeping in mind that the finest things don’t usually cost anything. We give up on educating ourselves for pleasure and instead, tell ourselves that every move we make will just be another stepping stone to greater glory. We cheer at being intoxicated, yet we never actually enjoy tasting what we pour down our throats. We embrace those in power without knowing why exactly. We are mercenaries, heading where fortune lies, like a flower tilting towards the sun. We ride this train, but we never look out the window anymore because we think we have everything we need in the cabin. But the air is recycled and stale, the food is reheated, the alcohol will only last so long. But out there, out there we will have fresh food, air and water. We will have space to unfold the tents of our minds. We will have freedom to choose. We will have freedom to speak. We will have freedom to move about. We will be masters and mistresses of our domains. We will take charge.

We can make this happen. And if we fail, at least we can leave, our hearts heavy, but our minds at ease.

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