Justice

'South Park' Just Made A Bold Statement About Guns

December 10th 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

"South Park" wrapped up its 19th season with a thought-provoking episode about the state of gun violence in the United States. The show, which poked fun at politically correct (PC) culture all season, opened with the main crew of elementary school kids arming themselves with weapons to fight PC Principal, who is offended by everything. Salon's television critic Sonia Saraiya describes the scene:

"'We have to get guns,' Kyle says to his friends, in the boys’ bathroom. 'It’s the only way for us to be safe.' 'Kyle,' Cartman responds, 'even if we thought they could help protect us, how are we all going to get guns?' Cut to Kenny, Butters, Cartman, and Kyle each holding a firearm. Kenny’s got not just one, but two handguns; Butters is carrying something more shotgun in appearance. 'Cool,' Cartman says, checking his sights. 'We got guns.' 'I already feel a lot safer,' Butters squeaks."

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In a moment of dark humor during the episode, one of the characters, Eric Cartman, pulls a gun on his mom after she tells him to turn off the TV and go to bed. When he continuously refuses to listen to her, she whips out a gun and points it at her son.

The scene received high praise on social media and was followed by more scenes of adults and kids pointing guns at each other.

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Esquire writer Matt Miller, who called this season of "South Park" the show's "most ambitious yet," noted that season 19 was so successful because it expressed a feeling of "collective anxiety."

"[E]verything is connected: gun control, inequality, politics, freedom of speech, and a feeling of collective anxiety. At the end, this season has been pretty much devoid–with the exception of Caitlyn Jenner as a recurring character–of pop culture references."

Gun violence in America has directly impacted "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, both Colorado natives. Stone, who grew up in Littleton, appeared in "Bowling for Columbine" a few years after the Columbine High School massacre to express disappointment in the NRA for holding a pro-gun rally in Colorado not too long after the shooting.

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The "South Park" finale comes at a time of extreme frustration over gun violence in the United States. Last week, 14 people were killed in the San Bernardino shooting, which became the largest mass shooting in America since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December 2012. The San Bernardino shooting was the 355th shooting in the U.S. this year.

Less than a week before the San Bernardino attack, there was another mass shooting in Stone's home state of Colorado at a Planned Parenthood location. A little more than two months ago, Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer carried out a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killing nine. Over the summer, Dylann Storm Roof opened fire in the historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine.

"The number of mass shootings so far this year has already surpassed the total number of mass shootings in 2014, according to the tracker," the Washington Post reported on November 30 and updated last Wednesday to incorporate the San Bernardino tragedy. "And the pace is well above 2013's pace, when a total of 363 mass shootings occurred."

The "South Park" finale is also similar to a powerful episode of "The Simpsons" titled "The Cartridge Family," in which Homer buys a gun. The episode, which aired in the late 1990s during the program's ninth season shows Homer using the gun to do everything, even to turn on the TV. Though the episode was criticized by some for its "messy, unfocused lampooning of gun culture," others noted that it confronted a major issue of gun accessibility in our country. Nearly 20 years after "The Cartridge Family" aired, gun accessibility remains a huge talking point in our culture, particularly in the wake of many mass shootings carried out by mentally unstable individuals.

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