Monday, January 12, 2009

4th Grade in Colorado

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

Yeah, so I've only been to Colorado once. And I certainly wasn't in 4th grade (although that was a good year for field trips...). But every week during the broadcast season, we get a glimpse of a small, perpetual-winter town where fourth graders are the main characters.

South Park
will begin its thirteenth season this March, and I keep forgetting that it's still running (and will continue to run for at least another three seasons). It premiered when I was in the eighth grade, and it was very popular for my friends to wear "Who Killed Kenny" shirts on the weekends (especially at the skating rink, LoL). And while I was intrigued enough to watch it a couple of times (when there's a character named 'Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo' you have to find out what he is). After it had been on the air about nine months, I stopped watching... I thought it was too dirty, and a bad influence on youth. Since then, I've probably only seen about five episodes, but I've seen the opening to the movie a bunch of times (more on that later). It's really no wonder that the show has been banned completely in Argentina and Russia.

The show centers around four young boys (Kyle, Cartman, Stan, Kenny) who have gone from third grade to fourth grade, but over the years numerous other characters have become very involved with the main cast. Comedy Central has been running the show the entire time, which makes sense given the TV-MA rating. Butters and Token are on the show all the time now, similar to Timmy a while back, and both Jesus and Satan make regular appearances. (Who knows what happened to the Chef? He was a big deal back in the day, LoL.)

The first movie came in 1999, and a straight-to-DVD movie came in 2007. The first movie (and really the only one, when you consider how the second is really only a 3-part episode arc strung together) is a musical. I worked for a professor who loved it, and used the opening scenes to teach students about musicals. Ironically (and this might only be funny to my theatre scholar readers), she also constantly confused South Park characters Terrence & Philip with Ancient Greek playwrights Terrence and Plautus. haha.

There really are no taboo subjects for the show, although parody is the medium in which most serious issues are explored. Religion, terrorism, immigration, gay marriage, racism, and living wills are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to topics. Current events are pretty central to the episodes (I mean, you saw the "About Last Night..." episode that ran less than 24 hours after Barack Obama won the US Presidential election, right?), and what's most amazing about that is the turn-around time. Granted, anyone who has ever seen the show knows the animation is not the best (especially considering how far animation as a whole has come in the past decade), but the producers are actually able to create an entire episode in just six days, with 4-5 days being the average. They've even done a complete episode in just three days before! (Of course, that means putting in a 100-120 hour work week for the team...)

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had so many funny songs in it. My junior year of high school, my now-husband and I often got rides home from a friend who always had the soundtrack playing in his car. The two songs that stand out the most are "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" which is still joked about ten years later, and "Uncle Fucka" (which I won't link to since it's not a very nice song), because it's just ridiculous. Yet, somehow, just like The Simpsons, there have been a few scholarly works published on South Park. This excites me, simply because I love to write about popular culture (I have a paper presentation coming up in April that is on Fraggle Rock), trends, and cult classics. And with that, I'll leave you with the opening scene to the movie. Because, well, I've heard it too many times, it does give a good introduction, and I don't really know other good clips, LoL.

oh, and if you want to watch some full-length, legal episodes, check out South Park Studios.
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