It’s certainly not for everyone. It’s offensive and has skewered everyone and everything. This is why I enjoy it so very much (equal opportunity offender). South Park has been a part of my life since its first air date in 1997. The first thing that drew me in was the inane humor, but I quickly realized that Matt Stone and Trey Parker were doing something much more interesting than giving us ridiculous, and often painful, situations. They were (and are) making statements about the absurdity of life.
I bring this up now because of a recent episode titled “The Hobbit” that made a beautiful point in a very funny and even poignant way. The episode followed a brilliant trilogy of episodes that poked fun at Game of Thrones (and George R.R. Martin), anime, black Friday, and the console wars. I wondered if the season closer would be as good, given the sheer amount of excellence in this trilogy, and I was not disappointed.
The episode pokes very obvious fun at Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, but the theme is deeper than this. It deals with body image issues and how women and men deal with those issues in the digital age. Wendy, the voice of reason on the show, offers to set up a new friend with Butters. Butters complains that the friend is too fat and explains that his ideal woman is Kim Kardashian because she’s so thin and perfect. This sets off a series of events in which Wendy tries to explain to everyone that the ideal women that the boys crave are a fiction, a fantasy, created by Photoshop. She proves this by Photoshopping her friend, who Butters now believes is totally hot. Again, Wendy tries to explain this is simply an altered image of the same girl. Of course no one is listening, and everyone believes Wendy is being a “hater” and “jelly” (jealous for those out of the loop). This includes the school counselor, Mr. Mackey, who threatens to send Wendy to a non-existent “jelly” school.
As the episode continues to unfold, the Photoshopping gets out of control, with all the girls improving their digital images (except for Wendy). The boys don’t see the girls for who they are, simply judging them by their Photoshopped images. Kanye and Kim continue to also get the South Park treatment throughout , something I feel is richly deserved (that’s a whole separate post). The episode concludes on a downbeat, which is rare for the show, but was completely appropriate. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it is very impactful and actually made me sad and introspective. This crazy, animated 30 minute show made me think that whole evening about self-image in the age of instant gratification, about how women and men are pressured to try to attain a physical goal that is impossible and about the lies that we are fed through the media about celebrities.
Our celebrities, with rare exception, are not what they appear to be. This is obvious, yet many people believe the lies they are fed. I watched a YouTube video showing Kim Kardahsian being Photoshopped in the new Kanye video. There was an interesting point made about this image of Kardahsian. No human woman could have a waist that small as there would be little to no room for her intestines or other organs. I believe that many young women who have seen the new video wish to attain this level of thinness, but would be fooling themselves if they even try, and could possibly harm themselves in the process. We wonder why bulimia and anorexia have a stronger foothold now that they ever did. I am giving a predominantly female perspective, but men are not immune to the pressure of perfection.
There is a phantom of a physical ideal, one that can never be reached by any person, famous or not. It can only be achieved by special effects. We need to learn to accept who we are right now, NOT who we will be 5 to 50 pounds from now or one plastic surgery from now, but who we are in this very moment. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. My attempts at weight loss were always to reach some level of femininity or beauty that I never felt I had. Now, at this age, I see where I was and what I was doing. The effort I make to lose weight now is sensible and comes from a bone-deep desire to be healthier and live a much longer life (a few scary medical tests will do that to you, put you in the right perspective).
I will get off my soapbox shortly, but I leave you with this: Accept who you are. We can always improve ourselves, we can always do better and be better and get healthier, but the impetus needs to come from the right place. Choose to lose weight because you’ll be healthier, not to reach an ideal that cannot be attained. Choose to stop losing weight when you have reached a healthy number. Don’t continue because you saw some celebutante on the cover of a magazine who you want to look like. THEY don’t even look like that. Your beauty comes from how you treat others, your integrity, your patience, your generosity, your kindness, your honesty, your humility, your self-confidence, your love of others and of yourself and how you choose to live your life and utilize these qualities.
I could give endless examples of how South Park has slapped me in the face with insight through the use of cutting edge humor (and fart jokes), but this one hit me in a particular way that I felt needed to be addressed. The articles I’ve read about this particular episode (except for a couple) have all been worrying about how Kim and Kanye will react instead of seeing actual truth of the story. This is a testament to how fixated we are on the famous. Don’t be. It’s a waste of time.
Ok, off the soapbox now. Have a great night.