"You are Fags." jk

Curator's Note

Prime time animation is a pop culture Petri dish – an incubator for memes long before the word meme itself migrated from the pages of the OED to the Internet. Generally, we think about this aspect of animation in terms of how shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and South Park very quickly incorporate current events and pop culture references into programs, frequently in ways that allow characters to rebel against what the shows posit as the politically correct nature of U.S. liberalism and the presumable dourness of feminists, queer folks, and people of color. But the pop culture Petri dish works in two directions. It’s important to think about how the forms of humor that abound in primetime animation get taken up and used, particularly in the world of videogames and related forums (those stomping grounds for trolls).

Primetime animation informs game design, game play, and communications in and around games – my interviews with online gamers suggest that videogame players are avid fans of prime time animation. The accompanying clip from South Park needs to be understood within the context of sexist, racist, and intensely homophobic forms of humor that travel from the screens of our televisions, laptops and consoles to the online interactions that take place there as well. Websites like Fat,Ugly, or Slutty take comments that could easily have been written by writers for South Park or Family Guy – "fuck you kanker please get cancer and die" or "you fat fuckin tomboy go kill yourself" – and suggest that the way to counter the fact that "some players like to send creepy, disturbing, insulting, degrading and/or just plain rude messages to other online players, usually women" is to laugh them away. Fight them with humor. Feed the trolls and do it with a smile.

MIT’s Hate Speech Project was recently shown at PAX East (there are reasons why sponsor Penny Arcade should be participating in this conversation). This project chillingly demonstrates how "humor" that consistently takes women, queers, and people of color as the butt of its jokes encourages aggressive and intimidating online behaviors and creates environments that are downright hostile to us. Players primed by the humor of primetime animation dismiss objections to their behavior and its effects on women, people of color, and queers by reference, ironically, to our lack of a sense of humor, saying in effect, "stfu. jk."

Comments

Simone V's picture

 This idea that - the way to

 This idea that - the way to fight back hate speech is through laughter- "making things a joke so as to not allow them to effect me"- is so ingraned in our society because of shows such as South Park and Family Guy. I think by you, Carol,  simply placing "humor" in quotations (in your last paragraph), says a lot. Hate Speech used through the medium of the internet is simply reinforcing hegemonic ideologies of our past, where for example dating back to 1848 African Americans were utilized as a from of amusement in The Minstrel Show. The show lampooned black people as ignorant, lazy, joyous, and musical. Hegemonic stereotypes such as this have "evolved" throughout our cultures media to be less blatantly racist and made more into "light humor". This can even be depicted in shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel Air, where Will Smith depicts this African American Stereotype of the "past" in a lighter less offensive way, while his relatives, the Banks family, presents a different stereotype some consider to be performing the roles of modern day white American society. 

Ilana Rappaport's picture

I enjoyed reading this post

I enjoyed reading this post because I am also confused by the conduct of communication between gamers. I have never been a video game person, but my brother is and he is constantly yelling or typing obscene phrases in response to other obscene phrases while playing videogames online with others. The connection between video games and primetime animation is a plausible explanation that I would agree has a strong correlation. The jokes employed by these shows, such as South Park or Family Guy, find humor in racist, sexist, discriminatory, and sad or even disturbing events. While it is questionable about whether or not it is in good taste, I believe that the intent is positive. Freud believes that humor is the ego’s victorious assertion of its own invulnerability;it refuses to be hurt; (Mellencamp). In this perspective, rather than making light of things that are meant to be serious, these shows are attempting to stay strong against the evils of the world by poking fun of them.

Nicholas Nelson's picture

South Park Vocabulary

Reading this post made me think of a recent South Park episode where the characters attempted to redefine the word "fag" so that it would refer to obnoxious motorcycle riders instead of being negative towards the queer community. Within only a few hours of the episode airing someone on UrbanDictionary.com posted the definition of "fag" as it was used in the episode. Now of course South Park is a comedy show that is rarely meant to be taken seriously so even though they tried to redefine this word I knew that it would never be redefined as long as it is still used to other gays and lesbians. But apparently some people think otherwise. Recently I was shocked to see a person on YouTube call his critics "fags" when I thought that he was an LGBT supporter. Later he posted another video claiming that since South Park redefined the word, he is free to use it without care. At what point does a show like South Park stop being a mere comedy/satire that is not meant to be taken seriously and become an actual factor in how people think and act towards others? 

No Censorship for Reality

 South Park is a really crude humor show. I watch the show occasionally and I think it’s funny but it typically always crosses the line. I think the reason why people feel it’s ok to repeat these jokes online is because they probably think a lot of people watch South Park and since it has already been on TV for the whole country to see it’s not as big a deal if they say it to someone online. I think a lot of people also don’t really know the latest news and use shows like South Park as their source of news and adapt the viewpoint as depicted on the show. Since there wasn’t a line drawn in the show people feel it would be ok to say similar in publics when in reality it’s not. Racism and discrimination is something no one should glorify and I think TV censorship boards need to reevaluate what they think is “ok” for television. TV evolves along with society but sometimes people forget the distinction between reality and fiction.

Trevor R's picture

The South Park Reality

The reality here is that south park is being seen by too many unknowledgeable viewers. South Park is an obvious satire on popular culture and society. Take for example The Book of Mormon, a broadway play by the creators of South Park. The play itself is not a bash on the mormon religion or religion in general, it is a satire and a comical way of approaching what some would consider a serious subject, and while that may upset people and cause viewers to be outraged at lack of censorship, it is a substantial artistic work that deserves our respect. The Book of Mormon is currently nominated for 14 Tony awards, the most of any play or musical this year and I won’t go into detail about the number awards and admiration for the show itself. It’s unfortunate that a large populace of mindless viewers see it as fuel for racial and sexual insults but that shouldn’t be enough reason to further censor a highly respected and highly entertaining television show whos only goal seems to be holding up a mirror to society for us to laugh and accept our own flaws.

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