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Mediascape 11 17 08 1 51 PM email address Out of the Mouths of Babes Animated Sitcoms and Political Incorrectness by Philip Scepanski Download as PDF The Sarah Silverman Program Mind of Mencia Chapelle s Show and It s Always Sunny in Philadelphia notwithstanding it would seem that the most popular politically incorrect television shows as well as those that draw the most flak are animated South Park and Family Guy are the most prominent and successful among a group that also includes The Boondocks and Drawn Together and there are numerous other shows that may include such jokes even if they do not make such consistent use of them as the series listed above Before exploring this topic further it is worth describing the tendencies of the above programs in terms of the targets of their satire While all of these shows suggest a general rebellion against the strictly enforced politeness of political correctness they activate this style of comedy to different ends Indeed the use of politically incorrect humor in each of these shows is quite different file JordanJennings 20Design Mediascape html Fall08 Scepanski html Page 1 of 6 Mediascape 11 17 08 1 51 PM Drawn Together One might set up pairs of shows in opposition to one another While Family Guy may aggravate identity politicians with its racist and sexist humor it maintains a consistent criticism of Republican politicians and American neoconservatism On the other hand South Park is held up by some as the voice of hip conservativism because of its willingness to take on issues like hate crime legislation and environmentalism while skewering liberal figures from the contentious Al Gore to the near universally loved Bono 1 Of course both of these shows contain a decent amount of I can t believe they just said that comedy but both also make more serious arguments about specific political issues There are programs however that operate more exclusively in one or the other style of comedy Though Drawn Together occasionally employs directly political humor it is more often offensive for its own sake The Boondocks suggests something of an opposite aim in that the vast majority of its un PC humor seems directed towards specifically political ends Most notably an episode titled Return of the King imagines what would happen if Martin Luther King Jr awakened from a coma today file JordanJennings 20Design Mediascape html Fall08 Scepanski html Page 2 of 6 Mediascape 11 17 08 1 51 PM In this episode s climax Dr King excoriates the black community using extremely offensive language Here King s offensive speech leads to positive ends in the form of increased economic and political power for African Americans It should be noted however that The Boondocks also attacks those who would use such terms for less positive ends One character in particular an African American white supremacist named Uncle Ruckus serves as the contradictory counterpoint to other characters more logical positions The Boondocks But what is it about animated sitcoms that makes them such a prominent format for politically incorrect comedy Though it seems likely that these shows are able to get away with more as far as network execs and standards and practices watchdogs are concerned because animation suggests a distance from the reality of live action the uproar and popularity surrounding these series seem more related to issues of animation comedy and children Many theorists see logical conflict as the basis of humor and there is certainly a conflict inherent in these shows 2 For quite a while cartoons were seen as children s programming and though recent trends in television comedy have called this association into question the concept of combining a children s genre with adult themes still bears an underlying comedic current Try mentioning cartoon porn to almost anyone and see if you don t get a laugh But the inherent humor of this conflict also leads to controversy as people worry about drawing children s eyes and ears to seemingly child unfriendly content Adding fuel to this fire many of these shows are based around child South Park and The Boondocks or childlike Family Guy characters or thinly disguised allusions to characters from children s media including Disney and Spongebob Squarepants Drawn Together In South Park and The Boondocks children function as the voice of reason though there are other youngsters who do not come off as wise This suggests the idiom file JordanJennings 20Design Mediascape html Fall08 Scepanski html Page 3 of 6 Mediascape 11 17 08 1 51 PM the voice of reason though there are other youngsters who do not come off as wise This suggests the idiom out of the mouths of babes in that these characters are wiser and more honest than the adults who are caught up in the illogic and hysteria of popular discourse This is most blatant in South Park when at the end of every episode a character says you know I learned something today before doling out a piece of horse sense like how tolerance doesn t mean you have to celebrate people s inappropriate behavior South Park Cartoons do not have a lock on offensive comedy but they seem to receive more negative feedback from pundits because of their associations with children s programming Here it would seem there is a push pull relationship Though animated shows may be notorious for featuring un PC content their offensiveness is still exaggerated to some extent by the seeming conflict between children s programming and adult humor It may be difficult to remember now but at one point The Simpsons was a lightning rod for protestors who objected to its at the time edgy comedy Though it generally steered clear of the politically incorrect comedy that marks more modern shows The Simpsons nonetheless proves instructive in comparison to live action contemporaries Viewing popular news articles from the time period it would seem that tee shirts sporting catch phrases like underachiever and proud of it or I m Bart Simpson who the hell are you were not so offensive in and of themselves Parents and teachers were more concerned that this was a bad example for children who watched the show 3 Married With Children which was another early and controversial Fox show drew fire for airing during the family hour when children were likely to see it but not for specifically appealing to children 4 And articles from the period do not suggest a backlash nearly as intense as the one associated with The Simpsons such as schools banning children


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