Friday, December 30, 2005

South Park and Comedy Central Cave In To The Religious Right

(E! Online)Did Comedy Central grant the Catholic League its Christmas wish?

Following the Dec. 7 season finale of South Park, titled "Bloody Mary," the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights slammed the network for its irreverent portrayal of church icons and sought to block the episode from being rebroadcast.

It appears the group may have met with success. A repeat of the finale was scheduled to air Wednesday night, but was pulled from the Comedy Central lineup without explanation.

In the episode, a statue of the Virgin Mary is believed to be bleeding from its rear end, inspiring faithful parishioners to flock from miles around to be healed by the miraculous blood.

Eventually, Pope Benedict XVI is called in to investigate, whereupon he determines that the statue is actually menstruating and thus is nothing special.

"A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle," the pope declares in the episode. "Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time."

Somewhat predictably, the Catholic League was incensed by the satirical portrayal of the Virgin Mary and the pope and by the fact that the episode aired on the day before the Catholic Church celebrated its Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The conservative group demanded an apology from Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, to Roman Catholics everywhere and "a pledge that this episode be permanently retired and not be made available on DVD."

The Catholic League also sought a personal condemnation from Viacom board member Joseph A. Califano Jr., who the group noted is a "practicing Catholic."

Califano was only too happy to oblige. After viewing the episode, he released a statement calling the episode an "appalling and disgusting portrayal of the Virgin Mary."

"It is particularly troubling to me as a Roman Catholic that the segment has run on the eve and day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day for Roman Catholics," Califano said.

Califano also pledged to have Viacom president and CEO Tom Freston review the episode.

Comedy Central did not respond to a request for comment on why "Bloody Mary" was yanked from the schedule.

Screencaps of the episode were no longer available on Comedy Central's press site or on's South Park section.

The Catholic League previously tangled with Comedy Central in 2002 over a South Park episode titled "Red Hot Catholic Love," but failed to produce any results.


Kevin said...

Comedy Central carried out a carefully planned attack designed for maximum offense against members of a specific religious group. Carried out because it went up on a white board somewhere along with all the other episodes they were making that year. Carefully planned and designed because they sat down day after day and worked it out. 'Maximum Offense' because they picked the most sensitive possible Catholic ideas and used them as a setting in which to deface the sensibilities of Catholics, and calculated it so that the more sincere the Catholic belief was, the more offensively it would land on their Catholic sensibilities.

If you like the idea of people being hurt because of how they believe in God, then you will like Comedy Central's South Park. Religiously-motivated hatred is pretty much a prerequisite to watch. People who don't like that kind of thing won't like South Park.

So if you don't like it, don't watch it, you say. Do you think people who don't understand what that show is trying to do watch it ? Actually, some people do. And that's where the problem is.

As the number of these episodes increases and the pitch of their hatred against religious practices increases, Catholic or not, and as the word-of mouth and advertising and reruns, and number of times per episode fans watch and re-watch reruns increases, more people will accept as "normal" the offensive ideas it promotes against the groups it targets. Clever satire is to attack as freedom is to license. One is legal and even valuable. The other is unjustifiable because its purpose is targeting a group for harm.

This ambiguation between freedom and license is already having its effect. Get on a highway and count the number of people who take the license to break the law as though something gave them that right. Worse is the shrugging, palms-up "i-dont-want-get-involved" reaction of most people. It means this problem will never be changed by the public. How will entropy affect a marked tendency for the public to accept lawlessness as a norm without a hint of challenge?

"Lighten up it's just a TV show!" Sorry. It's just a LOT of TV shows that implicitly portray mean-spiritedness especially towards people with religious beliefs, relabelled as "comedy" or "satire." Don't believe me? Count them. But bring a lot of fingers. South Park just wants to be the nastiest of them all, and they don't care who they hurt to do it. There's nothing new about big business trampling rights to profit. What's new is the low they've descended to in order to accomplish it.

Offending for cash is an old American Tradition. Sadly, they know the more outrageously cruel they are--especially to Catholics--the more especially their more mindless fans will watch their advertisers' commercials and mindlessly buy more of their products.

This actually says more about the state of American Anti-Catholicism that began 100 years before the American War of Independence than anything else. It's never gone away, it's just on the rise right now. It's hip to hate Catholics. Hollywood has spoken. Proudly devising ways of showing and spreading this hatred, and calling such outrages "art" is just a barometer.

It's these "hate as entertainment" programs' effect on a population that nearly spends more time watching them than they spend working or sleeping. Its techno-savvy children who can create a concentrated stream of these experiences with DVDs and TIVOs.

Civility, especially among people who really don't have a working conscience is evaporating. It's not ALL the hate-mongering sophisticate producers of South Park's fault. Eventually, the more "hate-friendly" fans begin to express the means of hatred they learn from South Park. The whole diseased mess spreads like disease spread through New Orleans last fall. South Park is either part of the problem or part of the cure. Everybody knows the truth, even people who fear disapproval from their peer group most of all, but not many people have the old-fashioned guts to speak truth anymore. Everybody wants to pretend there is "no truth."

How many viewers would Viacom get for a network called "Vicious Anti-Religious Bigotry Central?" Your answer and the reality would tell the truth. At least that name would be accurate.

Comedy Central's South Park typifies an attitude that places a laugh -- the cheapeswt one possible, produced at the highest possible expense -- above common decency. What did people do for entertainment before the broadcast industry stopped imposing its own limits of common decency on itself? They laughed. Very much. Mostly innocently. And for the most part, without offending with a vile, premeditated design against deeply-held religious beliefs.

That attitude is spreading. It's an attitude that takes license to justify the deepest hurtfulness imaginable for the cheapest cheap laugh. The attitude has an amount or degree today. It will have a degree in the future. If you think they will be identical, ask yourself what makes you think that. It will either be a lack of knowledge, or a desire to laugh at the expense of others' deepest beliefs: Ignorance, or bigotry.

A lot of people will label me a bigot for defending Catholics from having their religious beliefs dragged through the mud in the name of entertainment. Or they will label me ignorant. Another Catholic "puppet" incapable of "independent thought" (laughing at the expression of anti-Catholic hatred that is the only purpose of South Park's Bloody Mary episode) because of his fear of Hell. How insulting.

That attitude says: "I will take from you to the extent I can, sanctity and respect for your beliefs because I reject your beliefs, and seek out entertainments that scorn them as viciously as possible so I can laugh at them and mock you and them by endlessly referring to those mockeries." At least the Romans eventually allowed the relief of death on their Catholic victims. These people are hoping for an eternal punishment -- or at least until I "smarten up" and accept mockery of my faith as a good.

Other, more innocent-minded people may think "I never thought of it that way. It was kind of a gross concept."

One of those people is a bigot and one is ignorant. There is really nothing in between. Some people may want to convince themselves there is a happy medium, but you either hate or you don't. Hate is hate, and is always unjustifiable. A supposed "motive" makes no difference. Ever notice the phonetic resemblance between the words 'hate' and 'hurt'?

The producers of South Park have proven they are merchants, manufacturing anti-Catholic hatred in exchange for money.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is nothing of beauty in the Bloody Mary episode. Only ugly, hurtful, hateful anti-Catholicism. Is that what America is all about? Punishing the innocent and lauding the guilty?

Al said...

Hey Kevin, isn't South Park a cartoon?

Howard Davis said...

Ummmm.....yeah....Kevin, man, I don't think even the Pope got this upset. Mellow out.