South Park Guilty of Murder!
by Rob Gonsalves
"TV Show Drove Kids to Gun Down Classmates" Blurb on cover of the "National Enquirer" (with picture of Stan)
As I begin writing this item, I can already hear the Southies out there gnashing their teeth. Believe me, my own choppers are ground down to the roots. A huge two-page spread in last week's "National Enquirer" advances the thesis that a TV program featuring animated fictional characters inspired Arkansas mini-psychos Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson to mow down four girls and a teacher: "The bloodbath that claimed five innocent lives in a Jonesboro, Ark. schoolyard had its evil roots in a cartoonthe raunchy new cable show 'South Park.'"
Why do I even read this rag? Because it's often amusing; I recall with pleasure a "scoop" some weeks back about America's most visible daughters of Sappho: "Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche's romance is on the rocksand Vince Vaughn is the man who's come between them!" (Can't you just picture that? "Hey, babies, no need to fight over methere's enough of me to go around. Let's just kiss and make up and make a nice Trent sandwich.") But this "South Park" shit is something else againdangerous and irresponsible scapegoating.
According to the proverbial "family insider" (an "Enquirer" cliche' on a par with "a source close to the star"), Mitchell Johnson "became obsessed with the violent little characters on 'South Park.' His attitude was, 'If those kids can do it, I can too.'" Now, I don't get Comedy Central on my cable system, so it's entirely possible that I missed the episode where Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny open fire on their fellow students. If anyone saw that one, please let me know.
The article continues: "Choirboy Mitchell's baby-faced accomplice Andrew Golden, 11, also emulated the four schoolkid characters on 'South Park,' who use profanity and hunt down and kill animals with Uncle Jimbo." Okay, I haven't seen the hunting episode, but I'm reasonably sure the intent was satiricalironic, since the gun-worship mentality that "South Park" lampoons had more to do with the tragic shootings in Arkansas than any cartoon could.
What infuriates me the most is that the allegedly evil influence of "South Park" only rates about one-fifth of the entire articlethe rest of which details all the other evil media influences, including the usual suspects: heavy metal and Beavis and Butt-Head. Yet a photo from "South Park" is used in the article, and the headlines clearly imply that the show was the biggest influence. The rag with "the largest circulation of any paper in America" is using its clout to essentially accuse Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Comedy Central of mass murder.
Sigh...I have to walk away from the keyboard now and chill and resist the urge to scream for hours nonstop....Okay, I'm back. Okay. Let's say "South Park" is not suitable for children. Let's further say that kids see it anyway, that they aren't likely to understand its satire, that they may take a lot of it at face value, that they may even emulate some of what they see. Let's just for a moment put all that on the table as a possibility. Now then. If all of that is true, it is STILL the parents' job to (A) discuss "South Park" with their kids, helping them to process it in a healthy way, or (B) prevent them from watching it.
Where the fuck were the parents of these kids when "South Park" was on? Where the fuck were the parents when the kids were talking about dying and killing? Where the ever-loving fuck were the parents when the kids found the guns?
A recent article in "Time" tried to tread lightly around the subject of Southern gun culture, wherein boys are toting rifles practically before they're out of diapers. "It's a Southern thing" was the explanationnothing we should criticize, right? No, but let's pin the blame on a cartoon. Cartoons don't kill people, people kill people. With guns. Getting rid of "South Park" won't get rid of violence. Getting rid of the gunsnow that might be a good first step.
Why not take a minute and let the Enquirer know how you feel?
National Enquirer Web site
Originally appeared in Organized Chaos #11.
Uploaded May 1998