A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Genius of Parker and Stone

South Park is a fabulous show. It mixes deep irony, parody, bathroom humor, scathing criticisms, cultural phenomenons, religion, politics, and just about everything else into a concoction that is nearly always brilliant, often hilarious, frequently poignant and always thought provoking. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are this generations Shakespeare.

Hyperbole? Maybe a little, but honestly the claim is not that over the top. Shakespeare pushed the entertainment envelope of his time-- South Park most certainly does that. Old Bill offered up scathing criticisms of his times and of the world's prominent figures. South Park: check and check. Deep at their core, Shakespeare's works resonant with basic human desires, beliefs and motivations. South Park does this as well.

Differences? Sure-- Bill paid attention to meter and verse creating lyrical language the likes of which has never been equaled. Parker and Stone... don't. They do use animation to great effect, something which Shakespeare certainly did not do since the concept was inconceivable in his day and age. But... in some ways animation allows Stone and Parker to explore subjects in as beautiful a fashion as Shakespeare's poetry. The recent Imaginationland trilogy, for example, really was a captivating and profound way to look at the effects of terrorism and fear on our psyches. And what other format but animation could allow a show to actually go inside of our imaginations?

Now, some might say that calling Stone and Parker this generation's Shakespeare simply illustrates how crass and rude our society is compared to Renaissance England and there is some truth to that view. On the other hand, we are lightyears beyond Shakespeare's time when it comes to equality, quality of living, individual freedom, science, technology and on and on. Shakespeare reflected back his times and also highlighted the shortcomings and absurdities of those times. Parker and Stone do precisely the same thing.

Of course, not all of Parker and Stone's creations are brilliant and thought-provoking and deeply irreverent and full of richly developed irony and scathing cultural and political commentary. But an awful lot of them are. And the exact same thing can be said of Shakespeare's body of work-- it isn't all Macbeth and Hamlet and a Midsummer Night's Dream.

Or maybe I'm off my nut. But I do know that South Park is the best thing on television by a far sight and that they've managed to maintain that level of excellence for 11 years now.

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