[originally posted to Daimnation!]
There's a new book out called South Park Conservatives, by City Journal editor Brian Anderson, which uses the long-running animated series to illustrate his argument that an increasingly media-savvy right is fighting back pop-culture's anti-conservative hostility.
It's an interesting thesis, and I've requested a review copy from the publisher - but is South Park really a conservative TV series? True, no show takes on liberal sacred cows (anti-smoking fanatics, environmentalists, anti-corporate activism) as often as South Park, but they don't shy away from savaging conservative Republicans, either. South Park has made fun of religion more times than I can count (one episode from season 7 basically called the entire Mormon faith a giant hoax, while another brilliantly skewered the "Contemporary Christian Music" industry), and as Frank Rich notes, an show from earlier this season mocked the Terri Schiavo controversy:
In the March 30 episode, Kenny, a kid whose periodic death is a "South Park" ritual, lands in a hospital in a "persistent vegetative state" and is fed through a tube. The last page of his living will is missing. Demonstrators and media hordes descend. Though heavenly angels decree that "God intended Kenny to die" rather than be "kept alive artificially," they are thwarted by Satan, whose demonic aide advises him to "do what we always do - use the Republicans." Soon demagogic Republican politicians are spewing sound bites ("Removing the feeding tube is murder") scripted in Hell. But as in the Schiavo case, they don't prevail. Kenny is allowed to die in peace once his missing final wish is found: "If I should ever be in a vegetative state and kept alive on life support, please for the love of God don't ever show me in that condition on national television."
This remarkably prescient scenario, first broadcast on the eve of Terri Schiavo's death, anticipated just how far the zeitgeist would swing in the month after the right's overreach in her case.