Monday, November 24, 2008

South Park -- Still Naming Trends 12 Years Later

South Park continues to dominate television airtime and minds of pop culture gurus 12 years after it first aired for two reasons – it’s accurate and it’s funny.

The show continues to provide viewers with accurate summaries of fads in American pop culture. Each week Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Kenny McCormick, and Eric Cartman send fans and non-fans alike into fits of laughter through their witty-remarks and outlandish “potty” humor.

Not only that, but they’ve done this consistently for 12 years.

The final two episodes of this year’s season paid homage to the South Park tradition. They captured two American trends and taught America how to laugh at themselves.

“Twilight”, a young adult book series based on a young and attractive male vampire and “True Blood”, a television show revolving around the escapades of humanized vampires, appears to be the latest craze.

“Twilight” debuted this weekend, grossing $70.5 million domestically at the North American box-office, which makes it the fourth-highest November opening weekend of all time. “True Blood” isn’t as successful as the Stephanie Meyer book series hitting the big screen, but it’s impacted the clout of vampires on the mean streets of middle and high school hallways.

South Park creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone nailed that point home last Wednesday night.

Their ability to take trends and mock how people act during the time of a trend’s popularity is the entire basis for why South Park is still on the air after 12 years.

South Park is the pop culture history book of the past decade. People should embrace South Park for its ability to capture a moment in pop culture. Some historians have trouble documenting wars and homeland security situations, let alone remembering what teenagers found cool on a weekly basis.

The season 12 finale, “The Ungroundable”, captures the new vampire trend at South Park Elementary. The always love-able and always awkward character, Leopold “Butters” Stotch, thinks he’s seen a vampire roaming the halls at school. Little does he know that these kids just think they’re vampires. He never figures it out and becomes a part of the occult against his will because all the cool kids are doing it.

That’s why South Park gets away with the degrading humor, constant profanity, and unresolved character conflicts – all the cool kids are doing it. Or at least, someone out there is.

Vampires aren’t the only pop culture moment icons with a staring role this season. The Emmy Award-winning Disney Channel Original Movie, “High School Musical”, hit South Park Colorado by storm during season 12, leaving every character on screen singing and dancing about their love for each other (or lack their of). For those out there who still have doubts as to why or how anyone in their right mind could ever enjoy “High School Musical” at all – just have to watch “Elementary School Musical”. It’s funny. It’s all a joke. And, the songs are so catchy that you can’t help but learn and then mock them over and over again.

When “Guitar Hero” was released, South Park added the rock star wanna-be video game to their season 11 arsenal of pop culture reviews. When young video game addicts found themselves chained to their computers playing “World of Warcraft”, South Park spent a half hour showing how pathetic some of the players really are. They even went as far as to do an entire episode about “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” – only the Queer Eye Guys end up being Crab people from another planet. Go figure.

With season 12 in the can, there’s a lot to look forward to next season. We just don’t know what’s in store for us yet. Comedy Central signed a contract with the South Park creators, extending its run to 15 seasons with 14 episodes each.

Either way, one thing’s for sure, South Park is a lot easier than sitting down with a history book. And, it’s a hell of a lot funnier.

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