From time to time, we hear about zany professors of popular culture using their academic credentials to elevate the most aggressively offensive and potty-mouthed TV shows into the Great Works of Western Civilization. What causes these bookworms in academe to slither around trying to intellectualize our cultural rubbish? It's like getting a master's degree in restroom graffiti. Can you really compare "South Park" to Socrates?
That's exactly what happens in a new book titled "South Park and Philosophy." I have no idea who would read all the way through this laughable exercise in excuse-making. The first essay is a riot all by itself. William W. Young III, listed as an associate professor of humanities at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., has titled his essay "Flatulence and Philosophy." The title fits.
Maybe this fellow also delivers lectures on the subject. That's some bang for the buck for parents forking over $31,628 annually to send their child to this sorry excuse for a college.
Young mocks those who find "danger" in "South Park." The only danger, he asserts, is its "depiction of dialogue and free thinking." He believes the perpetually profane Comedy Central cartoon, like Socrates, "harms no one," but provides an education, to "instruct people and provide them with the intellectual tools they need to become wise, free and good."
Citing Socrates, Young says those uptight people who find harm in this television show are inherently opposed to questioning, and questioning things is the source of all wisdom. Many powerful people in Athens found Socrates dangerous because his questioning would "undermine their bases for power."
Young praises the "nonconformist, reflective virtue" of the questioning children of "South Park," and then conflates the chronically clueless parent characters with parents in real life: "The parents of 'South Park' corrupt the children far more than a television show ever could. Like the Athenians, the adults don't know as much as they think they know." In the show, when adults address the children, "the adult usually sounds like a bumbling idiot."
The good professor seems to have no concept that it's the writers of "South Park" who make a living from putting bumbling idiocy on television.
How do professors like this stoop to the bizarre idea that children can be enlightened by a show that labors to fit 160 uses of the S-bomb into a half-hour? A show that delights in having Jesus Christ defecate on President Bush with his "yummy, yummy crap"? How can you elevate that into the idea that watching "South Park" should really be seen as a correspondence course, like Newt Gingrich's "Renewing American Civilization" series?