Young insists we're supposed to be wiser than what's obvious, what's staring at us and screaming at us from the TV set. We're supposed to be swept along by the siren song of Sigmund Freud, who argued that the use of vulgarity is merely verbalizing the drives and desires that we often repress, and that laughter at crude jokes allows us to release our harmful inhibitions.
"This is what makes the show's crudeness so essential," Young argues. It creates a "space" for discussion that keeps us from transforming our repression into violence or social exclusion. "South Park" is, in his estimation, as one of his headings declares, the "Talking Cure for Our Culture." It's much more like a communicable disease.
Young then attempts to argue that "Terrance and Philip," an infantile cartoon within the infantile cartoon, is really one of the better offerings in television: "Is 'Terrance and Philip' really more vapid, crude and pointless than 'Jerry Springer' or 'Wife Swap'? Is it more mindless than Fox News, 'The 700 Club' or 'Law and Order'? The answer is no." He then claims what offends South Park critics is "not that the show is vulgar and pointless, but that it highlights the mindlessness that is television in general."
This is where Young really makes a joke out of himself. Everything on television is mindless in general, and he can make no fine distinctions? To be charitable, comparing "Law and Order" to "South Park" is roughly equivalent to comparing Einstein to your garden-variety grade-school class clown. Or your favorite professor to this walking insult to academe.
There is an ocean of difference between the entertaining and enlightening excellence that the discriminating viewer can find occasionally on television and the mindless drivel that often airs on Comedy Central. But some philosophy professors are too lost in an academic hall of mirrors to notice.
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