Wednesday, March 26, 2008

South Park, Britney Spears, and Tragedy

It seems somewhat weird that anything educational can come from a cartoon traditionally known for their toilet humor, but South Park offers many powerful social messages. The episode "Britney's New Look" is a tragedy, and is suggestive that the portrayal of Britney Spears in the media is a tragedy in itself. However, the episode brings up and questions if humans have a natural tendency to find and create tragedy.

Tragedy can be seen in "Britney's New Look" in the media reporting on every misfortune that Britney Spears goes through. The episode also touches on the fact that the media initially created a positive depiction of Britney and information about her life prior to reporting on her misfortunes. Prior reporting is important because it makes the story of Britney much more personal. South Park suggests that the media does not only report on her unfortunate outcomes, they are looking for them and even creating them. But the media is not the only source of the problem, people demand to see Britney's misfortunes.

South Park takes it one step farther by suggesting that it is human nature to create and enjoy tragedy. The writers do this by referencing the fact that humans have publicly enjoyed looking upon the misfortune of animals and people since the games which occurred in The Colosseum.

"Britney's New Look" ends with the death of Britney Spears from all the constant media and public attention. The villagers of South Park explain to Stan and Kyle (two characters from South Park that felt that what everyone was doing to Britney was wrong) that Britney's death was needed to provide for a good corn harvest. Not only does this reference to nature make this blog post somewhat relevant to the class, it makes a connection culture. There seems to be a history of humans sacrificing life for some cultural good. The death of Britney may be an attempt by the writers of South Park to question the values and morals people live by when humans are willing to diminish the quality of human life to find enjoyment. (This also seemed to be the same dilemma that was brought up in discussing extreme environmentalist movements and how people should use the environment.)

I recommend watching this episode of South Park if you don't care about seeing a little violence or hearing some 'inappropriate' language. If there is not an opportunity for people to watch "Britney's New Look" on television, the episode will be available on 4/18/2008 at South Park Studios . It is the second episode of season 12.


Kathy Crowley said...

Interesting post. South Park episodes clearly can be social commentary.
Do you think that this Britney Spears episode represents tragedy in the formal sense that we discussed in class?

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