The Southpark Cartoon Wars episodes (two parts) made what I thought were some excellent points about censorship, is their usually humourous way. I’m going to cover some of them below after the break. It’s a long post but I wanted to give some idea of the two episodes:
UPDATEl An interview with a Southpark producer is here.
Part 1 starts with Stan’s father evacuating their house and the whole township panicking and moving into the community centre for safety. He eventually tells them that this is because a cartoon is about to air on TV with the Muslim prophet Mohammed in it.
A bearded terrorist spokesperson (and a real person, not a cartoon person) comes on TV saying (according to sub-titles) “We are so super pissed off at ‘Family Guy’. ‘Family Guy’ isn’t even that funny of a show. A jihad on ‘Family Guy’ and the ‘Family Guy’ nation!””
Everyone survives the night though because Fox censored the image of Muhammad at the last minute. Cartman says he agrees with this and chides the others for not caring about people’s feelings. Cartman asks Kyle how he would feel if there was a cartoon on TV that makes fun of Jews all the time (for non SP fans, Cartman rags on Kyle for being Jewish every episode).
The kids get sent on Muslim sensitivity training so they can learn why they must never show an image of Mohammed. Kyle tries to argue that it is only Muslims who can’t show am image, but is told off for being insensitive.
TV then announces that the Family Guy episode is part one of a two parter and next week the second party will show Mohammed uncensored as the Family Guy writing staff have demanded their work not be censored.
The terrorist spokesperson appears again saying “Seriously, Family Guy isn’t even that well written. When this episodes airs – our retaliation will be massive!”
Cartman is travelling to Fox HQ to persuade them not to show the episode. Kyle goes along as he has been convinced a cartoon is not worth people dying for. Meanwhile the Southpark town-folk come up a solution to distancing themselves from the cartoon. They (literally) decide to all bury their heads in sand before the episode screens so they can’t be held responsible.
One person argues that instead they should all make cartoons to show the terrorists we are united against their threats as we believe every person has a right to say what they want. He says it has been easy to stand up for free speech when there is nothing at risk, and if we don’t stand up for it now we “only believe in free speech but we don’t defend it”. of course they all go for the sand idea as it is a lot simpler.
Kyle discovers that Cartman actually wants Family Park off the air for-ever. Cartman explains that the best way to kill a show is to get just one episode pulled. Once a show has been pulled for Muslims, then the Catholics can get one pulled, and then people with disabilities and so on. Kyle realises that Cartman doesn’t care about Muslims, he just wants Family Guy pulled as he personally doesn’t like it, and that Cartman used fear to make him stop believing in free speech.
President Bush then turns up to ask the Fox President to not show the episode, saying it is a matter of national security. The Fox President says there is something about the writing staff he needs to know. Part I ends with Batman type cliffhangers.
Then in Part II Cartman gets to Fox and finds there is someone ahead of him in the queue to get Family Guy off the air – Bart Simpson!
Back to the Muslim terrorist who says “Family Guy better not show Mohammed tonight. I’m serious. Family Guy isn’t funny.” Then Osama bin Laden (the real him) says “If you look closely at the writing in Family Guy, you will see that the jokes never derive from the plot, and I think that is totally gay” 🙂
Cartman and Bart talk about how to get Family Guy off the air. Cartman says the best way is to get one episode pulled, and then the show is compromised and goes off the air. Cartman says he is using the Mohammad thing to scare the network into pulling tonight’s show, by using fear to get what he wants. Bart asks “Isn’t that like terrorism”
Cartman and Bart then swap stories of who has done worse things. Bart is stealing the head off a statue while Cartman is chopping someone’s parents up into chilli and feeding them to their son as revenge for being picked on. Bart concedes!
President Bush announces to the press corps that he has been unable to get Fox to pull the episode. The press demand that Bush force the Family Guy writing staff not to write anything about Mohammed. Bush replies he can’t because of the First Amendment. The press then demand that Bush do something about the first amendment, so that Family Guy not be screened.
Back at Fox Cartman pretends to be crippled from a bomb which went off in his native country of Denmark and tells of waves of suicide bombers and tells Fox how if this happens here that will be their responsibility. They agree that Cartman will be allowed to try and persuade the Family Guy writing staff.
The writing staff turn out to be some sort of sea turtles, who merely move about balls in a tank with script idea balls, and they grab an idea ball and stick them in the joke combine. However if you remove an idea from their pool, they refuse to carry on working as they are very ethical writers where everything is okay to write about, or nothing is. They are also the only mammals completely unmoved by terrorist threats.
Cartman then steals one of the idea balls, and the sea turtles (called mannities) stop working. Cartman persuades the Fox President they have stopped working because they have got too big for their boots after he caved in to them last time. So he agrees to censor the Mohammad episode after all.
Kyle after fighting both Bart and Cartman (Bart helps him in the end) gets to see the Fox President and warns him that pulling an episode because someone is offended will start a chain reaction and you will have to pull more and more episodes in the future. Cartman then pulls out a gun to demand the episode be pulled. Kyle tells him he can’t give in just because you are being threatened with violence, and that yes people get hurt, but by giving in you allow terrorism to work.
Finally Kyle says “If you don’t show Mohammad you have made a distinction between what is okay to poke fun at, and what isn’t. Either it’s all okay or none of it.
The Fox President is persuaded and instructs the episode to go ahead. Now if a brief inoffensive portrayal of Mohammad had proceeded, then it would have been the perfect end to the story showing why self-censorship for fear of violence is wrong. But instead the words (and they are real):
“In this shot Mohammed hands a football helmet to Family Guy. Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network.”
is displayed. Nothing summed up better for me the hypocrisy involved by the fact even that had to be censored. They then show the retaliation by the terrorists which turns out to be just a cartoon also.
The terrorist cartoon just shows Americans (literally) crapping on each other, then President Bush crapping on Americans, and finally Jesus turns up and craps on President Bush. Yes far far far more offensive that just showing Mohammad handing someone a football helmet – again a wonderful example of the blatant double standards and hypocrisy of Comedy Central.
The terrorist sums up with a “We burned you – that was way funnier than Family Guy”