When I first started watching South Park, I did it as an act of rebellion. I’m the youngest in my house, so I was never really allowed to watch anything with my family, because everything was too grown up for me. South Park, on the other hand, was forbidden television for everyone in my house. It was gross, rude, violent, and those kids just had horrible language! My parents didn’t want us to have anything to do with it.
By the time I was in 4th grade, I was tired of not being included in anything, so I began watching South Park. I had this tiny, cheap tv in my room, and I would watch it with the sound on low, in case my parents heard it, and I would muffle my laughter in my pillow.
South Park was my middle finger to everyone who said I couldn’t see this, couldn’t read that, or couldn’t hear this. They thought I was too young to understand something, so they were going to leave me in my room? Fine, fuck them! I was going to watch the thing my parents hated the most, because they left me all alone.
South Park meant independence, or at least at the time it did. It meant that I could do what I wanted, and think what I wanted, and fuck you if you didn’t like it.
After a couple years of watching though, I found myself getting more and more attached to these little cartoon characters. South Park became a big deal to me.
I became invested in these boys and their families. They made me laugh when I was sad. If I felt stupid, I could watch South Park and feel better, because the show never treats the viewers like they’re stupid. They know people are smart, and they know kids are smart, so they wouldn’t bullshit you. I was laughing and learning, all at the same time.
Like Monty Python, South Park taught me that being silly wasn’t a bad thing. Silliness and profundity weren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, if you couldn’t be silly, you were just an uptight little asshole who needed to chill.
That was so fucking awesome to hear. As a kid, you are constantly told to grow up, to calm down, to not be so excitable, to basically become humdrum boring ass adults. It’s one of the worst things you can be told as a kid.
South Park was different. It wasn’t saying that being a kid is perfect or anything, in fact, it said almost the opposite. But it never at any point said laughing at farts makes you immature. Laughing at a whale being on a moon wasn’t bad. You weren’t going to be looked down on if you thought otters riding ostriches was totally fucking rad. You were going to be embraced by a bunch of people who think it’s just as hilarious as you do.
South Park used to mean independence, and nothing else. But, after a while, it began to mean more. It was a reassurance that being silly was okay, that being rational was great, South Park means optimism no matter what. Your friends and family are going to help you through whatever insanity is happening in the world, even if it seems impossible.
To me, South Park means that everything is going to be okay, because there’s friendly faces everywhere. And fuck you if you don’t understand that.