Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Words on Flag Burnings and Offensive Cartoons

I thank my friend Mike Hantler here in Israel for bringing to my attention yesterday a very, very, interesting question: “Why do Christians not burn South Park flags?”

Let me explain.

The airing of a somewhat recent South Park episode in New Zealand that depicts a “menstruating” Virgin Mary statue in a church in that small Colorado mountain town has sparked a protest from NZ’s prime minister.

The airing of the same episode on Comedy Central sparked protests from Catholic groups, and Comedy Central has taken that episode out of circulation. After I sent Mike an article on the New Zealand PM’s comments, (which can be viewed here at http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/pm-attacks-south-park/2006/02/20/1140283998846.html), he asked me “Why do Christians not burn South Park flags? Interesting isn't it? I mean there is no way the Muhammad cartoon competes with the bleeding Virgin Mary.”

I’ve seen the controversial scenes in the episode, and quite frankly I’ve got to say I agree – the imagery is offensive …which is par for the course, of course, for “South Park”. We fans expect nothing less. The show lampoons many and offends the sensibilities of Jews and Christians with regularity. It has done the same to Scientology, Canada, Osama bin Laden, Hollywood stars and many, many other subjects. Jesus himself hasn’t escaped Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s wit and animation, and if I recall correctly in one episode God was once shown as some sort of weird creature only allowing Mormons into Heaven.

Heck, it is just as valid to ask "Why don't Jews burn South Park flags?"

In one episode, “The Passion of the Jew”, intolerant fat-boy character Eric Cartman leads an effort to exterminate the Jews after seeing “The Passion of the Christ”.

The main Jewish character, Kyle Broflovski, in the same episode is moved to find penance after seeing "The Passion" and considers converting. Not exactly designed to win Jews over, I think.

This episode also shows Mel Gibson running around in underwear, basically molesting himself. Later he is shown with his face painted “Braveheart”-style, driving like Mad Max while chasing down a bus and screaming “Give me back my eighteen dollars!” after two of the main characters – Stan and Kenny – see “The Passion”, don’t like it, and take back the amount of their tickets from the actor’s wallet when, during a visit to his house to demand their money back, he refuses.

In another episode, “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow”, something bad happens that some of the kids are responsible for, and Cartman exhorts another character to not tell Kyle, the Jewish character, whodunit because Kyle has his “Jew ethics” and will tattle.

Cartman: “Ah ah ah, ah, I know what you're thinking, Stan. You're thinking, you're gonna go tell Kyle. Look, I know you think he's your best friend, but Kyle is a Jew rat! He has his Jew ethics while he hoards his greedy Jew gold, and he will Jew you out if you tell him about this!”

Toward the end of the episode, Cartman blocks the path of Kyle and charges that all Jews carry little bags of gold around their necks, holds out a gun, and demands Kyle hand it over. Kyle denies Cartman’s accusation several times before he reveals that little bag of gold which, apparently, we do have strapped around our necks. I laughed my butt off during this scene, by the way – blatantly anti-Semitic in tone as it was.

Eric Cartman: Not so fast, Kyle.
Kyle Broflovski: What are you doing?
Cartman: Hand over the gold!
Kyle: What gold??
Cartman: You know what I'm talkng about!
Kyle: No, Cartman, I have no idea what you're talking about!
Cartman: All Jews carry gold in a little bag around their necks! Hand it over!
Stan: (going up stairs, drops down a few steps and calls out) Guys, come on! (Stan goes back up the stairs)
Kyle: Jews do NOT carry gold in a little bag around their necks, Cartman! Stop playing around!
Cartman: (pulls out a handgun) I'm not playing around, Kyle! If we survive this, I don't intend to live in poverty! Give me your Jew gold now!
Kyle: Dude, we don't have time for your stupid jokes! We're gonna die!
Cartman: Yes, but you can live if you give me your Jew gold! The decision is yours, Kyle!
Kyle: Goddamnit, you know I don't carry gold in a little bag around my neck, Cartman! Whaddaya want from me?!
Cartman: I want...your Jew gold! (Kyle stands there. Cartman glowers at him, ready to fire the gun if Kyle moves)
Kyle: Okay, fine! Here! (Opens his coat and pulls out a small black bag, and hands it to Cartman) Now, let's go!
Cartman: (moves the bag around in hand checking weight) Do you think I'm stupid?! I know that all Jews carry fake bags of gold around their necks to keep the real bags of gold around their necks safe! Hand over the real Jew gold, Kyle!!

Amazingly in response to this, you don’t really see Jews burning effigies of Cartman or throwing stones at Matt Parker and Trey Stone (Jewish by birth, agnostic) in response to stuff like this. As Mike pointed out, neither do we see symbolic, quickly-home-made South Park flags being burned by Christians in “spontaneous” riots – we don’t even see TV stations or Comedy Central offices going up in flames. The most I’ve heard in response to material offensive to Christians on the show is occasional letters of complaint from Christian groups to Comedy Central, as well as criticism from New Zealand’s head of government.

As far as I know, Mel Gibson did not dress up like William Wallace and smash to pieces the offices of Comedy Central while screaming “Freedom!” when “The Passion of the Jew” came out almost two years ago and depicted him as a raving lunatic. I don’t think he even sued.

Go figure. When a popular TV show truly offends Jews and Christians, we write letters to the network or simply turn off the TV. Harsh, huh? But us fans still watch it. It pushes the limits, after all, and it is damn funny. But when the news media in Denmark offends narrow-minded, hypocritical Muslims, their much narrower-minded, much more hypocritical governments in this region of the world manipulate public sentiment towards insane riots – granted, that the majority of the populations are not involved in – complete with flag burnings, often resulting in deaths of innocent people and destruction of Danish governmental private property.


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