by Michael Neelsen
As filmmakers and film enthusiasts, you can assume we here at ATA have some very firmly held beliefs on the subject of censorship and the first amendment. We artists cling to our words and images like conservatives “cling to their guns and religion” (oohh, weren’t expecting a political reference, were ya?).
For the past eighteen years there has been a comedy duo on the front lines of the eternal “freedom of speech” battlefield, and their manifestations of foul-mouthed third graders, Mormon porn stars and cannibalistic cowboys have fought the good fight, tasting victories and defeats for the good of artists everywhere.
I’m talking, of course, about Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
(PLEASE BE ADVISED: THE VIDEO BELOW IS ONE OF THE MORE EXTREME MOMENTS IN SOUTH PARK HISTORY, SO IT IS VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY NSFW, AND IT CERTAINLY SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED BY THE EASILY OFFENDED.)
Many people would argue that Parker and Stone are nothing more than unintelligent scribes of toilet humor and fart jokes, as well as the more than occasional offensive jabs at religion.
But what those people don’t understand is that we need people like Parker and Stone out there showing us images of a stingray-skewered Steve Irwin mere days after his death and Jesus Christ defecating on the American flag, especially in these politically-correct times where freedom of speech has to be defended on a nearly daily basis due to somebody somewhere getting offended by something.
Imagine the first amendment as an elastic rubber band. Everything within the band is material deemed acceptable and appropriate by everyone in society, and everything outside the band is considered “crossing the line.” Every time Parker and Stone make a joke about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas raping Indiana Jones or show an image of the Virgin Mary “bleeding out her ass,” they stretch that rubber band wider, allowing more and more edgy material to be encompassed within the circumference of acceptability. Without them, the band would remain tight and constricting, and more and more things could and would be censored and slapped with the label of “obscene.”
To quote the poster tagline from perhaps the single best movie ever made about the defense of the first amendment, The People v. Larry Flynt, “You may not like what he does, but are you prepared to give up his right to do it?”
This is the question you must ask yourself if you’ve ever wished shows like South Park or Family Guy off the air, or if you’ve ever thought a movie shouldn’t have been released because it was too violent or sexually explicit. We mustn’t legislate based on personal taste. Freedom of speech is too important, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone fight for it every time they put pen to paper.
Tune in to the season premiere of South Park on Comedy Central one week from today, Wednesday, March 17 at 9:00 PM CST.