South Park is no stranger to offensive content on their show. Last Wednesday, October 5th 2011, was the season 15 premier episode. That night as the world learned about the death of Steve Jobs (ex-CEO and founder of Apple), South Park aired its first episode of the season, “Ass Burgers”. The next morning I opened my home page which happens to have a “Google Hot Trends” gadget and in a sea of Steve Jobs, Apple, and other related trending topics, Asperger’s was number 8. So I wondered, how does Asperger’s appear in a list of trending topics when the other 9 are all about Steve Jobs. I don’t think he had aspergers did he? No, Steve Jobs was not diagnosed with asperger’s. So I clicked on it to find a story about South Park doing an episode called “Ass Burgers”. My immediate reaction, uh oh…
Asperger’s and Vaccination
The episode begins with one of the boys, Stan, discovering that everything that used to make him laugh and that the rest of the world seems to think is funny is really just s***t. So as a result, every bad song, movie reference, or actor reference sounds like someone passing gas to him. On the same day that the girls at his elementary school are being forced by the school to get vaccinated for HPV, Stan has an outbreak in class that causes him to go to the school counselor. It is there that the counselor decides that his distant behavior and other symptoms mean he has Asperger’s. The counselor then makes a phone call indicating that this is the first diagnosis of Asperger’s after all the children were forced to get a flu shot. Obviously this is the creators’ stab at the theory that vaccines cause autism.
Quite possibly one of the most offensive story lines is that Cartman (no surprise he is the ring leader of the ridiculously offensive story) decides he is going to convince the school he has Aspergers and then sue them since it was a result of the vaccination that they forced the children to get. However, Cartman doesn’t know it’s Aspergers but instead hears Ass Burgers. This leads to him to believe he can get diagnosed by sticking hamburgers in his underpants and complaining of pain to the nurse. When she kicks him out of her office, he finds his classmates in the hall while he is still holding his hamburgers that were previously down his pants. In true South Park fashion, the friends try a burger while Cartman leaves out the fact that they were previously down his pants and they all agree that they are the best burgers they have ever tasted. Thus “Cartman Burger” is born and he sells them to the public, until he is found out at the end of the episode.
Really?, The Matrix?
In case we all forgot that The Matrix existed, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park), not so gently reminded us of the trilogy by spoofing the Matrix in what can only be described as a far fetched attempt at comedy. During what was arguably the most offensive scene in the episode, Stan goes to a center for people with Aspergers for therapy and early intervention. When he arrives, the Doctor (who we soon see is meant to be Morpheus), is taking them down a hall and explaining in a little more depth what Aspergers is. He explains that is a “disease” that causes socially odd behavior and the people who have it don’t know that what they are doing is socially awkward. Meanwhile, a man is blowing bubbles with the gas he is passing and another is urinating on the walls and then turns to Stan and continues to urinate. The doctor explains “Here at the treatment center, our focus is on awareness. Asperger’s is serious but unfortunately because of its name, people think it’s a disease to be made fun of.” They then go into a room where all of the people with Aspergers are waiting for the therapy to begin and they are jumping on furniture, drooling, and yelling random things. It turns out this is all an elaborate front to hide the fact that these people can see the world as it really is (hence Stan hearing “farting” noises and see the world as s**t). The doctor who is this group’s leader then explains how Aspergers isn’t real and it’s just a cover for their group. Needless to say, in the spirit of South Park, the show continues to wane further off topic until we’re not really sure what is going on anymore.
Was it really Offensive?
I have to admit, if I do sit down to watch an episode of South Park, I generally do so with the understanding that it is a truly stupid way of looking at real issues going on today. The mandatory vaccinations come at us straight from the headlines when Rick Perry tried mandating vaccinations for Texas school girls and Michele Backmann slammed him for it. It obviously then touches on the controversial topic of vaccines and autism without forming an opinion one way or the other. South Park offends everyone equally, that’s the beauty of the show. Did it take some of the references too far in this show? Maybe. But if there is anything good that came out of the episode, it made the Google Hot Trends, even if only for a short period of time, on the day when the entire world was talking about the death of arguably one of the most influential men in the world and sports fans were looking up what time and channel the Yankees were playing to decide their fate in the American League championship. For a short amount of time, people were learning what Aspergers really is because South Park opened their eyes in one of the least conventional ways possible.
If you want to watch the full episode, you can do so at the following link: South Park – Ass Burgers