Thursday, September 2, 2010

Changing the F Word

I would get so much more done in my life if I didn't have Comedy Central piped in to my boob tube: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Tosh.0, the weekend stand-up, the return of Futurama. But of all Comedy Central's offering, my number-one guilty pleasure (there's only one, I promise!) has to be South Park.

As juvenile and toilet-related as that show gets, there are times when it just shines in a way that no other show can.

The rerun* that I saw last night was one of those moments. And it was word-related, so it fits right in to this blog!

The episode was called "The F Word", but it wasn't about the F-word, it was about the word fag.

A loud and obnoxious gang of Harley riders repeatedly spread their noise pollution around town. The South Park boys — and everyone else their age — start referring to those bikers as fags. Through faulty logic, the gang then decides that they ought to be even louder.

TSPB launch a scheme, painting "Fags Get Out" in red spray paint a few places in town. When the boys are brought before the school's principal, they have to explain that they weren't using fag to refer to homosexuals, but to loud, obnoxious Harley riders.

Here, they offer some great arguments, and the South Park writers offer some great wordplay, as well as a skewed view of how language changes:
Councilman 1: How is it that you think that referring to gay people as 'fags' in today's world is acceptable?
Kyle: "Because we're not referring to gay people. You can be gay and not be a fag.
Stan: Yeah. A lot of fags aren't gay.
Councilman 2: I happen to be gay, boys. Do you think I'm a fag?
Stan: Do you ride a big, loud Harley and go up and down the street ruining everyone's nice time?
Councilman 2: No.
Stan: Then you're not a fag.
Councilman 1: So what if a guy is gay and rides a Harley?
Cartman: Then he's a gay fag. Is this really this hard?
Stan: I don't know.
Kenny: Thith ith futhink rithiculouth.
Stan: All right, look. You're driving in your car, okay, and you're waiting to make a left at a traffic signal. The light turns yellow, should be your turn to go, but the traffic coming at you just keeps coming. And even when the light turns red, a guy in a BMW runs the red light so you can't make your left turn. What goes through your mind?
Otherwise silent councilman at the far end of the table: ...fag.
Stan: Right! But you're not thinking, 'Oh, he's a homosexual.' You're thinking, 'Oh, he's an inconsiderate douchebag, like a Harley rider.
Councilman 1: This...this is making insanely good sense to me.
Councilwoman: All right. How about this. What would you call a straight man who doesn't own a Harley but likes them and might buy one someday.
Cartman: You call him bike curious.
(This last line floored me.)

With the help of the local gay advocacy group, South Park's mayor passes a city ordinance to officially change the meaning of the word fag to refer to obnoxious Harley riders. A national politician then goes on air saying that, because dictionaries don't contain South Park's new definition of fag, using it is still harmful to the gay community.

The only solution? Convince the dictionary people to change the definition. In this case, "the dictionary people" refers to Emmanuel Lewis (who, to my surprise, really is still alive), the dictionary's head editor, who arrives with a small entourage to hear arguments for the definition change. But before the arguments can commence, the angry Harley gang rolls back into town to kick some ass, proving beyond a doubt that they really are a bunch of fags.

(A favorite shot: Emmanuel Lewis being dragged by a chain behind a Harley, shouting "You obdurate beasts!")

They're eventually run out of town by shotgun-wielding homosexuals, some of whom have been toting "Gays Against Fags" signs.

If you've only ever thought that South Park was a sophomoric, potty-mouthed mass of nincompoopery, this episode is a good example of how it can be a witty, smart, thought-provoking, potty-mouthed mass of nincompoopery.

After your kids go to bed, click the link above and watch the episode.

And try not to wake them up with your laughter.

* I realize that this episode is from last season. I didn't have cable last season, and I likely won't have cable next season after my introductory rate runs out in mid-January. Which, I guess, means I either have to watch as much South Park as I can in the next four months or fork over the dough to buy 13 seasons worth of South Park DVDs. Probably both.