The Playgoer: analogous cause?

Custom Search

Saturday, March 18, 2006

analogous cause?

There may be many differences between the fate of a small off-broadway play and a revenue- generating machine like South Park. But when the free speech of even such a successful show can be threatened by weaselness in the face of religious protest, then I think it's fair to stand together.

Yes, the last thing relevant to Rachel Corrie has been "religion" per se. But then again, that's also pretty irrelevant to Scientology, isn't it. (In the words of young Stan: "Sue me!") And while SP's Parker & Stone arguably intended to offend and insult more than Rachel... that very freedom is essential to a climate of freedom throughout all the arts, I would argue.

"South Park" conservative himself Andrew Sullivan is on the case here and here . (Yes, I know that's two conservative-themed links in two days, don't worry.) Sullivan is right in calling for an email campaign against Viacom and Comedy Central. So, in the name of consistency, I do urge you to write in if you care about the freedom to offend (intentionally or not) anything remotely associated with religion--legit religion or not.

Comedy Central: go here


Anonymous said...

This is why the left's failure to condemn Islamic extremists who blew things up because of some cartoons was so disturbing. Religion -- another name for a psychotic mythology which involves demonizing non-believers -- must never be criticized, must be respected... even as those religions criticize and disrespect everyone outside of it. Screw Scientology, screw radical Islam, screw Mel Gibson, fuck religion, and long live freedom of expression! If the left and right unite over this, all the better.

Ben Kessler said...

Playgoer, I don't agree with your level-headed call for a protest of Viacom "for the sake of consistency." Assuming Parker and Stone care about consistency themselves, these libertarian tv writers would have to stand against those who oppose its corporate backers. Those who sign on Viacom's dotted line know just what they're signing away, and any violation of the Faustian contract is best left to the lawyers. This particular case is open and shut: Viacom is completely within its legal rights in suppressing what is essentially a bought-and-paid-for piece of property.

If anything, this South Park incident illustrates the necessity of theater, when theater operates as it's meant to. The NYTW folks had a professional obligation to the Rachel Corrie team, which they appear to have neglected. They're being called to account for it. By contrast, Rachel Corrie-like incidents happen every day, and go unremarked, in the tv biz. Artists are cheated, content is unceremoniously yanked from the airwaves, actors are lied to and betrayed...need I go on? Even if the programming execs at Comedy Central eventually retract their decision and air the episode, these behind-the-scenes incidents--most of which would be considered censorship by the standards of most free-speech advocates--will continue unabated. The best way to promote free speech in this country is to restore to cultural prominence a form that is designed to preserve it. Concentrate on theater. Leave South Park to the fratboys.

Playgoer said...

Re: "commented deleted" (above)

I've deleted the above comment only because it was a duplicate posting. It has been posted 3 times on this site so I am only deleting the 2 repeats.

You may still read it under the post "Rachel's Words" below.

Note to "why palestinians are always wrong" poster--my deletion has nothing to do with any political message. I invite diversity. But not multiple form letters irrelevant to the posting. I will delete such comments from any side of the debate.

The Playgoer

Playgoer said...


True, the fact that Viacom and Comedy Central are corporations does give them some greater "right" to silence artists. So, hey, at least they're honest about their interests.
Now what does that say about the "not-for-profit" New York Theatre Workshop! Makes this case all the more distressing...
And sorry, Ben, South Park ain't just for frat boys anymore. In an age where satire is woefully absent from the American stage, I take it where I can get it. And I don't mind saying I think Parker & Stone are masters at it.