The cable TV cartoon "South Park" has been called "Exhibit A in the case for the V-chip." The popular show, which has been drawing audiences in excess of 6 million viewers, goes where even "Beavis and Butt-head" dared not to tread. One character, Kenny, dies each week in a different way. Besides bathroom humor, the shows flirts with racial stereotypes and has featured episodes about Jews and homosexuals that have raised issues of taste. The producers acknowledge that about 20% of the show's viewers are 17 or younger. The show has spawned a line of T-shirts and clothing that has been banned by some schools around the country.
KATHRYN McLAREN spoke to young viewers about the show's appeal.
19, sophomore, Cal State Northridge
I watch this show to have fun and escape from taking things so seriously. I gather weekly at the student union with at least six or seven other students to watch. Some of the things they do are just unbelievable. In one episode, they had Jesus boxing Satan. They went way out of bounds with that. It was sacrilegious.
But in another episode, they taught a good lesson. The little boy's dog was gay and the boy was whining that he wanted a straight dog. The lesson was that the boy should appreciate his dog the way it was.
This kind of humor is OK because it makes fun of everyone, even if I find some of the things they say distasteful. Fraternities and sororities have viewing parties. Wednesday night is "South Park" night. My parents don't watch it, but I hear adults at work talk about it being funny. I think it's just something new, the new craze, like the early Simpsons.
I work at a store and we sold a lot of "South Park" stuff at Christmas. "South Park" items are very hot, especially a shirt depicting six times Kenny has been killed. Most of the buyers are between 10 and 20-something; more are male than female, yet I see all age groups purchasing these items.
20, retail clerk, Pasadena Plaza
I watch "South Park" because it's funny, especially how they talk. I think that it's not true to life and if kids came to where I work and talked like that, I would be offended. I also watch "Beavis and Butt-head," but I prefer "South Park" because it's so different and original. I find nothing offensive or gross about it. My favorite killing of Kenny is when he got microwaved and then eaten by the mice. You can't take it seriously.
I don't know any adults who watch it. My parents know I watch it, but I don't think they realize what it's like. I work in a mall, and I don't see people wearing "South Park" clothes. Young kids should not be watching this show. Parents should monitor what they are watching.
17, senior, Antelope Valley High School
South Park" is something I do late at night when I have nothing else going on, which is about twice a month. I don't drop everything just to watch it. I enjoy the animation and like how artificial the characters look and speak. I appreciate it from an artist's point of view.
It goes way beyond other cartoons, including "Beavis and Butt-head." I don't know any adults who watch it, but I think everyone would find it funny. I think it's appropriate for young kids.
The killing of Kenny is something I look forward to. The moms are like little hick moms who don't know nothing about anything going on, yet they fit the stereotype of a lot of parents. The best Kenny killing was the Christmas episode when they didn't actually kill him and he was cheering about that. The killings don't bother me because I know it's just a cartoon. I thought the episode where Mr. Hankey was jumping around and leaving little poops all over everywhere was gross. The stupidity goes a bit overboard.
I especially like when they pick a famous person or celebrity to poke fun at. I don't own any "South Park" shirts or hats, but I think that it violates kids' civil rights to have these clothes banned from their schools. If my younger sister watched "South Park" and starting acting and speaking like they do on the show, I wouldn't let her watch it anymore.
17, sophomore, Garfield High
South Park" is stupid and funny at the same time. I don't find it offensive or gross like some people do. I live in the inner city and I haven't heard anything on the show that I don't hear on the streets. Young kids really act and talk just like on "South Park." Other cartoons are just as violent. They have killings, beatings, explosions and run over all kinds of things that little kids see.
I drop everything and make a point to watch it. I just sit back and trip out. I don't think they should ban kids from wearing "South Park" attire. I haven't bought anything from the show, but I'm waiting for the action figures to come out. I don't know any adults who watch it regularly, but my parents know I watch it and they have seen parts when I'm watching it.