Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Isaac Hayes quits South Park

Several articles have been in the news recently about Isaac Hayes, who has been a voice on South Park since 1997, leaving the show over a religious satire of Scientology. One link to one of the first newspaper reports is at: http://articles.news.aol.com/tv/article.adp?id=20060313163309990010

The story continues in the media: Shortly after Hayes quit, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, had their first guest appearance on The David Letterman Show. To me this was an obvious PR event. Not much was said about Hayes. Stone and Parker told Letterman that they are just good kids who learned to make a lot of money with "really bad animation and fart jokes."
Rumor is that a re-run of the Scientology episode was canceled due to Tom Cruise’s (another Scientologist) influence on the network. South Park fans boycotting Cruise’s movies….. it goes on and on.

I am interested in the ethics of entertainment as part of mass media. What are the ethical codes of entertainment – or are there any? I realize that much of the issue between Hayes and Parker/Stone is more of a moral issue than ethics. Hayes quit because he was personally offended by the show. I believe he is displaying a double standard because Scientologists is not the only religion or group that South Park has offended.

Is there some ethical principle that allows Parker and Stone to offend people with humor? Does this not cause harm? Our culture is used to just blowing off offensive material in the media because of our belief in freedom of speech. Other cultures will not tolerate offence – just publish a few cartoons poking fun at the Muslim religion.

Personally, I am offended by South Park and numerous other television shows. That is why I avoid them. Ethical or not, the most basic moral principals do not allow me to engage them.


Moulton said...

I rarely watch any TV at all, and I've only seen a bare handful of episodes of South Park.

One of them savaged Russell Crowe. The other lampooned the origins of the LDS.

I never saw the notorious episode on Scientology.

Lampoonery is a staple feature of cable TV. Faux news programs are drawing a larger audience than so-called legitimate news channels.

Nancy Williams said...

"I am interested in the ethics of entertainment as part of mass media. What are the ethical codes of entertainment – or are there any?"

You've raised an important question, Smokey. Here's a link to a critical essay from the Journal of Popular Film and Television, (Winter, 2004) on ethics in entertainment television.

ben said...

As a huge South Park fan, this episode bugs me. I don't see the issue as South Park making fun of Scientology. I know a lot of people do, but my problem is with Hayes.

South Park has activly made fun of every group imaginable, including themselves on several occasions. One of the main characters on the show is Jewish, and is made fun of on every episode by another character for being a jew.

Hayes had no problem cashing in on the other religions, but when his was made fun of, he ran away with his tail between his legs.

Last night's episode of South Park hit the spot. It was about shows being cancelled and censored because they offend an idividual or group.

It's fine that you don't watch South Park, for any reason that you choose. I have absolutly no problem with that. My problem rises when people who don't like the show, try to get it cancelled. Pat Robertson offends me to no end, but I have yet to get his show cancelled, I just don't watch it.

ben said...

And South Park won a Peabody Award for its sattire. Two episodes helped to seal the deal; their spoof of the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and their Terry Shiavo spoof. I can't wait to see the public outcry.

smokey said...

I don’t want to sound too prudish about watching TV. I actually see a lot of it – because it is on so much at our house. I rarely turn it on just to watch something – other than the evening news which I watch regularly (gasp! – I can’t admit that in class!). And I will turn it on for background while doing busy work.

I even saw the South Park clip of the Mormons in heaven when it circulated around the internet – have to admit that I enjoyed and was not offended by it. It’s partly that I’m from an older fuddy-duddy generation that is not into the same type of entertainment that much of the class is.

I made a quick read of the Mary Ann Watson essay that Aggie Blue linked to. I could identify and agree with many of her comments. To me, it is obvious that the increasingly self-destructive culture we have is influenced by the entertainment that we are all so addicted to.

I think that this subject could generate a lot of discussion about ethics vs. morals. Ethics and morals are also interrelated: morals influence ethics and ethical decisions influence moral attitudes. Many of these entertainment issues are moral issues rather than ethics, but someone had to make ethical decisions before creating the entertainment and airing it.

While commenting on how we are to teach students about ethics, Watson writes: “with freedom comes responsibility.”

Boy Scout said...

The line “Personally, I am offended by South Park and numerous other television shows. That is why I avoid them,” in your blog caught my eye- because really, isn’t this the best form of censorship? As I understand it, television is a business; if nobody is watching a show, then it isn’t a profitable time slot for advertisers and it gets cancelled. I liked that instead of campaigning against South Park, which you find morally offensive, you just change the channel. Rock on! This is exactly the way freedom of the press (or the media, in this case, I guess) mediates itself. I get so sick of people campaigning against everything, because someone is ALWAYS offended. If something bothers you, don’t watch it, don’t attend it, don’t visit it...

Boy Scout said...

And furthermore...

You know, I don’t know what the big deal is about Hayes being a hypocrite. First of all, we really don’t know the situation. Maybe his primary reason for leaving was that he suddenly came to himself and realized he wanted to pursue a career in mime. But even if he left only because of the scientology episode, I think that’s cool that he stood up for what he believed in. If he was so against the episode, then he was well within his rights to quit. I say right on. Let everyone do what he thinks is right for himself. South Park makes fun of delicate, very personal subjects; if Hayes was offended, then it’s his business to quit, even if he made fun of a lot of other religions. In a world where cartoons have caused riots and death (I’m thinking of the Muhammed cartoons), this is totally not a big deal; in fact, I think it’s an example of good behavior. Quitting is a pretty peaceful protest. Plus, Hayes is the one that is now out of a job.

bekah said...

I agree with the others when I say people should just not watch the show if they are offended by it. And I can definitely see why people would be offended by South Park. It's understandable that Hayes chose to quite the show when they made fun of Scientology even though he helped in making fun of all other religions and people.

Personally, I think the funniest South Park I've ever seen has to do with Mormonism- because I actually know what they're talking about and why it's funny. This makes for the best connection between the show and its audience. If no one understood what the show was making fun of, the satire and humor would be lost.

Obviously, taking the show off of cable would infringe on the right to freedom of expression, an extremely protected right to citizens in America. And I think there are plenty of people who enjoy the creative way that South Park has taken advantage of this right. Continuing on this note of actual law, celebrities actually have the right to control their publicity, meaning they or their likeness or name cannot be used in a publication without their permission. However, using a celebrity's name or likeness is perfectly legal when making a social statement, which is exactly what South Park does. So whether Tom Cruise likes it or not, they can make fun of him and his religion in a satirical way.

P.S. For those of you who haven't seen it, they actually made another South Park about why Hayes(Chef) left the show- Chef became part of the Super Adventure Club, a group of men who travel the world and have sex with children. Chef thinks he wants to leave the group, but then is tempted to stay a part of it. When he is on his way to returning, he falls off of a bridge and gets killed. At his funeral, one of the South Park kids says that they shouldn't judge Chef for being in the Super Adventure Club- they should blame the club for messing with Chef's mind and making him believe in crazy stuff. Hmm... could the Super Adventure Club somehow relate to Scientology? haha I just thought it was interesting.