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.