[The Democratic Governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley,] says he thinks that understanding the show's viewers might resolve some of the mysteries confronting his party about the vast swaths of red on the electoral map.... When the governor, a former prosecutor, prepares to make his case on a partisan issue, he likes to imagine that he's explaining his position to Hank -- an exercise that might be useful for his colleagues in Washington too. For instance, Easley told me that Hank would never support a budget like the one North Carolina's Senate recently passed, which would drop some 65,000 mostly elderly citizens from the Medicaid rolls; Hank, after all, has pitched in to support his own father, a brutish war veteran, and he would never condone a community's walking away from its ailing parents. Similarly, Hank may be a lover of the environment -- he was furious when kids trashed the local campground -- but he resents self-righteous environmentalists like the ones who forced Arlen to install those annoying low-flow toilets. Voters like Hank, if they had heard about it on the evening news, would have supported Easley's ''Clean Smokestacks'' law, which forced North Carolina's coal-powered electric plants to burn cleaner, but only because industry was a partner in the final bill, rather than its target.Well, then, Easley's use of "King of the Hill" is to figure out how to sell the Democrat's usual policies to people like this, not to critique any of his party's settled assumptions. Is that the way "South Park" is used by conservatives? It seems to me "South Park" criticizes all sorts of adult follies, and any Republicans watching that show for insight into how to appeal to its young audience ought to be learning that they need to become more libertarian and less socially conservative. "South Park" has plenty of advice for Democrats too -- but it's advice about changing yourselves, not just how to improve your rhetoric.
The Democratic interest in "King of the Hill" is that it portrays voters in a region where the Democrats have a big problem. So then, tell me, what does "King of the Hill" have to say about how Democrats should actually change their policies? I haven't watched enough of "King of the Hill" to be able to answer that question, so help me out in the comments if you can.
In the meantime, here's a post from Half-Bakered that says the NYT got the show all wrong:
[The show is] about renewal of traditional values in the face of the transformative. Every time Hank encounters the kind of "transformation" that Democrats and bureaucrats and the PC peddle, he defeats them -- often using their own internal problems and philosophies against them...(Via Signifying Nothing via Memeorandum.)
Hank is a rock-ribbed Republican, I tell ya whut. Dale Gribble, his neighbor, is a Libertarian. Boomhauer is a Republican, but doesn't much care, I'm sure. Only Bill will likely vote Democrat sometime, but only because he's a softie who falls for a good line; if he admitted it to his friends, they'd blast him.
Bai [the NYT writer] also somehow manages to quote or mention pretty much only Democrats in the piece. Go read it; it's a hoot. He's either clueless or delusional.
Or as Hank would put it, "That boy ain't right."
UPDATE: Lot's of good discussion in the comments. Makes me decide to TiVo "King of the Hill."
Also, here's the NYT review of the book "South Park Conservatives." The reviewer, Liesl Schillinger, an arts editor from The New Yorker, doesn't seem to know much about "South Park." She seems to think it represents "a new generation of Americans who refuse to accept public censure for their scornful attitudes toward gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, environmentalism and abortion rights." I say "seems" because she seems to attribute this characterization to the author of of the book. Actually, I'm really not sure what Schillinger is babbling about here. She doesn't seem to have put much effort into understanding the things she's criticizing, and the very short review is padded with irrelevant blather about "Monty Python."
[T]his book isn't intended for readers of The Times and The Economist and watchers of CNN. It's for the people who are sick and tired of mainstream media and are fans of the blogs and right-wing commentators [the author Brian C. Anderson] cites so abundantly.Blogs!
Oh, yeah, they're horrible. Horrible! They just take idiotic unfair slams at the good people who write for mainstream media. Why they'd even slam an arts editor who works at The New Yorker! The New Yorker! Where we know what we're talking about. We know "South Park" is anti-gay... uh, right? Isn't it?
ANOTHER UPDATE: I TiVo'd and watched an episode of "King of the Hill." The episode -- "The Petriot Act" -- involved taking care of a pet for a soldier who'd gone overseas. Hank feels the call of duty to take care of a dog, as a friend of his is doing, but he signs a contract that turns out to require him to take care of a cat, which turns out to be annoying and sick, and because he's agreed to use a particular, expensive vet, costs him the money he'd saved for the family vacation. He does his duty, without being particularly grumpy or cheerful about it, and in the end the family settles for a dinner out in a modest restaurant, all they have money left for. This is a very straightforward tale about living up to one's obligations. There is a scene where Hank stands up to the vet who is overcharging him, which is the sort of thing it seems Easley was grabbing onto. Hank gets mad when another man is not being fair and honest, so I suppose that shows that Hank-types can be activated by stories about people who cheat and take advantage. The whole "King of the Hill" concept, based on that episode, seemed to be about being solidly responsible and upstanding.