November 19, 2005

Too far in mocking Tom Cruise? What about too far in mocking religion?

Here's a CNN segment on the new episode of "South Park" that mocked Scientology and Tom Cruise. CNN jumbles a lot of things together and titles the segment "Did 'South Park' go too far in mocking Tom Cruise?" Why not ask whether "South Park" went to far in mocking Scientology? That was what most of the episode was about.

Not shown in the CNN clip is the show's hilarious animated depiction of the deep secrets of Scientology. Instead, CNN reruns rumors about Cruise's sexual orientation, replete with the usual clip of him jumping on Oprah's couch. It's true the "South Park" episode repeatedly used the phrase "Tom Cruise come out of the closet." (Cruise literally hides in a closet for a reason that has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.) CNN shows many of those repetitions and informs us that they counted 39 of them. It's very funny.

But religion is the real target of "South Park's" mockery, and CNN opted for the easy approach of tweaking Cruise one more time about the rumors. In a lame attempt to appear journalistic, CNN presented the rumors as a report on how other people are spreading rumors. (Isn't that usually how one spreads rumors?) Can you picture CNN actually going after Scientology the way "South Park" did?

Side note: I love "South Park's" crude imitation of John Travolta's voice, which you can hear in the CNN clip.


XWL said...

Let's see CNN's spin if Parker and Stone ever set their sights directly on Mr. Anderson Cooper (some wag posted video of Ryan Seacreast throwing to Cooper after Seacreast filled-in for King, only one word could possibly describe their interaction with each other, flirtation).

I listened to that piece on the net, it was an absurd and facile (and not in a good way) take on another excellent episode.

There would seem to be an unwritten rule that all entertainment coverage must be vapid, but CNN really strives to be especially so.

erp said...

Do you think they plan to do a take down on all religions eventually leading up to and including Islam?

XWL said...

They've savaged Osama and Saddam directly, but I don't think they've taken on Islam or Allah directly.

They've done plenty with Jesus, God, Catholicism (the Catholic Boat was in poor taste, and hilarious), Judaism, Mel Gibsonism, Hippie-ism (they really, really, really hate hippies), Jingoism and probably a few other -isms I've forgotten.

(and their film Orgazmo does Mormonism pretty thoroughly and pornographically)

They are the most Swiftian of social observers probably since Swift himself (and will likely be studied as a serious academic subject 25-50 years from now).

(and had Cartman been the chosen one the Scientologist would have probably started a nuclear war and wiped out most of the people on the planet)

erp said...

XWL - Thanks for the roundup. We haven't gotten the South Park habit, but perhaps we'll rent a DVD and see what it's all about.

Starless said...

Can you picture CNN actually going after Scientology the way "South Park" did?

I don't think you'll find the phrase "hard-hitting" and "CNN" in the same sentence. Ever.

Side note: I love "South Park's" crude imitation of John Travolta's voice, which you can hear in the CNN clip.

It's in keeping with their tradition of vaguely recognizable but purposely inaccurate celebrity voice imitations. The culmination of which was probably their imitation of Matt Damon.

CNN's really stretching things to make this into "news", though. I didn't see this particular episode of South Park, but from the CNN clip it's hard to see how it was any more slanderous than all of the celebrity-bashing in Team America. Slicing Helen Hunt is half, kicking the top of Janeane Garfallo's head off--how is saying "Tom Cruise come out of the closet" worse than that?

CNN has demonstrated once again that they are the worst teevee news organization on the planet.

marquisdesade said...

Not shown in the CNN clip is the show's hilarious animated depiction of the deep secrets of Scientology.

I don't know if it's out of fear of being sued, but I don't think I've ever heard a cablenewser address those core beliefs of Scientology -- SP's animation is probably the best way to illustrate them.

We get Scientologist pontificating about the evils of psychiatry (soooo 1960s) but I will send a bunch of flowers to the first cablenews anchor to ask a Scientologist, on live television, if he/she believes that emotional problems are caused by the detached souls of aliens killed millions of years ago by Xenu.

PatCA said...

I didn't see the episode, but I guess if they object to mocking Scientology then they would have to object to mocking all religions, including Christianity.

Starless said...

BTW, see Bowfinger for a good ribbing of Scientology under the guise of a cult called MindHead (which Steve Martin's character almost-but-not-quite calls MindF*ck).

FXKLM said...

I didn't like it. The "come out of the closet" joke was mildly funny the first time they said it, but it definitely wasn't funny enough to build an entire episode around it. The only thing that made me laugh was the John/Jane Smith credits at the end. That was pretty clever.

bill said...

To truly appreciate the "out of the closet" bit and for an explanation of why R Kelly was there, read this Trapped in the closet. R Kelly is writing a multi-part piece about people hiding in the closet and shooting off guns. I haven't heard any of the songs, but the synopses are hilarious.

What I thought was the funniest bit of South Park was after begging to be sued all the credits were attributed to John or Jane Smith.

CCMCornell said...

I think XWL's description of Stone/Parker's voice imitation style is right on, but the case of Matt Damon in Team America isn't a "culmination." It seems that it was more of an inside joke.

I ran across an interview that describes the situation: apparently it was very difficult to get desired results with the puppet faces because they were restricted to using one basic skull for all the puppets and then making it up to look like the character, which resulted in many not looking a lot like their target faces. In the case of Matt Damon's puppet:

We were like "Dude! That doesn't look like Matt Damon! He looks like retarded!" So what are we going to do? Probably out of all those people, Matt Damon we've met before, and he's actually a pretty cool guy and a talented actor. So it's just because his puppet was screwed up.

On the topic of Tom Cruise: I think the "in the closet" jokes were also used as a vehicle to make fun of R. Kelly, as noted earlier by Bill. So far, his multipart video is already up to 12 parts and is said to eventually reach over 20!

And as far as repeating the "in the closet" joke ad nauseam, it's part of the Stone/Parker style. Again, I'll go back to Team America and note the vomitting puppet scene which lasts for a couple of minutes. I think the reaction they go for is: heh...OK - it's getting a little long...OK - it's getting funny again...

Lastly: if you liked the South Park style of describing religious beliefs, you should check out their treatment of the story of the Mormons in s07e12 - All about the Mormons. I don't think season 7 is on DVD yet, but you can find it on P2P (for the purposes of research for commentary and critique, of course.)

BeyonceKnowsBest said...

What's with the unilateral attack on CNN? I saw the same exact report on Fox News, complete w/ segments from the episode, and with the anchors laughing after the clips ended, saying, "Sue THEM [South Park], not US! We didn't write it, we're just reporting it." Literally, that is what they said.

CNN sunk to the level I think Fox News has always been at when they abruptly kicked Aaron Brown off in favor of Anderson Cooper, who, while a very very pretty man who can apparently withstand a lot of wind and rain, does pieces of fluff.

This South Park episode is not a news item, yet the two biggest cable news networks covered it. Why? Ask your fellow Americans. Because nothing but ratings are driving news outfits in either talent or story selection these days.

And Scientologists gave up the right to even allege that their organization is a religion when they worked that deal with the IRS to make their "accounting" classes or whatever tax deductible.

XWL said...

CNN is getting the brunt of the criticism simply because the clip Ann linked to was from their website.

The clip you saw on FNC isn't on their website, so having not seen it can't comment on it knowledgeably.

As far as commending Stone and Parker for their creative voice work with Travolta, that was the Profs observation, not my own. I don't take credit when it's not due.

And though you didn't say, I'll bet the FNC clip at least mentioned the Scientology angle, and if they didn't shame on them, it's even funnier when you put in context the Scientology, Cruise and R. Kelly angles, to leave any of that out is to discount the quality of the satire.

Also, in defense of 24hr cable news, it's 24 hours, that's a lot of time to kill, even with repeats, harmless fluff is harmless so long as it's not a steady diet.

My own comment was directed specifically at CNN's entertainment coverage only, which really is especially vapid.

(FNC does it with a smirk and a wink, whereas CNN just reads off of the press releases)

I meant for this to be a quick correction, sorry for carrying on so.

(and bouncyknowsbest, what's with the gratuitous FNC is the font of all evil and Roger Ailes and Karl Rove send out mind rays in attempt to control the world comment (I know you didn't say all that but that's what you meant when you said, "CNN sunk to the level I think Fox News has always been"))

(see, now that's an attempt at satire, feel free to get angry, aggreived and accuse me of putting words in your mouth)

Ann Althouse said...

Beyonce: "What's with the unilateral attack on CNN?" I went to the CNN website and found the clip there. I tend to use the CNN website as a source of news and, when I find things there that interest me, I blog about them. I rarely go to the FoxNews site. Did they have a video of their story on their site? Apparenly not, per XWL.

Starless said...

CCMCornell said...
I think XWL's description of Stone/Parker's voice imitation style is right on, but the case of Matt Damon in Team America isn't a "culmination."

It's my opinion, nothing more. Maybe I should have prefaced the statement with "I think".

BeyonceKnowsBest said...
What's with the unilateral attack on CNN?

In my case, again: opinion. I haven't ever really watched FoxNews and haven't seen CNN for a long time, so my opinion may be dated. From the bits and pieces I see on occassion though, they are, I think, really awful. I attribute it to the slave wages they pay their reporters and reporterettes.

Unknown Pundit said...

I saw the episode in question. Another hilarious and spot-on South Park take down. The real story of the episode is that they called Scientology a fraud. Kyle, presumed to be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, wants to make Scientology free to all comers. He's rebuked by the head Scientologist, explaining that the church wouldn't make any money if they couldn't charge its adherents for furhter "enlightenment". CNN missed the real story by focusing on the Cruise angle.

I still chuckle at the part of the episode where they show the events that Sceintologists believe took place 75 million years ago. During the entire sequence the phrase This is what Scientologists really believe was superimposed on the screen. Hilarious. And the John and Jane Smith credits. Perfect.

Parker and Stone, Swiftian indeed.

Timothy said...

That was the funniest TV show I've seen in ages.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I thought it was great, and helped to punctuate the point that sometimes Celebrities need to mind their manners about issues outside of their chosen profession.