I think it surprises some people to learn that I enjoy South Park. The show gets pretty nasty at times. But the same people also wonder why I don’t watch Simpsons or Family Guy, since those shows seem like they should be right up my alley. The fact that South Park uses stronger language does not, to me, make it more offensive. Heck, in their last album Mumford & Sons dropped the F-bomb three times in one song, and these guys are favourites among Christians. (Turns out that song is also my favourite song on the album, but not because of the language.) It’s actually the use of the name Jesus as a curse that causes me to step away from whatever I’m watching. That too, happens in South Park, in some episodes more than others.
But wait, that lead-in went on a rant in the wrong direction. What I wanted to talk about was sarcasm.
The reason South Park appeals to me as much as it does, even more than any similar adult-humour cartoons, is that the show and I operate on the same sarcasm frequency.
Let me try to explain…
A person with a low sarcasm frequency only uses (and only understands) sarcasm once in a blue moon. Their equivalent to sarcasm is to say something they don’t really mean and then add “NO-O-O-T!”
The average person uses (and thinks in terms of) sarcasm only about half the time. They use it sparingly, without overdoing it, and they understand most of the sarcastic jokes given by the average person. These are probably the more psychologically balanced individuals.
And then there’s people like me, who think in terms of sarcasm so constantly that almost everything we say has a flavour of sarcastic wit to it, even when we are being genuine. For us, sarcasm sometimes becomes so integrated into our behaviour that the people around us can’t tell if we’re being sarcastic or not.
Roughly 95% of everything that happens in South Park is sarcastic. And even when the writers are being dead serious, that feel of sarcastic wit still hangs in the air. When I watch this show, I get it. Even when there’s nothing happening, I get it. A lot of people don’t, but that’s just the difference in frequency.
Now, I’m not saying that any particular frequency is better than another. We are all as God made us. Some of us can’t get all the jokes, and some of us put people off by never feeling real. South Park even did an episode last season making fun of people who overuse sarcasm. But you may be surprised to learn that I’ve discovered a frequency even higher than this – a frequency so high that I miss half of it.
The person I’m referring to is Joss Whedon. Or possibly the combination of Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Not sure. I discovered this higher frequency when I watched The Cabin in the Woods, which Whedon co-wrote with Goddard. I understood what the movie was, and I liked where it went. There was a time early on when I saw where it might go and I got excited and then it looked like it might not go there and then it went there and I was happy. And although I got most of the humour, I was keenly aware that I was also missing some. I could see the jokes from a distance, but not clearly enough to get it. I had discovered a sarcasm frequency so high that it was doubling over itself, creating a sarcasm within a sarcasm. Like a sarcastic Inception. To quote one of Whedon’s own lines, “That guy’s brain is a bag of cats.” It was beyond me.