AN ANALYSIS/REVIEW OF 'SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, & UNCUT' (1999)
Prudishness, in its many forms, is an amusing bear to poke. "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker know this well, and for the past two decades they have successfully used "South Park" as a way to satirize the prudish social world we occupy. Historically, controversy and "South Park" have gone hand-in-hand. Even as of a few days ago, "South Park" is once again in legal dispute, this time for ragging socialite couple Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Frankly, it is quite remarkable how much Stone and Parker have managed to get away with throughout the years, and their first film, “South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut,” is no exception. However, this is not to say that what they do is bad. It is our society, built on the predicate of maximizing free speech, which has allowed for "South Park" to become so mainstream. The show has championed free speech by pushing the boundary on what can be shown as entertainment media since its inception, and consequently, their episodes often stand as political statements rather than mere juvenile absurdity. Their political statements are not loyal to any particular party or creed, but rather aim to represent voice of the public against those who run the world. Often cynical, they point out that it's not their jokes that are absurd, but rather the people and things at which the jokes are aimed.
Released in the summer of 1999 at the height of the Y2K scare, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and so much more, “Bigger, Longer, & Uncut” stands as a referendum on an adult society that sees its youth as out of control due to the content that they view. Rather than correcting their parenting skills, they attack media which was never designed for children in the first place. It is very obvious that the film wishes to highlight those who seek to cancel “South Park” and show how very wrong they are.
The beginning of the film has the main boys sneak into an R-rated picture and then mimic the things that they see on-screen, commenting on a prevalent fear in our society. For the longest time, parents have feared that the media their children see will encourage unruly behavior. And to be fair, total unrestricted access to the internet is probably not the greatest thing for a child. To address the shockingly vulgar vocabulary of their children, the parents of our protagonists form a coalition against the media, their own children, and everyone other than themselves.
The message of the picture is that parents should take responsibility for the behavior of their children instead of scapegoating television networks or programs, like “South Park.” In reality, one could argue it's their own fault that their children have access to this type of media in the first place.
Of course, this bleeds into a bigger issue that parents face today: the rapid growth of technology has made the childhoods of adjacent generations different beyond the point of comparison. Today, adults cannot relate to the childhoods of their own children or grandparents has led to an inability to understand, and thereby inability to control, what information their children consume.
In 1999, before everyone — including children — had a magic light box capable of answering any query without hesitance (no matter how vulgar it may be) parents had much less to worry about. Frankly, “South Park” is the least of parents’ worries today, but similar attitudes toward children's exposure to media still prevail.
“Bigger, Longer, & Uncut” also took a stand against favoritism within Hollywood, specifically the Motion Picture Association of America, the organization responsible for administering audience ratings on the films. Their method of judgment on films added to the battle that was ongoing between parents and media programs.
Statistically, more films get severe ratings due to profanity than violence, and it is this superficial “cleansing of language in society” which Parker and Stone wished to press Hollywood on. Upon original review of the film, the MPAA gave the film a NC-17 rating, which was unacceptable to Paramount Pictures. The MPAA’s reasoning was the film’s profanity, and upon lessening the amount of swearing to 399 swear words, they would secure an R-rating, with the adjudication that one more swear word and they would get a NC-17. This type of absurdity is what "South Park" aimed to satirize in the first place.