22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A Complete Misrepresentation of South Park,
This review is from: South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating (Popular Culture and Philosophy) (Paperback)This book was very disappointing.
First, I don't even think this book belongs in the 'popular culture and philosophy' series to begin with. Out of 22 chapters within the book 14 chapters were written by the editor, Richard Hanley. I think that the editor was simply trying to monopolize on an existing market and piggyback on its success.
Second, these articles have very little to do with the Philosophy of South Park and more to do with the editor's personal biases against (a) God, (b) religion, (c) guns, (d) smokers, (e) republicans and (f) all other evil entities that are destroying the world. The worst part of the whole book is that he also goes to great lengths to attack libertarianism itself. He even uses the South Park episodes as examples of left-wing liberalism, which is very ironic since the creators of South Park have stated on record that they hate liberals more than conservatives. And how does the editor/author justify such misrepresentation of the South Park material. Well on page 57 of the book he tells us: "I don't think ... that authors have any special authority over the interpretation of their fictions, once the production is over." In other words, it doesn't matter what the author's original intent actually was because my interpretation of the episode is just as valid as their interpretation. This has to be the absolute height to arrogance.
Third, I find his anger towards God and theists particularly disturbing. While South Park is no friend of religion, at the same time it isn't openly hostile toward it. There is a stark distinction between ridicule of religion and open hostility toward religion. Honestly, angry people scare me and this guys rage practically spills through every page. Also, why would a person who doesn't even believe in God be so angry at Him?
Lastly, I found the books material severely lacking in any real philosophical discussion. Rather than providing an analysis of different philosophical viewpoints, Richard Hanley goes to the point of simply stating why he is right and all those other conservative/libertarian people are wrong. In fact, the best articles within the book were written by people other than the editor himself.
In conclusion, this book is hardly worth reading. If you are looking for a more fair and balanced analysis of South Park I recommend "South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today."
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 11, 2009 2:53:31 PM PST
Hoa Hong says:
There are a few problems with your review.
First, you seem to think it silly that an author's intentions not be the final word in interpreting a piece, but there is a reason that almost every literary critic disagrees with you. An author may have an idea of what he or she wants to say, but we all have our own innate biases and influences, often benign but sometimes not, that shape our writing, and an interpreter can use a text to say something about the world that gave us the person who wrote it by sort of reverse engineering it. That's not a particularly controversial notion. Will there be things to say about South Park, perhaps things South Park itself says, that aren't what Trey Parker and Matt Stone believe? Of course! And one of the jobs of the literary critic (one mantle taken up by Richard Hanley in this volume) is to point these things out and analyze them.
Also, you fall for the common trap of accusing those who dislike religion of having a curious dislike for a god in whom they do not believe, and you act as though it is somehow strange to have disdain for a character viewed by Richard Hanley as fictional. For a superficial refutation of your implication here, I could point out that I often find myself feeling a bit of anger at fictional characters, particularly in well-written stories. Who doesn't? Anger might not even be the only emotion evoked by fiction. I've felt all sorts of things while reading about people I new perfectly well were not real, and I see nothing strange in that. More importantly, though, you seem to confuse this anger (real or projected) as being at God, when it could just as easily (or more easily, even) be directed at religious people, either for what is often done in the name of religion or for people simply believing something Richard Hanley considers absurd. Don't you get frustrated when you hear "psychics" attempting to defend their claptrap? Hanley likely feels the same way toward other kinds of mysticism.
Finally, you seem to confuse philosophical rigor with political fairness, when it is usually apolitical, and when it does touch on politics, there is no reason why it should not favor one side. There are plenty of political issues that are debatable, but there are some on which one side's argument is often bolstered by little more than religion or tradition, and these positions make particularly tempting targets for philosophers who demand that intellectual positions be reached through thinking, not through prayer.
I see no reason why it is unfair for an author to present his views in his own book, anyway.
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2010 1:27:31 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2010 6:26:09 AM PDT
Jonathan Nacionales says:
There is such a thing as delivering on the promise of a title. For example, when I see a title like "God is not Great" I expect to read a book about how God is not great. Similarly, when I see a title like "South Park and Philosophy", I expect to read a book about South Park and philosophy. I'd be perfectly fine if he had titled the book "South Park Reinterpreted to Support my Liberal Agenda". However, the fact is that he didn't. As one reviewer has already stated: "If he wants to write a book extolling the virtues of living in a Scandinavian welfare state, do so. But it has nothing to do with South Park."
Supposing you were correct about every literary critic supporting a hermetical system that does not respect an author's original intent, I still would not care. It seems very obvious to me that the creator of a story has special rights over interpretations of their work, and I don't need "experts" to tell me otherwise.
Let me try a simple thought experiment with you. Suppose that someone wrote a book called "Carl Sagan's Contact and Philosophy", and started to use the book to support theism -- this has been done, by the way. Now suppose that that the author used your exact same argument to defend his obvious mis-characterization of "Contact": "Carl Sagan may have an idea of what he wants to say, but we all have our own innate biases and influences, often benign but sometimes not, that shape our writing, and an interpreter can use a text to say something about the world that gave us the person who wrote it by sort of reverse engineering it. That's not a particularly controversial notion. Will there be things to say about Contact, perhaps things Contact itself says, that aren't what Carl Sagan believed? Of course! And one of the jobs of the literary critic is to point these things out and analyze them."
Anyone who tried to justify themselves with that type of argument would rightfully be accuse of arrogance. Carl Sagan himself objected to people mis-characterizing his work, but perhaps that doesn't matter to you since an "author's intentions [are] not be the final word in interpreting a piece".
Are you starting to understand my frustration with this book? While I will grant that I may have gone a little too far in psycho-analyzing Mr. Hanley the way I did, I make no apologies for having done so. Even if only used as a literary device, the way that Mr. Hanley's expresses his anger goes well over anything that I would consider sane or appropriate. Another commentator said it best: "I found his prose condescending and dumbed down with profanity, in pale imitation of South Park. It works for South Park, because every character is a grossly exaggerated satirical figure, but not necessarily for an academic who wants you to take him seriously. "
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2011 5:11:10 AM PST
But what about the things that is done in the name of atheism? Stalin, Hitler, Po Plot, Marques de Sade, Mao, Marilyn Manson? Are these ppl ones you would admire and look up too? Your argument fails.
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2011 10:17:10 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 28, 2011 1:27:49 PM PST]
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