Whale Whores, an episode of South Park that aired in the 13th season of the show, packs tightly commentary and criticisms of both American and Japanese culture. The episode revolves around the issue of Japanese whaling and the American response, but discusses more, including the American craving for fame, and the Japanese obsession with Hiroshima. However, as anyone familiar with the show could guess, the episode discusses all of these subjects with the most honesty of anyone.
The opening scene depicts Japanese whalers crashing a “swim with dolphins” program that the Marsh family is attending. They proceed to slaughter dolphins in various parks and aquariums across the United States in the same manner shown in The Cove. These actions inspire Stan to join the Sea Shepherd, the boat and crewmembers featured in the “hit” reality show Whale Wars. Stan eventually takes over and begins directly attacking whaling ships and garners publicity by resorting to more drastic actions in comparison to the previous captain’s “vegan pussy” antics. Ultimately, Stan, Kenny and Cartman are captured by the Japanese and are taken to Hiroshima, where they are enlightened to the modus operandi of the Japanese; the whole operation sparked as a vengeful war against dolphins and whales, which the Japanese believe to have piloted the Enola Gay.
The Hiroshima twist was unexpected. However, it brings to light the Japanese obsession with the subject of atomic bombs and that Japan is still in a Post-War period, feeling the effects of the war to this day. Interestingly, those familiar with mercury poisoning, especially in the context presented in The Cove (dolphin meat contains toxic levels of mercury), can appreciate the hypocrisy presented by the Japanese in obsessing over atomic awareness in the world and yet feeding their own people toxic foods in order to get richer. It also brings light to the notion that the Japanese are willing and have begun to use Hiroshima as justification to get away with things otherwise unrelated.
In true South Park fashion, the episode does not only criticize the Japanese. Many shots are fired at American media and society, most prominently through the Animal Planet program, Whale Wars. The show persistently insists that the major focus of the show and other similar shows (e.g. Deadliest Catch) point more toward publicity and fame. In the Larry King interview scene, the only subjects discussed by King and the guest expert are issues of viewers and public image, which should bring the viewer to question the integrity of these “activists” and their true motives.
Whale Whores also discusses American presumptuousness. In the end of the episode, after Stan convinces the Japanese that cows and chickens were in fact responsible for Hiroshima, Randy Marsh tells Stan how glad he is that they were finally able to get the Japanese to be “normal.” One can see that as a jab at the American tendency to meddle in the affairs of other countries, and that American thought was the standard. Throughout the episode, it is made clear that whaling, despite its horrific images, is, to a certain degree, a tradition in Japan. Granted, those who have seen The Cove recognize how quickly the notion of tradition can become corrupted or even fabricated. However, the Japanese have historically practiced whaling, and for the United States to assume they can intervene and change these ideals can only be seen as arrogant. On a more obvious note, American hypocrisies are also presented in their ability to blow off the slaughter of cow and chickens for food as acceptable while dolphins and whales are not.
Ultimately, despite either party’s unwavering attempts at stating their case, the issue presents discrepancies in the speech and actions of both the United States and Japan. Hypocrisies persist, the killing of dolphins persists, and the greed for fame persists. However, South Park, in a little over twenty minutes, discussed these issues in more depth than any other source available to the masses, effectively raising awareness to not only the issues presented but how we should approach these issues.