South Park: Taking Satire to Extremes

South Park is an American television that is famously–and sometimes infamously–known for its simple drawing style and animation, crude humor, and above all, its fearlessness to tackle some of the most controversial subjects buzzing around. In episode eleven of the thirteenth season, entitled “Whale Whores”, protagonist Stan Marsh discovers the ruthless and cruel obsession the Japanese have with killing any dolphin or whale in sight, before running away and yelling “F*** YOU DOLPHIN!!!” or ” “F*** YOU WHALE!!!” accordingly.



Enraged by the Japanese’s heartless and sick behavior, he decides to join the crew of “Whale Wars”, a real American reality show on which animal rights activist Paul Watson and his team fend Japanese whalers off the coast of Antarctica. Yet he receives a surprise when he finds that Watson’s crew, self-proclaimed “bad-asses”, don’t actually do anything to help the cause and instead resort to making the Japanese vessels “stinky” by throwing sticks of old butter at them. After Watson is killed by being harpooned, Stan takes over as the new captain and begins to protect the cetaceans seriously; however, his efforts are unappreciated as Larry King and other members of the media believe he is only interested in creating a popular television show with high ratings.

The crew of "Whale Wars", captained by the incompetent Paul Watson.

The crew of "Whale Wars", captained by the incompetent Paul Watson.

The show is short-lived when Japanese kamikaze pilots crash into the ship and the whales around them, leaving only Stan, Cartman, and Kenny (the latter two who only joined because they wanted to be on television) to be taken hostage by the Japanese. They are then shown by Emperor Akihito a doctored photograph, which portrays the plane that bombed Hiroshima as having been piloted by a dolphin and a whale, explaining the Japanese’s hatred for them. Choosing not to reveal the truth for fear that it could incite another war between Japan and the U.S., Stan instead presents them with another doctored photo, in which the Enola Gay is actually being piloted by a chicken and a cow. Thus the episode ends with the Japanese attacking farms and yelling “F*** YOU CHICKEN!!!” and “F*** YOU COW!!!”. The Americans then dub the Japanese finally “normal, like us”.

The Enola Gay, piloted by a dolphin and a whale.

The Enola Gay, piloted by a dolphin and a whale.

South Park is successful in lampooning various topics, such as Japan’s “mindless” dolphin and whale killing spree, America’s media-based society, and other stereotypes about the two countries as well, such as Japan’s kamikaze attacks and America’s fast food nation. Although it risks offending many people due to the controversial nature of its topics, being a well-established and generally liked show, it manages to get away with much of its humor, as well as because subjects it raises are true and valid issues in the world about which we should be concerned. In fact, in response to the episode, Paul Watson stated that he was glad South Park was bringing attention to Japanese whaling and took no offense to being joked about (and killed) on the show. Others who have been satirized on the show have even claimed that one should be honored to be portrayed on South Park, because of how large it is in the U.S.

The almost lax, careless way the dolphins’ and whales’ murders are portrayed in the episode (random stabbing, as blood seeps through the water) shocked me at first, as previously I had not seen much South Park. I was still able to appreciate the sort of disturbing humor though, as I understood that much of the gruesomeness in this show comes out of truth. The primitive behavior of the Japanese, such as using spears rather than higher technology, broken English, and traditional rather than modern Japanese clothing add to the funniness of the situation because, as well-said in Avenue Q, “Ethnic jokes may be uncouth, but you laugh because they’re based on truth”. Indeed, a large factor in successful satirize lies in viewpoint; by clearly being aware of the inaccuracies of its stereotypes, “Whale Whores” is able to bring attention to important environmental issues without being criticized for its ignorance.


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