The Invisible Gnomes and the Invisible Hand: South Park and Libertarian Philosophy by Paul A. Cantor

Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Invisible Gnomes and the Invisible Hand: South Park and Libertarian Philosophy by Paul A. Cantor: "I’m not sure what Plato would have made of South Park, but his Silenus image fits the show quite well. South Park is at one and the same time the most vulgar and the most philosophical show ever to appear on television. Its vulgarity is of course the first thing one notices about it, given its obsession with farting, shitting, vomiting, and every other excretory possibility. As Plato’s dialogue suggests, it’s all too easy to become fixated on the vulgar and obscene surface of South Park, rejecting out of hand a show that chose to make a Christmas icon out of a talking turd named Mr. Hankey. But if one is patient with South Park, and gives the show the benefit of the doubt, it turns out to be genuinely thought provoking, taking up one serious issue after another, from environmentalism and animal rights to assisted suicide and sexual harassment. And, as we shall see, the show approaches all these issues from a distinct philosophical position, what is known as libertarianism, the philosophy of freedom. I know of no television program that has so consistently pursued a philosophical agenda, week after week, season after season. If anything, the show can become too didactic, with episodes often culminating in a character delivering a speech that offers a surprisingly balance"

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