'South Park' Penn State Jokes Are Really Making Fun of Us (VIDEO)

South ParkThe question of the day seems to be whether South Park taking on the Penn State child abuse scandal is funny or an unfeeling look at what happened to Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims. But can't it be both?

Ripping something entirely unpleasant from the news and trying to craft a joke is what South Park does, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone don't have the corner on the market. Masking our discomfort with tough topics by cracking wise is the American way. We call it therapy. But let's call it what it really is.


It's a diversion. It's a way to bury the discomfort so we don't have to deal with it. It's why someone with depression refers to her medication as "crazy pills" or an obese woman will joke about her thunder thighs. We prefer to beat up on ourselves in a humorous way rather than think about why we're beating up on ourselves to begin with. Even racist jokes come from a refusal to face that someone is uncomfortable with someone else being different.

No one wants to think about a grown man abusing little boys in a shower, OK? Let's just take a look at the South Park clip, shall we (considering this is South Park, I really don't have to tell you to kick the kids out of the room, do I?):

If you laughed, don't be embarrassed. Every time Kenny's case worker qualifies his wisecracks with an "It's a joke, I'm joking," he's telling you it's OK to laugh sometimes. Because it is. Jokes about disturbing subjects can be funny when they're just that: jokes, something meant specifically to make us feel better about something we can't otherwise handle. It's funny. AND it's unfeeling -- at least if you don't take it a step further.

The question that begs to be asked is when will we handle it? We can only assuage our feelings for so long before time marches on and another scandal plagues the news, pushing this hot button topic to the back of the mind. It's no wonder scandals tend to take down a string of people; so few of us know how to deal with problems head on. If we didn't use humor as a diversionary tactic, would a Joe Paterno or a Mike McQueary be in the hot seat for failure to act?

South Park is letting us laugh. But there's a warning in there that the jokes have to end eventually. I'd like to think there would be more whistle blowers if we got past the laughter and faced our feelings head-on. But until we accept laughter is only part of the process, we'll probably never know.

How do you feel about the South Park episode?


Image via Comedy Central

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