Crude, rude ... and academic darlings: 'South Park' the book

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cartman, Kenny, Kyle and the rest of the gang on "South Park" are crude, rude -- and the subject of a book of academic essays?

That's right. Central Michigan University assistant professor of English Jeffrey Weinstock is putting together a lofty tome about one of the most culturally in-tune shows on television.

In its ninth season on Comedy Central, "South Park" offers a biting look at American culture, politics and religion through the obnoxious shenanigans of a bunch of elementary school students in small-town USA.

The book is intended for an academic audience, and "I'm picking essays that'll be accessible to what I call the educated layman," Weinstock said.

Weinstock has received 30 proposals so far -- submissions are being accepted through Sunday -- and he'll choose 15 for the book, which he will take to a university press.

"What I'm most interested in is questions of viewership," Weinstock said. "Who's the audience for this program? "How does 'South Park' create an audience? In particular with South Park is satire -- what I call scatological humor or lowbrow humor and the way it either engages or avoids hot-topic issues."

Here are several of the proposed essays that might be included in the book, tentatively titled, "Reading 'South Park' and Popular Culture":

* "Jesus-Tap-Dancing Christ": Thinking Theologically with "South Park."

* I hate Hippies: "South Park" and Generation X.

* It's Hard to be a Jew at Christmas: South Park's Creation of a Common Mythic Bond.

* Superheros and Superfreaks: The Iconography of the Fantastic in "South Park."

* "South Park," Teenage Fans and Satire in a Post-Ideological Age.

* The Derridean Inclinations of Eric Cartman: "South Park" Deconstruction and an Imploding Media Literacy.

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