Theatre Thursdays: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut

Before there was the Book of Mormon, there was South Park. The creators of both, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had previously dabbled in musicals with things like Cannibal! the Musical and various episodes of South Park, but it wasn’t until South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut that viewers really got to see Parker and Stone’s musical talent.

South Park LGG&FThis musical movie sets out to tackle censorship issues, and it parodies everything from Disney’s animated movies to big name musicals like Les Misérables and Oklahoma. Even Stephen Sondheim stated that South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was one of the best musicals he’d seen in years. Is it any surprise that Parker and Stone would go on to take Broadway by storm?

So let’s take a look at South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut!

I have always believed that you can’t do a successful parody unless you love the source material, and it’s very clear from watching the South Park movie that its writers really care about musical theatre. The movie never attempts to make fun of musicals in general, but rather pokes fun at silly tropes and storytelling techniques in the genre. For example, the writing pokes fun at dramatic deaths in musicals with The Mole’s death. The scene mimics Éponine’s death in Les Misérables, and tries to make a big show at being very sad and dramatic, only to end with one of the South Park kids cursing and dropping the Mole’s lifeless body on the ground.

The movies also parodies Disney animated features, with at least two obvious examples. The first is the opening song “Mountain Town”, which quite clearly mimics the opening to Beauty and the Beast. Another Disney parody, and probably my favorite, happens only as the credits are rolling. During the end credits, a song called “The Eyes of a Child” plays, which is supposed to make fun of all the bad 90’s pop remakes of Disney songs played during the ending credits of many of the Disney renaissance films.

South Park: Biggger, Longer, and Uncut doesn’t just parody Disney and other musicals; it also tackles some serious issues. The main issues addressed in the movie are censorship, bad parenting, and responsibility. The whole story is centered around the censorship of the Terence and Philip movie, which parents have accused of corrupting America’s youth. The South Park movie pokes fun at the fact that American censorship seems to be okay with awful depictions of violence, but not naughty language. In the song “Blame Canada”, there is also a critique of parents who don’t pay attention to their children and then refuse to take responsibility for their own bad parenting, instead blaming the media. During the song “Blame Canada”, the South Park mothers are shown abandoning their children to join Mothers Against Canada.

Blame Canada! Shame on Canada for…
The smut we must cut
The trash we must bash
The laughter and fun must all be undone
We must blame them and cause a fuss
Before somebody thinks of blaming us!

The entire song criticizes parents for joining similar groups and attempting to blame other things and people, instead of taking responsibility for their own children. The obvious joke here is that the parents themselves don’t want to be blamed for their kids’ actions and so are constantly looking for scapegoats.

The South Park movie isn’t perfect but, honestly, I don’t have many complaints. Probably some of the biggest issues are things that are already problematic in the South Park TV show. For example, many of the gay characters are stereotypical and the two most prominent are Saddam Hussein and Satan. I don’t think I even need to explain why that’s problematic. The only other visibly gay character is Big Gay Al, who is, again pretty stereotypical, but is portrayed as a famous and well-liked member of the South Park community (at least in the movie). There is a song where the boys try to gain courage and inspiration from one of their heroes, Brian Boitano, an Olympic figure skater; however, it might not be fair to count this as a positive portrayal of a gay character because, though many suspected Boitano of being gay, he never publicly came out until 2014 when he was appointed as part of the United States delegation to the Winter Olympics.

Despite some of its problems, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut is a musical worth seeing. So if you are a theatre snob who maybe saw the Book of Mormon but refused to watch South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, I would suggest you go on Netflix and give it a shot. It will be worth the watch.