South Park, one of the signature shows on Viacom's Comedy Central network, is trumpeting this weekend's broadcast of its “Dirty Dozen.” And the South Park “Dirty Dozen” bears no resemblance to the 1967 movie classic of the same name.
No, South Park's “Dirty Dozen” is proudly promoted as the “twelve most foul-mouthed, filthiest and sexually offensive episodes ever.” These episodes include one in which the s-word was used 162 times, another in which a character watches his father masturbate, and another in which a teacher demonstrates to his elementary school class how to insert a gerbil into a man's rectum.
The Culture and Media Institute's latest Special Report, The Media Assault on American Values, reveals that Americans rue the impact media have on moral values. One stark finding is that 73 percent of Americans say the entertainment industry is having a negative effect on moral values in this country. The very premise of the South Park “Dirty Dozen” proves their opinions are merited.
South Park is one of Comedy Central's most popular shows, routinely watched by millions of people in the coveted 18-49 age bracket. Nielsen ratings indicate hundreds of thousands of children watch the show every week. And it is a part of almost every cable subscriber's expanded-basic cable package. Even if a family never tuned in to South Park, part of their cable bill supports the program every month.
This is why diverse groups like the Parents Television Council, Concerned Women for America and Consumers Union celebrated the introduction of the Family and Consumer Choice Act of 2007 at a June 14 press conference in Washington, D.C. The legislation, which enjoys bipartisan support, would help consumers protect their children from inappropriate television content by giving them the option of blocking certain channels from coming into their homes and receiving a refund on their cable bill for those blocked channels.
Dan Isett, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs for the Parents Television Council, said “Cable content is controlled by a handful of powerful media conglomerates.” The growth of graphic cable content, Isett added, was one of the reasons the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the f- and s- words were suitable to be broadcast on the public airwaves. That ruling is a result of a lawsuit brought by the television networks that are fighting the Federal Communications Commission's crackdown on indecency. Last year the U.S. Congress passed, nearly unanimously, an increase in fines for violating the broadcast decency law.
South Park, which airs on cable, is not subject to the FCC's decency standards.
Clips from the episodes of South Park “Dirty Dozen” are available online at the Comedy Central website, yet another avenue for media exposure for children – and adults alike. Yet another tool in the arsenal attacking traditional moral values.
Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.