South Park’s Take on Paranoia

After seeing the clip from The Simpsons in class, I was curious about other popular cartoons poke fun at widespread ideas about fear, paranoia, and anxiety. I decided to search for South Park episodes that might relate to these topics, partly because the show is so well known for providing humorous social commentary on just about everything, and also because it’s one of my favorite things to watch. I found some clips from an episode in season 6 entitled “Child Abduction is Not Funny.” The clips focus on one of the already rather spastic character Tweek, and his reaction to what he sees in the media and is told by his parents about the safety of children in society.

In the first clip, Tweek can’t escape from news reports that basically send the message that he’s not safe anywhere. When his parents bring him into the kitchen to talk about the recent abductions his mother states, “you can’t trust anybody.” The clip is funny for its exaggerated commentary on the influence of the media in everday life, but it also rings true. The public is very much dependent on the media, but often fails to take into account that the actual danger outside of their homes might not be so severe as they are led to believe. I think it’s interesting how society has made itself a paranoid place. Granted, a lot of crimes happen, a lot of positive things happen that are not reported in the news, and so a certain sense of fear and general lack of trust seems to be prevalent in today’s world.
In the second clip, Tweek’s anxiety is caused by his own father who conducts a “drill” in the middle of the night. He tells Tweek not to open the door even for the police because they may just be pretending to be the police. This instills more paranoia in him, and he ultimately reaches a point where he is suspicious of everyone he encounters. It’s funny how one incident can create so much anxiety in a large group of people. An isolated incident can become incredibly influential, because of how people choose to react to it. The humor in these clips, I think, speaks to a major reality. Though we can’t trust everyone in the world, believing everything the media says to the point where we feel as though everyone around us is out to get us isn’t practical either.
The paranoid character of Tweek reminded me a lot of Harry Caul from “The Conversation.” He can’t even function in his day to day life because he is so unable to trust those around him. The third clip really shows how he becomes completely paranoid as he hears more and more about the “danger” around him. He runs away from the movie theater because he doesn’t know the man at the ticket booth, “what if he wants to kill me!?” he shouts as he runs off. This of course, pokes fun at the way parents tend to overemphasize the “don’t talk to strangers” rule to the point where it can create even more anxiety in children, when the primary goal is their safety. Even though Tweek is a funny character, he does make the viewer feel a little bit stressed out and anxious just because of his complete inability to relax. I think it’s funny how a show like South Park can so accurately represent themes like fear, paranoia, and anxiety that we see regularly in society. I think sometimes it takes humor for people to really step back and consider how effective their approach to the world around them really is.

One thought on “South Park’s Take on Paranoia

  1. Tweek’s parents remind me of my mother. I was not allowed to cross a narrow one way street until I was 8 years old. I understand that parents are protective, but come on, really? There’s a fine line between smothering and being protective. I can totally relate to Tweek.

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