Why Smart People Watch South Park

It’s no surprise to me that some hoity-toity scholars are getting their panties in a bunch because the game Halo has been archived. After all, how could something so superfluously violent be considered knowledge?

Because it’s DIFFERENT. As Judith Halberstam so gracefully put it, “When people want to think differently they actually have to use a different archive and different concepts.” That’s exactly why the world’s best and brightest can appreciate the writing created for South Park. They realize how rare it is for anyone in this world to create something that “didn’t already come with a readymade theory embedded within them.” For whatever reason, we have this urge to only preserve literature and artifacts which could be described by adjectives like distinguished, elitist, and classy. Marlene Manoff references English Professor David Greetham in her essay, and I just love what he had to say. “All conservational decisions are contingent, temporary, and culturally self-referential, even self-laudatory: we want to preserve the best of ourselves for those who follow.” He uses the example of the time capsule in the space probe to prove his point, “It contained ideal representations of our culture and nothing of My Lai or Auschwitz.”

I know that was quite a tangent that I just went on, but bear with me. The two quotes that I am choosing to look at in depth are pretty incredible.

Quote 1: On page 14 of her essay Manoff writes, “Whatever the archive contains is already a reconstruction – a recording of history from a particular perspective…Someone decided what was worth counting and how to count it.” Very true – the way our history will be represented is completely based on what historians, librarians, and scientists decide to record.

Quote 2: On page 11 of The Eccentric Archive, in reference to femininity, Halberstam says, “It is sort of a Catherine MacKinnon-type argument, I am afraid, but the things women think are womanly are the things that men have decided are appealing.

CONNECTION. The history of the world is going to be portrayed in whatever way the world’s historians find appealing and every day women are portraying themselves in ways that men have decided are appealing. Men like long hair, we keep it long. They like smooth legs, so we shave them. South Park makes impolite remarks, so it doesn’t get archived, Pride and Prejudice fits the mold so it gets preserved.

In both cases, a select group of people gets to choose how someone else is portrayed; granted one case does this indirectly – almost inconspicuously.

The question is: Is there any way to stop this from happening? Is there any way around it? In reference to the femininity problem Halberstam suggests, “In a way, it is about getting educators to think about what version of masculinity and femininity they encourage and suppress.” But isn’t that just furthering the problem? Now educators are the ones who get to decide what traits are acceptable in a girl and boy? Will there ever be a time when everyone gets to decide for themselves who they want to be today and how they should be portrayed in the future?

SG

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