Friday, November 13, 2009

Glenn Beck = Eric Cartman?

This week South Park set their scopes on Glenn Beck with their Dances With Smurfs episode.

I hate to admit it, but I was slightly disappointed.

It was sort of a good idea to have Eric Cartman become a radio personality (which is, when you think about it, something he would be very well suited for later in life).

But the whole smurf theme seemed pretty strained -- and not very funny. Plus, the impression didn't seem quite as jarringly accurate as Jon Stewart's Beck impression last week.

And, truthfully, having Cartman attack student government didn't feel nearly grand enough for him. The Eric Cartman I know has plans that are much bigger than South Park Elementary. Why wasn't he launching some sort of all out attack on the Jews? Or blacks? Or one of his other favorite targets?

But the truth is, while Cartman might be eerily similar to Rush Limbaugh, I don't think the same holds true with Glenn Beck.

For one thing, Cartman is a lot smarter than Beck.

Glenn Beck is a deeply stupid individual. He has no sense of history. He doesn't know what terms like communism and socialism really mean. He fully embraces what Richard Hofstadter called the "paranoid style of American politics." And, apparently, he doesn't know how to spell.

While Cartman has no interest in educating himself, he's not a stupid person at all. In fact, he's wildly creative.

For another, Cartman is a lot more sincere than Glenn Beck.

I'm not sure what Beck really believes. I suspect his panic and weeping is largely for the cameras. He's got an extremely profitable television persona -- why not go with it? When he gave an interview to (I think) Katie Couric a couple of weeks ago he said that he thought Obama would have been a better choice for president than John McCain. Does he really believe that? Who knows.

But one thing about Cartman is: he's perfectly sincere. He deeply believes in his antisemitism. He seethes with hatred against blacks. He loves to taunt Mexicans.

And there's something sort of admirable about how fully he embraces these things. Say what you will about the disgusting nature of Cartman's beliefs -- they're real. It's one of the reasons he's the strongest character on South Park. And he follows through with the warped logic of these ideas: Mel Gibson hates Jews, therefore Jews are loathsome, therefore I must exterminate the Jews. And Cartman goes all out to enact these plans -- usually in far more creative and amusing ways than one would think.

In short, Parker and Stone shouldn't have to degrade Cartman by comparing him to the far lesser Glenn Beck.