Monday, November 22, 2010

South Park on Stand and Deliver

If you recall, Stand and Deliver was a powerful movie from the late 1980s about a Latino teacher, Jaime Escalante, who teaches Latinos youths calculus at an East LA inner city high school.  The teacher often faced threats and taunts by students early on in the film and was not accepted by his colleagues for they emphasized discipline over academics, and Escalante practiced the opposite.  Eventually, Escalante succeeds in his mission to teach the teens math, help them succeed and not give up.  He teaches them persistence and instills in them the importance of academics.
I bring this up because I was recently watching an old episode of South Park with my roommate in which Cartman does a parody of the movie. Cartman becomes a teacher for an inner city school of Latinos.  The satire, however, is that Cartman teaches the students to cheat their way to success, calling it the "white people way".  I found this amusing but it also raised some questions of the perspective of Latinos versus Whites.
The "white people way" as described by Cartman implies that taking shortcuts or unethical tactics are the characteristics attributed to the White man's success.  Comparing the show to the movie, there are assumptions made about Latinos as opposed to whites.  Latinos work for their money, taking no shortcuts, all of their own effort.  They put in manual effort and labor needed to gain success; however, whites may rely simply on other aspects of their life in order to gain success.  In South Park, the whites are stereotyped as lazy individuals that use deceit and strategy to reach their achievements.  The comparison of the message of the movie and the satire of the show are interesting to make because they discuss two different demographics' motivations.  I don't know if I'm getting my points across but I just found it interesting and funny how South Park put a spin on the concept of the movie to create entertainment and satire.

-Sweety Ghuman

1 comment:

  1. Sweety G makes a very interesting observation in comparing the South Park episode to the film it satirizes, Stand and Deliver. While I have often thought about how media portrays the "white" people in comparison to those they inadvertently other I had never thought about it laid out in this way. Part of the reason that Cartman was able to point out that that there was a "white people way" and juxtapose it to the "Latino" way is because of white privilege. If these qualities were described by any other character of color it would be seen as a "stereotypical" reading of actions. Cartman is in a way able to analyze his actions or way of being.
    As I've seen in many different shows and films or analysis of them there is what I want to call the problem of satirizing.While I feel that satires are useful in pointing out social problems in an exaggerated way it does not take away from the fact that the imagery that satires draw upon are stereotypes or imagined conceptions on the idea or character that one is trying to make stand out. While I do not necessarily see an end to the use of stereotypical imagery in media I feel that we should always be aware that, in the spirit of Foucault, that there is power in visual imagery and words. They can and do perpetuate knowledge and create what we feel is true and real.