I stayed up binge-watching a season of South Park, a story about penis sizes, men’s anger management issues, with riffs on Canadians including racist stereotypes of indigenous people. Sometimes my mind wandered and I’d be thinking about… what? I remember these plots and forget what I was thinking about. Who cares?
Perhaps care is beside the point. We aren’t meant to care. We are meant to escape our cares, to be distracted. Friday night, I’m home late, and this is great.
Proximate Experience – this isn’t
There’s this pact between the creators and the audience. It’s true of live action and animation, an alliance. It might hold strongest when we all are unaware of it, are transported in the experience of creating or screening an episode, painting or viewing a painting, preparing or eating a meal.
Why It Takes Popcorn to Make Movies a Sacrament
An aside: this might be more obvious in Babette’s Feast (my favorite all-time food film) than in South Park. It’s rated #2 in one line-up of great food films, a genre: check it out at https://www.seriouseats.com/2013/02/favorite-food-movies-slideshow.html The absence of smell and taste in film and television experiences made me think it takes popcorn to make movies a sacrament. Being transported in the experience requires all our senses activated, totally here and not here. That was my underlying theme: that it takes popcorn to make movies a sacrament.
Escapist entertainment, even tedious episodes of South Park opens us up to the other; what is other than ourselves, other than the present situation, even Other in Levinas’ sense which is God. We’re escaping ourselves to find ourselves fully present in this unitive experience.
“They are just movies!” Tom Perlmutter once complained to me, having trudged through my dissertation on this point years ago. He’s a producer. Documentaries. He’s responsible for representing what is real. If anyone should care, he would. Yes, Tom, only movies and maybe the more banal the better. And now I’m not even talking about movies – just an episode of South Park.
He might be beside himself if he knew I was quoting him to support my thesis: There is deep meaning in this season’s South Park. On the eve of the Shabot, in the week leading up to Yom Kippur no less. Invoking Emmanual Levinas to mine the meaning of South Park.