Well, there you have it — another Trump-related story I dumped because of how rapidly his political landscape changes.
This is the problem with pitching Trump-related stories two weeks before printing day — it’s impossible to expect anything concrete from his administration. This time, my heady, philosophical piece about “the ethics of alternative facts” fell by the wayside because I didn’t know what to say that would add anything new or compelling to the Trump discussion. This new administration is as modern as it gets — new topics and scandals fly through the media about as quickly as a new meme is created. It’s impossible to keep up.
This is why I believe Matt Stone and Trey Parker — the creators of “South Park” — are making the right decision by withholding from political parody on upcoming “South Park” episodes. As they describe it, the current political landscape is funnier in reality than any parody of it could possibly be. And while “Saturday Night Live” garners high ratings for Melissa McCarthy’s boisterous Sean Spicer and Alec Baldwin’s mirror-like Trump impression, something about it falls flat. It’s like the cardinal rule of comedy taught to me by my comedian friend Doug Mackey: putting crazy people in a normal situation equals funny, putting normal people in a crazy situation equals funny, but putting crazy people in a crazy situation is too muddled and chaotic. I feel this way not just about “SNL,” but anybody following their model.
Even though my ethics think piece on “alternative facts” wouldn’t have been parodical in any sense, I believe it follows similar guidelines — the Trump administration is too volatile and wacky to accurately dissect. And I think many news publications feel similarly as they try to navigate it themselves. People like Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, and even Donald Trump himself make outrageous comments so frequently that reporting on their comments’ implications becomes a redundant exercise. In the case of Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” the vast majority of media pundits and citizens can’t fathom what an “alternative fact” even is. Why investigate the ethics of alternative facts when most of society already rejects the mere concept?
Matt and Trey are onto something, and not just something in the comedic realm. “South Park” could very easily flex the muscles it flexes best by producing more political commentary. Heck, if an aging-but-timely “SNL” can do it, so can the aging-but-timely “South Park.” But “South Park” has always been about more than just the political landscape. The show itself started as a subversive perversion of stereotypes, small town social situations and celebrity culture. And in many ways, any generation’s political landscape is defined by the social landscape of that generation. I believe Matt and Trey still plan on addressing the current political climate, but from a different angle: the social climate that caused the Trump administration in the first place.
With that, I think we should all ask ourselves a series of questions: how did we get ourselves stuck with an administration that’s already so innately hilarious and dysfunctional? Are the Republicans to blame? What about the Democrats? What about voter apathy? What about propaganda websites? What about Facebook’s cultivation of confirmation bias? What about deep-seated conflicts about race, class and gender? What about the media and how they covered the election? People on all sides of the sociopolitical spectrum point fingers at each other to explain why things are they way they are, but America really deserves some self-examination on a finer level. Remember — millions of individuals voted in this election, and individuals are diverse and complex beings. There are several subcategories of psychology and philosophy to prove it.
Matt and Trey understand this notion — the awkward social situations occurring at a microscopic level can very easily influence society at the macro level. There’s just as much to analyze in the way people react to the Trump administration as Trump’s behavior itself. I believe we should all take a page from the “South Park” manual. So, instead of trying to magnify the hilarity of the Trump circus, how about this: look at how it’s affecting the people closest to you. Look at how they respond. Analyze what this means on a small scale, then imagine what it means when millions of people on a greater scale are reacting in similar ways. Maybe then we’ll better understand what led us to what feels like an “alternative fact” in and of itself.