A November 4 episode of Comedy Central’s popular animated satire comedy South Park caused controversy within the LGBT community by using anti-gay slurs to make a point about the harmful use of derogatory words. Controversy within the LGBT community ignited once again as community members split in their reactions to a statement issued by one mainstream LGBT organization in protest of the South Park episode.
The episode, titled “The F-Word,” features Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny as they try to drive a gang of loud and inconsiderate bikers whom the four characters call “fags” and “faggots,” out of town by spray painting “FAGS GET OUT” all over town and inform- ing the bikers that “everyone thinks you’re total fags.” When challenged about their use of anti-gay slurs, the children are baffled, explaining that they didn’t mean “gay fags,” and that “just because a person is gay doesn’t mean he’s a fag.”
In a move not supported by the entire LGBT community, the day after the episode aired the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued a strongly worded statement condemning the episode as offensive and calling gay people to arms, despite the fact that South Park’s creators’ stated intent was to use the episode as an anti-bigotry teaching tool.
GLAAD then urged the LGBT community to contact Comedy Central and the creators of South Park and let them know that “the F- word is not just a harmless insult; it is a hateful word with often violent consequences.”GLAAD’s blog elaborated on their stance: “Though the writers of South Park attempted to craft a commentary on the shifting mean- ing of words, the fact of the matter is that the F-word is and remains a hateful slur that is often the last word heard by LGBT people as they fall victim to hate crimes,” adding that “South Park was right on one point: all too commonly, more and more people are using the F-word as a seemingly benign insult, unaware or unconcerned about the word’s anti-gay meaning. However, the spread of the word in this manner does not make it okay to use.”
And the battle over free speech rages on.