On Wednesday, November 4, Comedy Central aired a new episode of "South Park" entitled “The F-Word,” in which the show’s characters repeat the titular anti-gay slur countless times. Like many other "South Park" episodes that use edgy humor to provide commentary on current issues, last night’s episode was an attempt to examine the evolving definition of words. Yet despite what the "South Park" writers may believe, the definition of the F-word remains one that is harmful and derogatory to the LGBT community.
In “The F-Word,” the children of "South Park" decide that “f*g” does not refer to gay people at all, but rather to people who “ride a loud Harley up and down the streets ruining everyone’s nice time.” When the town’s adults challenge the children on their use of the slur, the children are taken aback, claiming that “just because a person is gay doesn’t mean he’s a f*g.” Eventually, the boys convince a dictionary editor to change the definition of the F-word to read:
1. An extremely annoying, inconsiderate person most commonly associated with Harley riders.
2. A person who owns or frequently rides a Harley.
Though this seems to represent a well-intentioned effort by the creators of "South Park" to delegitimize a vulgar anti-gay slur, the fact is that the word is and remains a hateful slur that is often part of the harassment, bullying and violence that gay people, and gay youth in particular, experience on a daily basis in this country. It is an epithet that has real consequences for real people’s lives. Just this year, an 11-year-old Massachusetts student named Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, unable to endure the unrelenting anti-gay bullying and name-calling he experienced at school, committed suicide.
The creators of "South Park" are right on one important point: more and more people are using the F-word as an all-purpose insult. However, it is irresponsible and wrong to suggest that it is a benign insult or that promoting its use has no consequences for those who are the targets of anti-gay bullying and violence. This is a slur whose meaning remains rooted in homophobia. And while many "South Park" viewers will understand the sophisticated satire and critique in last night’s episode, others won’t – and if even a small number of those take from this a message that using the “F-word” is OK, it worsens the hostile climate that many in our community continue to face.
GLAAD has reached out to Comedy Central and the network has informed us: “we appreciate your concerns and will be in touch with you as soon as we've had the chance to discuss them.”
TAKE ACTION NOW:
GLAAD encourages you to contact Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of "South Park," as well as Comedy Central, to share your personal stories of the negative impact the F-word and other anti-gay slurs have had on your life. It is important that the people behind "South Park" realize that the F-word is not just a harmless insult; it is a hateful word with often violent consequences.