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Trashing the First Family

Culture | New sitcom will give South Park treatment to Bush and his children

Issue: "Linda Chavez," Jan. 20, 2001

Saturday Night Live framed the presidential election and its hanging-by-chad aftermath for many Americans, including many of the media pundits, who seemed unable to distinguish parody from fact. Even today, commentators who used to have a reputation for thoughtful analysis cannot get the SNL image of President Bush as a clueless frat boy out of their heads. But the pop culture's penchant for ridiculing Mr. Bush and trashing his administration is about to get far, far worse.

The creators of South Park, the scatological cartoon show featuring foul-mouthed grade schoolers vandalizing the culture, are working on a sitcom about President Bush and his family. The cable network Comedy Central-home of South Park-plans to air Family First starting Feb. 28 (the date and even the title of the show are tentative).

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the minds behind South Park, have developed a live-action comedy set in the White House. "The idea is to kind of stay away from a West Wing parody," Mr. Stone told BBC. "It's not a workplace sitcom but a home sitcom. It's 6 o'clock, the president comes home, and what does he have to deal with? He's the leader of the free world, yet his wife is mad at him because he forgot their anniversary."

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But the show is far from Dick Van Dyke goes to Washington. The cruelest touch is what Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker have in mind for Mr. Bush's 19-year-old twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. According to casting notes obtained by The New York Post, the two will be portrayed as incestuous lesbians. This is confirmed in the audition script posted on the Web, whose other major theme had to do with

oral sex.

According to a Comedy Central spokesman, "There are plans to include the twin Bush daughters in the show. They will be very hot and sexy, (but) the use of their names is where reality ends. There's no specific bisexuality or lesbianism at the moment. But knowing Matt and Trey, it will be very provocative and eye-opening."

After Bill Clinton was elected, there were a few mild jokes on TV having to do with his daughter Chelsea, but the cruelty of violating a young girl's dignity just because her parents were suddenly in the public eye became obvious even for Hollywood. Chastened comedians declared Chelsea off-limits, but they apparently will not extend this sensitivity to the Bush family.

Mr. Parker told The New York Post that the new series will be "barely legal. We're going to (mess) with reality." The show will ridicule President Bush and drag his children in the mud, but it is not, in fact, a political satire. It turns out that Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker, who profess no interest in politics, were going to give the same treatment to Al Gore and his family, if he had won the election.

The deal with Comedy Central-a new series commitment made when the network renewed South Park-called for a White House sitcom based on whoever won the election. Mr. Stone discussed the series with reporter Steve Gorman of the Reuters news agency before the election. He said that he did not care whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore eventually won the election. "They're both just boring, stupid guys," he said, "so I don't think it's gonna matter."

He did care about the post-election uncertainty, though, which delayed production until they could determine the identity of the show's main characters. "It's the first time either of us have ever really cared about an election," he confessed during the Florida recount. "We're in the worst mood of anybody because we can't start the show."

Genuine satire has a moral core--laughter is used to expose social evils and political vices. Family First is mere mockery, promising to make up vices that are not even real just for laughs and as a way of throwing excrement at our nation's leader. The target is not President Bush, as such-a President Gore would serve the purpose just as well. The target is the office of the presidency.

Americans used to make the distinction between the person who holds the office, whom they may or may not like or agree with, and the office itself, which deserves respect for its constitutional authority. Now the office itself is held in derision as the inspiration for lewd jokes. And whom do we have to thank for that?

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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