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Issue: "Spain waves white flag," March 27, 2004

Hill country

Satire, it has been said, is inherently conservative. That's because you can't ridicule vice without a core of strong, objective moral convictions that allow you to recognize what's wrong and hold it to a standard. King of the Hill is probably the best satire on TV, and thus one of the most conservative.

In this Fox cartoon for adults, Hank Hill is a red-blooded American, a seller of propane and propane accessories. He lives with his bouffant-haired wife Peggy, and their pudgy, sweet son Bobby. The Hills live in Arlen, Texas, which is classic Red State country under constant threat of cultural invasion from the Blue States.

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Hank is the upright moral center of the show, with nearly every episode portraying his conflict with political correctness, mushy-headed liberalism, or whatever passes for social progress. Although Hank is a funny character, he and his values are not the targets of the satire.

In a recent episode, Hank takes Bobby camping to teach him self-reliance. But Bobby does not do so well with the &quoteat what you catch" philosophy, so he accepts food from a group of hippies, who are in the wilderness for a communal gathering. In return, they make Bobby &quotshare," whereupon they &quotshare" Hank's pickup by driving away with it. Bobby, learning his lesson, turns off the park's water and electricity, and the two start teaching the hippies about self-reliance. Which makes them run away.

In a show during the last presidential election, Hank campaigns for fellow-Texan George W. Bush. He tries to impress upon his dim niece, Luanne, the importance of registering to vote. She does, except she signs up for the Communist Party. Her politics change, though, when Hank takes her to a George W. rally, where she sees that he is cuter than the communist and that he would cut her taxes.

The Hills are faithful churchgoers, though Hank bridles at their female pastor. In a memorable episode, Hank sends Bobby to a Christian youth group. It turns out to be one of those contemporary/skater/alternative kinds of youth ministries, centered around extreme sports, radical-dude attitudes, and heavy-metal Christian music. At the end, Hank shows Bobby mementos of the passing trends he had been into but now considers lame. Hank says that he doesn't want Bobby to consider Jesus to be just another fad.

Not all conservatives will appreciate the show. Like moral satires from Plautus to Swift, it can get a little risqué, since ridiculing vice entails bringing it into the story. This cartoon is not for kids. But, culturally, it is on our side.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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