First there was Mrs. Garrison, perhaps the most unflattering portrayal of a transsexual person I’ve ever seen. Meant to be funny? I get it. Still, at the same time, the most unflattering portrayal of a transsexual person I’ve ever seen. This week it’s a serial killer who appears to cross dress in an “OMG GROSS!” sight gag, alongside sexually molesting an effigy of his mother. Unlike the minorities that the writers actually like, who get audience-winning soliloquies at the end of each episode, people in South Park exhibiting cross gendered behavior are relegated to the same tired shorthand of serial killer, punchline or prostitute that we see everywhere else.
“But it’s just a cartoon, where’s your sense of humor?” I do indeed have a sense of humor… a sick one, at times, and irreverent. But I have the good sense to keep potentially hurtful humor private. South Park informs generations of young college aged guys of a certain personality, and I’m sure I’m not the only transsexual woman who’s been verbally attacked or ridiculed with comparisons to “Mrs. Garrison”, as my YouTube comments show. It’s just not funny to me, to be equated with grotesque buffoons and serial killers in an un-self-examined “it just makes sense that these things go together” kind of way. What if Hindus/soccer moms/bodybuilders were always portrayed with baseline personality traits of prostitution, serial killing and buffoonery underlying whatever part their character had in the story? When Cartman mocks Kyle’s Jewishness, it’s throwing spitballs at a monolithic community with millions of members, vast resources and a powerful place in society. But the characters in South Park don’t even comment on Mrs. Garrison or the cross gendered behavior of this serial killer character, which places the portrayals of cross gender behavior into a sort of meta-commentary that is assumed to be understood between the shows writers and the viewing public. The characters mouth “shocking” racial and sociological insults supposedly because they’re obviously not true but fun to say. They don’t need to mention the fact that a serial killer = cross gender behavior because, apprently, that’s just obviously true.