It’s pretty much your average animated movie musical about war, censorship and sodomy between Saddam Hussein and Satan. But even so, in this era of teen-culture paranoia, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut should give this summer’s edgy parents all sorts of reasons to lock up their kids. There have been rumors that Paramount, the studio releasing the movie, is scared of its subject matter. South Park‘s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, are unrepentant and justifiably proud that some of the jokes that the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board ruled too rude for the multiplex have been recycled for the South Park TV show.
The walls of Parker and Stone’s large loftlike work space in West Los Angeles are covered with promising and profane descriptions of sequences in the film. They are willing to admit that the movie is a musical of sorts. “That will make the sixteen-year-old boys jump for joy,” Stone says with a laugh. They also confess that the relationship between the bizarre but fun couple Saddam and Satan is a curiously touching love story. And, unable to contain their glee, they preview the first single from the film’s soundtrack album — a wild punk-meets-Lord of the Dance rouser with the memorable title “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”
When the South Park computer-animation system crashes for a few hours, Parker and Stone take some time to walk outside and discuss their not-so-long but exceedingly strange trip through pop culture. Only a few years ago, they were struggling for meal money. Now, both still under thirty, Parker and Stone run a wonderfully crude cottage industry. Such quick notoriety, of course, rarely comes without a little backlash. Although recent reports of South Park‘s demise are greatly exaggerated, doomsayers point out that ratings for the first two new episodes this year were down forty-three percent from last season. Other observers have made much of the story that one of the young men picked up for questioning immediately after the Columbine killings was wearing a South Park shirt. Parker was relieved when a sheriff pointed out to the media that many of the kids being rescued were wearing South Park shirts, too.
What have you two learned about Hollywood from the process of bringing South Park to the big screen?
Parker: Well, it was a clash. We had our system for doing things, the studio had its system. They’re like, “This is how you do a movie.” And we’re like, “Well, this is how you make South Park.” It was a constant battle. We were in a pretty good position of power, because our blessing — and our curse — is that we have to do everything. They can’t farm it out.
So is South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut really going to be totally uncut?
Parker: No, because the MPAA is in many ways way more strict than the TV people.
Are you concerned that post-Columbine, there’s a climate where our youth culture is under fire?
Parker: Yeah, and it’s amazingly strange, because that climate is what the movie is all about, and we wrote it more than a year ago. So when [Columbine] happened, we were like, “Wow.” What we wrote about in this movie came true in terms of people’s attitudes. The movie is also about war, and then that happened, too.
Have you ever had a moment when you felt maybe you were damaging the psyche of young America?
Parker: Not at all. Not for a second. We grew up with Monty Python, as fucked-up as that all was, and Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson and ultraviolence. People seem to forget that the world has been ultraviolent for a long time. Both of us — and all our friends — grew up in that culture, and we’re fine. There’s nothing about Marilyn Manson that says, “Pick up a gun and kill people.” And there’s nothing about South Park that says that, either.
Stone: When anything like the Columbine thing happens, everybody — us included — is so confused and saddened. People want an explanation. . . . And the explanation that some people are fucked-up — that’s a scary answer, but it is the answer. When someone older does something sick, it’s like, “What a psychopath, what a perverted sociopath, what a nut.” When someone under the age of eighteen does something, then we have a huge problem with youth culture.
Being from Colorado, did you know that high school?
Stone: My high school, Evergreen, played against Columbine. I think it’s been renovated since, but I took my SATs in its cafeteria.
Trey, when you gave the commencement speech at your high school recently, what was your opening line?
Parker: “What the hell am I supposed to tell you people?” The speech went over great. It was different from their normal commencements. I didn’t use any big words. I just talked to them pretty plainly and did a few voices.
Did you get handed a lot of résumés?
Parker: Actually, yes I did, but mostly by adults — teachers — rather than students. When I was doing the speech, I just wanted to get a read on our competition. So I said, “Who would like to see Wild Wild West?” And the place just erupted.
Stone: Wild Wild West can fuck off. I don’t even know about the movie, but that song and that trailer can fuck off seriously. It’s just a pure studio movie, like a concept — “We got Barry Sonnenfeld to do it, and Barry Sonnenfeld only does movies with Will Smith, so we’ve got to get him. Then let’s have Will do a song.” That pissed me off. Fuck that song, man. That’s one of my favorite songs, and he goes and cannibalizes it.