“ROBERT SMITH KICKS ASS”
Original Airdate: February 18, 1998
“Barbra Streisand comes to South Park after she learns that the boys have discovered a mysterious ancient stone. She hopes to unlock the stone’s magical powers and transform herself into a deadly robotic giant.”
Are Trey and Matt being misogynistic in their hate for ol’ Barbra Streisand? Because up until now, celebrities were ripped at random, but they say it was a mission to tear her apart in an episode and call her “sick and disgusting.”
There’s other things we could talk about for this episode, like Godzilla references, Cartman singing a slave song, or that scene where real footage is used as a matte because the animators couldn’t do perspective…but it’s going to take a while to talk about Barbra Streisand in Mecha-Streisasand. So that’s what we’ll be focused on.
Frst of all, why do the creators hate Barb? Their main cited reason is because Colorado tried to pass Amendment 2, a piece of homophobic legislation from 1992 that didn’t allow gay people to be a protected class. Streisand in protest apparently called the denizens of Colorado “hicks” and said she wouldn’t perform in Colorado if the amendment wasn’t stricken down.
Matt unnervingly says the Amendment wasn’t that bad, saying: “It wasn’t anti-gay, but it was what a lot of gay activists saw as anti-gay. It was kind of this big thing in Colorado.” Maybe…if gay activists say something is homophobic…it is? And the guy from South Park isn’t qualified to say maybe?
However, I did a bit of research and Barbra has done some rather self-centered things, like suppressing photos, which coined The Streisand effect and made some insensitive comments regarding the documentary Leaving Neverland (about Michael Jackson’s pedophilia allegations). So, she’s not blameless.
When asked about her feelings on the show, Streisand said in a Mirabella interview:
“But I wonder if shows like South Park and Beavis and Butt-head don’t add to the cynicism and negativity in our culture, especially in children. These youngsters are formulating their attitudes and maybe they come away feeling that any woman who dares to accomplish something is the incarnation of self-centeredness and greed. And that would be very unfortunate, especially for young girls.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, these shows aren’t supposed to be for children. However…if they did see these shows, I think most people would agree that they’d be fine. Yes, there’s crass jokes, but South Park does have messages and commentary that I’d say is the antidote to a lot of stupidity and negativity out in the world.
However…because South Park rips on Barb so hard, she does have a good point that this episode projects a negative image of women. But Barbra is talking about herself, so it’s a little self-centered for her to say little girls will be damaged because she’s being made fun of.
Ultimately, it seems like any hate at large surrounding her is because she’s a typical out-of-touch, Boomer liberal celebrity. A Clinton-like figure, although without the huge pile of skeletons.
So, ultimately, Trey and Matt don’t come off so good in this. You gotta be careful when you rip on people, because you can look worse by the end. I don’t think Trey and Matt are misogynist in the fact that they hate many women or all women, but their overwhelming hate for Streisand, a lot of it resting on her looks, is exemplative of sexist attitudes where it’s OK or funny to rag on women for basically no reason. Will little girls grow up deprived and screwed up because of this episode? Obviously not. But again, it shows how much more acceptable this kind-of women ragging behavior was in the day.
South Park has made fun of celebrities many times before and many times after for their overall greed and self-centeredness. But the hate put on Barbra Streisand is so intense for basically no reason and so focused on cheap blows about her looks, it makes for a very sour note.
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