Satire and Geopolitics: Vulgarity, Ambiguity and the Body Grotesque in South Park

Joe Thorogood

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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Humour and laughter have become the subject of recent geopolitical scrutiny. Scholars have explored the affirmative and liberatory possibilities of humour, and the affective bodily dimensions of laughter as tools for transformative action in critical geopolitics. Humour that is vulgar and politically ambiguous is yet to be explored as a potent geopolitical avenue of enquiry. Studies of satire have suggested that rather than contesting entrenched geopolitical beliefs, satirical shows can serve to further divide audiences both amenable and antagonistic to the satire in question. I argue that this should not involve a wholesale rejection of satirical shows, as humour that uses irony, subversion, and other discursive techniques is just one way satirical media becomes an effective commentator on political issues. I examine the show South Park and argue its satire combines bodily and scatological humour with more traditional satirical techniques to produce a comedy that ridicules contemporary issues by reducing complex politics to the most basic and crass condition possible. This is defined in a Bakhtinian sense of the body grotesque, a social inversion through reference to the common bodily functions of all human beings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-235
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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