Emily Ravenwood examines in her article, "The Innocence of Children: Effects of Vulgarity in South Park" the way in which the appropriation of low culture into high art can operate to simultaneously raise and lower the cultural capital of the art in question. Usually, in definitions of high and low art vulgarity is understood as a negative representation. This dismissal is rooted in the linguistic and political relationship between vulgarity and perceived "lower class" realities. In the context of artistic representation, however, vulgarity can be a powerful weapon to enforce attention and awareness of foreign realities in a middle class audience. Authors of works deemed high art, such as Rabelais and Swift, freely use it so. A current example, which is in transition, or perhaps in suspension between high and low, is the television cartoon series South Park. The series provides for an excellent opportunity to examine the particular workings of vulgarity and to re-examine definitions of high and low art. The connection between the two categories and forms of artistic expression lies in the desire of those who define popularity to partake of the unpopular. South Park takes advantage of this connection. In the final analysis, however, South Park may have defeated its own aspirations to high art by appealing too much to the source of its vulgar and popular images, namely children.
"The Innocence of Children: Effects of Vulgarity in South Park."
CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture
This text has been double-blind peer reviewed by 2+1 experts in the field.
The above text, published by Purdue University Press ©Purdue University, has been downloaded 9012 times as of 08/02/20. Note: the download counts of the journal's material are since Issue 9.1 (March 2007), since the journal's format in pdf (instead of in html 1999-2007).