South Park Rails Against BMI and Government Involvement in Silly Weight-Based Matters

I love South Park. I always have. I’ve written a book on South Park called The Zen of South Park, and I’ve written multiple blog posts and papers on South Park, including one on South Park’s treatment of “fat,” which I delivered at 2010’s Popular Culture of America conference.

But last night, South Park outdid themselves in an episode called TMI.

For those of you who might be squeamish or know that South Park regularly offends you, I encourage you to stop reading, or at least say beep! wherever you see language that offends you.

Weight Measurements in School! Might as Well Measure Penis Size!


In this episode, the school posts the fourth grade boys’ growth chart, which angers Eric Cartman, a fat child (you’ll see why that’s relevant shortly) because he believes that they have posted the length of all the boys penises – and his is the smallest.

When the boys decide to remeasure and post their real penis lengths – not the school’s botched measurements – Cartman learns that the numbers represented the boys’ height differential from the previous year, not their penis lengths. Due to his anger management problem and inability to think when he’s mad, Cartman is sent to therapy. To test what sets him off, the doctor immediately starts calling him fat and making fun of his size and weight – in case we weren’t already aware of what this was about.

In the meantime, made aware of this public penis measuring, Randy Marsh, a local father, goes to school to explain to the children how a penis should really be measured, presenting them with a complicated formula detailing a variety of related penile measurements. It’s convoluted and ridiculous and reminds one of how BMI is calculated.

When the Surgeon General presents her own way of measuring penis size – seemingly just as silly – making Randy’s penis seem smaller, Randy is outraged. He, in turn, is sentenced to anger management, where Cartman’s therapist starts to recognize the relationship between penis size and anger issues. That is, people emphasize penis size and that makes people with small penises angry.

A Tea Party-like group rises out of these angry people who hate the government’s inadequate understanding of penis size, making numerous and outrageous demands. In response the Surgeon General declares TMI flawless science that cannot be changed yet lowers the length a penis needs to be to make it above average.

What the Penis Size!?

You may have read that and thought to yourself, what the hell is Jay talking about? Why does he keep talking about angry people and their penises? You might be thinking that even if you are familiar with BMI and the government’s ridiculous means of measuring people’s weights, its involvement in school weight-based programs, and the unjust discrimination fat people face every day for being different under an arbitrary standard – and even if you get really angry about these things.

For however muddled this episode was and however haphazardly I summarized it, South Park just laid down a scathing indictment of the ridiculousness of Body Mass Index, or BMI, the government’s absurdity at propagating and changing elements of BMI to suit its own agenda, and the inanity of government-based programs that isolates fat children and sanction discrimination against them.

I always knew that South Park had a knack like no other satire for seeing through bull crap, but I always worried that when it really counted – like the ability to see that our weight-based obsessions were ridiculous and had gone way too far – South Park would let me down.

But they didn’t.

They saw this nonsense for what it is – bologna . . . bologna that our government wants to ban from school lunches and prevent fat people from eating so that we can all be so pretty again! No wait, that’s b.s., too.

I encourage everyone to seek out this episode on Comedy Central and use it as a means of reaching friends and family with whom you’ve argued about your own ability to be happy and fat and left alone just the way you are. And, of course, the silliness of the BMI scale.

Did you see the episode? What did you think? Want to learn more about unjust weight-based discrimination? Then check out, More of Me to Love.

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Hilarious Motivational Posters about Science, Rejection, Ronald McDonald and More

What went wrong Ronald?

Did you like those? Which was your favorite?

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The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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7 Examples of How to Gracefully (and hilariously) Fail a Test

Nobody likes to take a test and have no idea how the hell to solve the problems before him. However, it happens. Sometimes, you just don’t know. In that situation, perhaps it’s best to give it your best case or maybe just try for a chuckle and hope for partial credit. Here are some of the better examples of how to gracefully fail a test.

Which was your favorite? Got any others? If so, send them my way at Jay@thezenofsouthpark.com.

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Inshallah, God’s hands and South Park

The International Herald Tribune had an article today about the Arabic word “Inshallah” which is being used in Egypt like hookers in Vegas and I thought I’d say a word about it. Or a few words. First, click HERE for the article (thanks to my old friend Courtney for bringing this to my attention).

Effectively, Inshallah means “god willing” and the idea behind using it, of course, is that everything happens because God wills it. Egyptians are using this word for everything, it seems. It is the ubiquitous answer that applies to everything because everything, as life would have it, is in God’s hands. Fine for religious people, but I must say, this is not just going on in Egypt. Israelis have their own phrase for this: baruch hashem. It means, “God bless” but is used for everything in the same way that Inshallah is.

How are you?

Baruch Hashem.

Really, you’re God bless. Will we get there by 3 p.m.?

Baruch Hashem.

See, it’s as good as Inshallah, and I’ll tell you what, it used to annoy the shit out of me. Baruch hashem is not an answer to how you’re doing. It’s also not an answer to when we’re going to be there. And neither is Inshallah. I appreciate that you think everything is in God’s hands but you’re basically making speech worthless if you can’t provide a real answer. We should all walk around saying nothing but “Inshallah! Baruch Hashem!” if this is all everything is. We should lie down in the middle of the roads and say, “we won’t get hit, Inshallah,” or “that car is about to cruch my ribs, baruch hashem.” This is a silly approach to life. I appreciate that it emphasizes your piety and faith in God but it also breaks down working elements of society once it’s taken too far.

This is a point that South Park has not failed to make over the years, constantly insisting that we pay attention to the words we’re using. This is best conveyed in episode 502, “It Hits the Fan” when people are cursing too much and it releases evil forces, but also in the way the show treats our use of the words God and Jesus as common elements of our everyday lexicon. Think particularly of the episodes in the future with “Science H. Logic!” and “Science be praised!” I’ve made these points before, but in light of this article I think they’re worth throwing out again.

Inshallah we all start to pay attention to our language and recognize what its repititions and excessive use does to it and us. There’s nothing wrong with conveying the way you think the universe works, Inshallah, in your daily speech but if I constantly said, “Logic, determiner of all,” after every sentence you would get a little annoyed. I think that should be taken to account the next time an Egyptian says “Inshallah” or an Israeli says “Baruch Hashem.” Unfortunately it won’t be, but there it is.