March 14, 2006

Isaac Hayes quits "South Park."

He's upset about they way it disrespects religion. His religion? Scientology.
"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins."
The response from Matt Stone:
"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem — and he's cashed plenty of checks — with our show making fun of Christians."...

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."
Well, Stone got the better of that exchange! Who has a better ear for hypocrisy than Stone?

Link via Memeorandum, so let's see who else is talking about the Hayes-Stone face-off. (Invocation of John Travolta unintended!)

Captain Ed: "It seems that Chef can't take what he dishes out."

Patterico: "Look to see Chef die a particularly bloody, horrible, and painful death."

Does Chef have to go? I don't think he's been an important character in recent years, but since Stone and Parker have been blithely doing so many voices, why not do his too? In fact, why weren't they doing that voice themselves all along? Here's Stone's answer, from a transcript of "Fresh Air" (date: 10/24/04, no link available):
[A]ctually with Chef--Trey and I were doing all the voices, and we actually--me or Trey wanted to do that voice. We were going to be like, 'Hey, what's going on, children?' and just kind of do that voice ourselves. And we were going to pitch it down, so it was really, really low, like an older black man's voice, how they can just be really, really low. And we wanted to do it ourselves. At the time Comedy Central was like, 'You can't do that.' And it's kind of true in a lot of Disney cartoons and a lot of other cartoons, they won't let their gender--Their gender?--race specific with the voiceover; they won't allow a white person to do a black person's voiceover. They probably don't care the other way. But at the time they were like, 'You know, you need to have a black person do this.' And we were like, `Well, you know, we have this character who sings all these soul songs.' I was like, 'Why don't we get ...(unintelligible)?'

So we had a really short list. It was--Isaac Hayes was our first choice. Then I think we had Lou Rawls on there. And what's the other guy? Barry White. And so we sent out tapes to them to them. I don't think we ever heard from Lou Rawls. Barry White respectfully declined because he's a very Christian man, and he thought it didn't reach his standards. We sent out 'The Spirit of Christmas.' And Isaac Hayes called back and said, 'Sure, I'll do it.'

So Trey and I flew to New York to record Isaac Hayes. We were so freaked out. You know, we'd never even worked with anybody except for our own friends in Colorado, and here we are doing Isaac Hayes. So then Isaac Hayes--he shows up, and he has no idea what he's going to do. So now we're sitting in the studio. He goes, 'All right, what's going on?' And his agent had basically just said, 'Yeah, you know, he's into it. He wants to do it.' But Isaac really was, like, just going to a gig to do a voiceover. And so we had to sit there and explain to him, 'Well, you're this big, fat black guy that lives in this little town in Colorado. You're the only black person there, and you sing soul songs.' And he was, like, 'OK. That sounds good.' So we were, like, 'All right.'
Think "Comedy Central" would let them do the voice now? Think Stone and Parker will have some more fun with Scientology over this? I hope so!

By the way, the episode that mocked Scientology was "Trapped in the Closet," and it was quite brilliant and hilarious. The press paid most of its attention to the material about Tom Cruise being "in the closet" (which he was, literally). I wrote at the time:
[CNN has a] segment on the new episode of "South Park" that mocked Scientology and Tom Cruise. CNN jumbles a lot of things together and titles the segment "Did 'South Park' go too far in mocking Tom Cruise?" Why not ask whether "South Park" went to far in mocking Scientology? That was what most of the episode was about.

Not shown in the CNN clip is the show's hilarious animated depiction of the deep secrets of Scientology. Instead, CNN reruns rumors about Cruise's sexual orientation, replete with the usual clip of him jumping on Oprah's couch. It's true the "South Park" episode repeatedly used the phrase "Tom Cruise come out of the closet." (Cruise literally hides in a closet for a reason that has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.) CNN shows many of those repetitions and informs us that they counted 39 of them. It's very funny.

But religion is the real target of "South Park's" mockery, and CNN opted for the easy approach of tweaking Cruise one more time about the rumors. In a lame attempt to appear journalistic, CNN presented the rumors as a report on how other people are spreading rumors. (Isn't that usually how one spreads rumors?) Can you picture CNN actually going after Scientology the way "South Park" did?
Thank God somebody's willing to mock religion!

44 comments:

res_ipsa_loquitur said...

If bigotry is equal-opportunity, is it really bigotry?

Dave said...

Well Scientology is not a religion but rather a cult, so all people who refer to it in a religious context are either ignorant or delusional.

As for mocking religion, well, yes, I agree: more people should do it. Piety becomes tiresome after a while.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave: Please state a workable test for distinguishing between a cult and religion.

sbutler said...

What I didn't realize until lately is that R. Kelly produced an "urban opera" called Trapped in the Closet. A friend of mine who's a purveyor of all things tasteless acquired a copy. WOW... it's hilariously bad.

But now I understand why R. Kelly was always singing and pulling out his gun in the South Park episode. There was a whole other level to the humor I was missing. Along with Scientology and Tom Cruise Matt and Trey were mocking the Trapper in a Closet video!

I'm always amazed at how many different elements Matt and Trey can pull together.

INMA30 said...

It is a great point, Ann. My initial reaction to any Scientology story is, "Can we quit calling this a religion?" But perhaps the better question is are there any distinctions? In my mind, at least in a modern connotation, cult implies a certain level of being held against one's will or inability to leave. In the case of Scientology, I think there have been sufficient numbers of cases of "enforcement" or outright imprisonment to make that case. But at the broadest level, all religions are just cults that grew up.

CB said...

I read on a blog comment a while ago that a cult becomes a religion when its messiah dies--a pretty good description, in my opinion. This would make Scientology a religion, albeit a particularly bizarre one. On the fate of Chef: when Maggie Roswell quit The Simpsons a few years ago, one character she voiced (Maude Flanders) was killed off, but others (Miss Hoover and Helen Lovejoy) have just kind of faded away, or been voiced by someone else. But I suspect Matt & Trey will use this opportunity to dispatch Chef in a spectacularly offensive manner.

Palladian said...

Matt Groening should be careful if he wants to mock scientology in "The Simpsons", he might lose Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart.

I'd add that the border between religion and cult is a very foggy, obscure one, although one good indicator that you might be in cult territory is if your philosophy requires progressive payments to the Church for incrememntal enlightenment and/or involves space aliens.

Troy said...

I read over on Roger Ebert's blog that the episode is playing on Comedy Central on the 15th.

DVR set.

TWM said...

"In my mind, at least in a modern connotation, cult implies a certain level of being held against one's will or inability to leave. In the case of Scientology, I think there have been sufficient numbers of cases of "enforcement" or outright imprisonment to make that case."

This is as good an explanation of the difference between a cult and a religion as you are going to get. Certainly even some mainstream religions have cult-like qualities, but when you have handlers controlling your every move (Tom and Katie spring to mind), well, I think you can pretty much call it a cult.

jinnmabe said...

Thank God somebody's willing to mock religion!

This has got to be one of the weirdest sentences I've ever read.

Look, anybody can mock religion and tons of people do it.(Cf. many of the comments on this particular thread). What sets Stone and Parker apart is that they actually manage to be funny.

hoosthere said...

There was recently a fascinating (albeit very long...it's definitely a "print for later") article about scientolgy in Rolling Stone.

Here is the article. The reporter was granted a certain amount of inside access by the Scientologists and the results were very interesting.

After reading it, I am not at all surprised by the reaction of this actor.

astrolabe said...

jinnmabe:

I think "Thank God somebody's willing to mock religion!" is a very funny line.

LoafingOaf said...

"Cult" is simply the derogatory term for a religion that is considered illegit, negative, and harmful.

In my mind, Christianity and Islam are the biggest and certainly the most harmful cults of all. As nutty as the beliefs of Scientology are, they're actually no stranger than Christianity or Islam. It's just that in the case of the major religions, the brainwashing has been honed for hundreds of years and people are raised with that brainwashing from the day they are born.

It's amusing when people act like there's so much more harmful stuff going on in Scientology than the "respectable" religions. As if the other religions aren't trying to control people too!

And, yeah, it's so nice when a priest rapes your child and the Pope covers for him. Lovely when the people at the mosque tell someone he'll be rewarded by Allah if he smashes a jet into a skyscraper full of people.

One of the things 9/11 taught me is to stop giving religions the respect they so totally do not deserve. They are all irrational and dangerous.

Johnny Nucleo said...

LoafingOaf said: "It's just that in the case of the major religions, the brainwashing has been honed for hundreds of years and people are raised with that brainwashing from the day they are born."

Yet there are those very special few, like LoafingOaf, who have managed to unwash their brains. LoafingOaf, pray tell how you unwashed your brain. Does one have to be supersmart like you? Does it hurt to unwash one's brain? Is it expensive?

OddD said...

All the people--including Matt Stone--who are pointing to this last episode as the reason Hayes is leaving seem to be ignoring the fact that South Park lampooned Scientology five years ago (Season 5, "The Super Best Friends").

John Jenkins said...

Cult: People I think are crazy doing things I think are dumb.

Religion: People I don't think are crazy, still doing things I think are dumb.

So the test is: are they crazy?

INMA30 said...

Loafing Oaf:

I think you might be overstating it a bit, although your basic premise seems right on. It doesn't seem that all religions are dangerous. None of the core beliefs of any major religion seem dangerous. Of course, factions of these religions warp the beliefs and make them dangerous across virtually all religions. I also don't think the conflation of irrationality and danger makes sense either.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do think that we need a viable definition of how a cult is distinguished from a religion. A couple of weeks ago, when discussing Mitt Romney, someone called his religion, Mormonism, a cult. Having lived around Mormons, I disagree.

My view on Scientology is quite the opposite. My negative impression of Scientology is mostly based on their actions maybe a decade ago when they singlehandedly made a lot of Internet and Copyright law by (IMHO) abusing copyright law to try to suppress distribution and publications of their sacred scriptures. They would routinely get ex parte writs of search and seizure from computer illiterate judges to seize the computers of their critics, ostensibly to look for copies of their scriptures. But then, they would grossly exceed the writs and strip off all the email from these computers for their next round. They were ultimately found in contempt by multiple courts - but the fines they paid never slowed them down. They used the millions they get from their members like Cruise to "deep pocket" their critics, and, indeed, ended up owning the Cult Awareness Network (or something similar), including their phone numbers - so when people would call in to complain about some cult, they would get Scientology salespeople.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have grown to love the South Park show, and so am struck every time I go by there, as I did Sat. on the way back from Durango.

Yes, South Park is a real place, about 100 miles SW of Denver on U.S. 285, and 30 miles S. of Breckenridge on CO 9. The actual town of South Park is a restored ghost town tourist attraction within the Park County seat of Fairplay. South Park itself is a flat high (about 9,000 ft.) treeless plain surrounded mostly by mountains. (We also have a Middle Park and a North Park). Some of the local landmarks end up in the show, such as Kenosha Pass, which is on U.S. 285 from Denver. There are a couple of them in almost every episode.

The schools there are right off main street (CO 9) in Fairplay, and have all three schools right together. And, the elementary school looks nothing like the one in the show. Actually, Fairplay doesn't look much like South Park in the show either. Finally, the bulk of those living there now commute over Hoosier pass to Breckenridge to work.

Chance Randel said...

Cults are usually distingueshed from religions by exclusivity , esoteric secrets, and an authoritarian charismatic leader.

Aliens, castrations, and cult compounds are all optional for extra credit. Charismatic leaders can die but cults can continue if they maintain esoteric/secret knowledge that cannot be offered freely to all.

astrolabe said...

I like chance randel's description and would propose a simpler definition - qualification for tax exemption. If your group qualifies, then it's a religion and not a cult. At least then you don't have to get too far into the alien thing issues.

LoafingOaf said...

Yet there are those very special few, like LoafingOaf, who have managed to unwash their brains. LoafingOaf, pray tell how you unwashed your brain. Does one have to be supersmart like you? Does it hurt to unwash one's brain? Is it expensive?

I'm of average intelligence, and many far more intelligent people are brainwashed into cults. Anyone can be. I don't think Scientologists are dumber than Christians or that Christians are dumber than atheists (I notice you didn't get annoyed by anyone calling Scientologists cultists).

So, no, I don't think there's anything special about me for merely not believing in things for which there's zero evidence supporting. It's religious people who think they're so special that supernatural gods talk to them. It's Christians who think anyone who isn't smart enough to believe Jesus was resurrected is gonna burn in a lake of fire.

Religious faith is irrational, but anyone can be irrational. Especially when you get to 'em young, which is why the churches like to run schools. For some reason they don't wanna respect a child enough to let the child grow up and make his/her own mind up about things when their brains are fully developed. I can understand why.

stoqboy said...

I've always found the anti-religious just as annoying as the overly religious. Calling Christianity and Islam the two biggest cults around fails to see the obvious comfort brought to millions and millions. If your lack of religious belief keeps you out of places of worship on the weekend, that's ok. If your lack of faith causes you to link together pedophile priests with a worshipping family seeking enlightment or radical Islamists with every Hajj, then I think your own beliefs are clouding your judgement.

price said...

Back to South Park for a second... The woman who played most of the female voices during the first few seasons committed suicide after dealing with mental illness for most of her life. Trey and Matt recast those parts, but did so with multiple actresses. So, they've dealt with major recasting before and the show hasn't suffered from it.

Not to get gushy, but I am so grateful for South Park. Most of the people I know, whether liberal or conservative, can find common ground in the intellectual excellence of that show. Nothing has ever reflected my politics as perfectly as South Park, and the fact that it is often unsurpassably hilarious is a real bonus.

LoafingOaf said...

It doesn't seem that all religions are dangerous.

I disagree, and I don't know how one can look at either world history or current events and not think religion is dangerous. And since there are conflicts the world over centered on religion, and religious madmen are trying to get nukes to kill millions, I feel justified in getting on my high horse about it. As an example, would there even be an Israeli-Palestinian conflict with no religion? Well, the examples are endless...but I don't wanna take over this thread. I've said my peace. :)

John Jenkins said...

I disagree, and I don't know how one can look at either world history or current events and not think religion is dangerous.

By not being overly simplistic, or perhaps by being more simplistic. People are dangerous, and the reasons they say they do things aren't always true. Religion is no more dangerous than any other idea.

Johnny Nucleo said...

LoafingOaf said: "So, no, I don't think there's anything special about me for merely not believing in things for which there's zero evidence supporting."

Do you believe in Freedom? Love? Justice? What's your evidence? No evidence? Could it be that you were brainwashed?

Why is slavery wrong? For millenia, no one thought so, now they do? Why?

What if there were a society built on slavery that was functional and profitible for the majority of its citizens, and enduring to the point of being everlasting? Would that not be a "good" society? If not, why not? If you say not, what's you evidence?

LoafingOaf said: "I don't know how one can look at either world history or current events and not think religion is dangerous."

Religion is dangerous compared to what? If only there were an historical counter-example -- evidence, if you will. Surely, that would prove your point. Wait, there is! The Soviet Union was explicitly anti-religious!

(Question: What was the most murderous society in history? Hint: it rhymes with Moviet Tunion)

Evidence, evidence! LoafingOaf only believes that for which there is evidence!

LoafingOaf said: "I notice you didn't get annoyed by anyone calling Scientologists cultists."

Mockery of religion does not annoy me. I happen to love the mockery of everything. I especially love the mockery of the smug, the thoughtless, the foolish, the proud.

vbspurs said...

Look, anybody can mock religion and tons of people do it.(Cf. many of the comments on this particular thread). What sets Stone and Parker apart is that they actually manage to be funny.

Amen.

Some one had to get that in.

P.S.: To me, mocking religion no problem at all...as long as going in, you know it's a comedy show like the beyond brilliant, South Park.

Of course, underneath their satire, they are trying to make a point THROUGH comedy, but still, it's a comedic vehicle they use, which changes the dynamics of the situation.

It's when so-called serious entities do it, with no hint of irony and deadly earnestness, that I have a problem with religion being mocked.

Then it's disrespectful, and indeed, biased.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

A cult is a cult and not a religion when your leader gives you poison and tells you it's just Cool-Aid.

Cheers,
Victoria

Johnny Nucleo said...

On second thought, Mao's China may have been more murderous than the Soviet Union. I think Mao technically wins on total body count, but the true winner would depend on one's definition of state sanctioned murder. (Does famine count if the famine was caused by government policies?)

Dave said...

Ann: I just saw your response to my earlier comment on this post, and I guess in response, I would echo Bruce Hayden's comments.

On the question of Mormonism vs Scientology it is clear to me that Mormonism (at least its mainstream adherents) is a religion, while Scientology is more properly classified as a cult.

As for a test, I'd suggest Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it" test.

Wickedpinto said...

But now I understand why R. Kelly was always singing and pulling out his gun in the South Park episode. There was a whole other level to the humor I was missing. Along with Scientology and Tom Cruise Matt and Trey were mocking the Trapper in a Closet video!

The OBVIOUS thing in SP isn't the thing that is being discussed/argued. For instance the "Mormon" episode was really about WEAK american family culture, THEN it was argued with by stan thinking that Mormons are crazy, BUT the Mormons had a GREAT family, with ridiculous beliefs.

In fact, even though the methods of SP are ridiculously offensive, and they DO push the limits of free speech (the "sea people" episode where Cartman gives BJ's to old men) They are ALL about freedom?

and a "civil rights" activist, choses to deny the single most nominated "series" for "tolerance" in all of the "alternative" award shows.

Yeah, you are a hero.

Bladedoc said...

Just read the Rolling Stone article linked and tell me that Scientology doesn't ring a hell of a lot higher on the "cultometer" than any mainstream religion (with the possible exception of Opus Dei and the "blow yourself up for Allah" guys). And no, the fact that the Catholic Church used to excommunicate people doesn't count. The last time that held any weight was just before Henry VIII wanted some new strange.

STCC said...

***********************************

Reading some of the comments on this blog, it's obvious that some people have a ton of incorrect information about Scientology. Let me ask those people who are holding onto these ideas if they'd actually done any research on their own. Meaning, have they taken a course, or attended an event. Have they spoken to a Scientologist. Have they read a book or gotten some auditing. Let me guess on this one folks.....Probably Not! Well, I have done all these and know FIRST HAND that the negative things said about Scientology on this blog or in the media are nothing but misinformation and lies. I am fully aware of what the lies are. I've read them. I know they are false as I've been in Scientology for over 10 years.

Scientology has helped me in every area of my life. It has helped me in my career. In my relationships with family and friends. It has helped me in sports. This was a big one for me because I love sports, and because of Scientology I can compete and do things now that I was never previously able to do. I've learned about the spiritual nature of man and how the mind works, and how to make it work better. Just a side note, contrary to psychiatric belief, a human being is much more than just a body. The knowledge and gains one can have in Scientology cannot be overstated. It is the real deal my friends and I am happy I had the courage to look into it. I hope the people reading this will have the courage to discover for themselves what Scientology really is.

http://www.scientology.org

http://www.whatisscientology.org

http://www.dianetics.org

http://www.cchr.org

***********************************

John Jenkins said...

They have good bots, I'll give them that.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Loafingoaf said...
In my mind, Christianity and Islam are the biggest and certainly the most harmful cults of all.


I wish people would look at history before making comments like this. Half of our great colleges exist due to religious types. This nation was started due to concerns about religion (among other things). Blacks are not serving tea on trains due to religous (and secular) efforts at equality. For every Catholic priest molesting a child, there are Catholic charities caring for more AIDS patients than most other aid organizations.

If you sucked religion out of the world, a lot of good (but of course not all) would be gone and evil would still be the constant fixed factor.

Over history, both religious and non-religious people have done evil, or killed untold thousands. It is not something that is inherent in religion, as someone above pointed out. I like how the anti-religious types trot out the crusades over and over, it being their one vivid point of historical reference. Apparently nobody else was killing in the past.

Further, one can make the argument that the minute a "Christian" is out killing or thieving, he is not in fact at that moment practicing Christianity.

So the problem, in most cases, is with people. People do things, do evil. Most religions are designed to remedy that by using various methods of motivation. Secular types use their own valued methods. Everyone uses something.

It might be a good idea to learn what Christ actually said, and then see what people are doing it. When you see that, you are seeing Christianity.

As for Mr.Hayes and Southpark, I don't think it's hypocritical of him to quit when his religion (which I believe is a cult) is mocked. That is, if he in fact believes that Scientology is the one true way for all people, then he should stick to his guns.

If one has a theology that says, "I am the way, the truth,..." (or something similar) then why should you be particularly offended if other "ways" are mocked?

That said, South Park does an excellent job at tackling almost every topic, and I don't see how religious people cannot find the show hysterically on point on so many issues, including religion.

Wickedpinto said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chrees said...

Interesting--the "Tom Cruise is in the Closet" episode was supposed to air last night, but that wasn't what was on, at least on Direct TV. Did anyone else have a substitute episode aired?

Ann Althouse said...

Chrees: The episode that aired was "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls," which is timely not just because it's one of Hayes's biggest episodes, but also because of the "Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding" material.

Dean Esmay said...

There really is a difference between a religion and a cult, and I speak as an atheist. Cults are seriously dangerous in ways everyday religions simply are not. If you want a very clinical description of the cult phenomenon that isn't just a religious indictment, see Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman's book Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change. Both are psychologists and it's not even clear what if any religious affiliation they have, if any. They merely do a very good breakdown of what real cults look like as opposed to how everyday religions behave. They go into far more detail than i do, but signs of cults include:

1) Forbidding you from having friends or even spending much time with relatives who are not members of the cult.

2) Classic hypnotherapy-style brainwashing techniques.

3) Use of malnutrition to weaken a person's mind (serious long-term malnutrition, not the occasional fast)

4) Using such techniques to radically alter a person's personality.

5) A living, figure to whom absolute obedience is expected.

6) Gradually taking more and more and more of a member's income until ultimately they are giving most of their livelihood, or all of it, to the cult.

7) Threatening the life of those who leave the cult, or occasionally kidnapping escapees to bring them back in for reconditioning.

There's more. But honestly, cults are serious business and do not come down to just being "religions I don't like."

Read the book. It's very good.

Dean Esmay said...

I should clarify that Conway and Siegleman are not psychologists, but rather communication theorists. Still, their descriptions are pretty specific. Yes there are Christian cults. Al Qaeda is clearly a Muslim cult. I'm not sure anyone's quite managed to pull off an atheist cult although there are definitely UFO cultists which almost qualify.

Chris said...

I personally feel that Issac was pressured to leave the show by Scientology. Since he did not seem to have any issues before this.

Chrees said...

Ann, I've read where Tom Cruise leaned heavily on Viacom NOT to show the "In the Closet" episode Wednesday night and the company complied.

Arthur Parry said...

FYI, for those who where disappointed when the Scientology episode was pulled the other night, it is on-line here , for now anyway.

It's hilarious.