March 22, 2006

"South Park" -- "The Return of Chef!"

So?

That ended awfully abruptly! Were you satisfied? Isaac Hayes is, I think, honored, and the hatred is directed at the organization that took him away from us, the "Super Adventure Club." The grisly near-death scene was finely detailed, and the final "salty balls" punchline well-placed. The strip club interlude was genuinely poignant, as the kids beg poor Chef to remember his real self.

Taking the broader view, answer the question: Is religion a super adventure club?

UPDATE: Here's the AP description of the episode, quoting key lines:
''A lot of us don't agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days,'' one of the children eulogizes him at a funeral. ''Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile.

''We shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us,'' the eulogy concludes. ''We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains.''
Scientology was not named. Standing in for it was "that fruity little club," the "Super Adventure Club," which is all about child molestation. Chef's membership in the club was revealed in scenes that use spliced-together dialogue from past episodes that were voiced by Isaac Hayes.

32 comments:

Gahrie said...

A more basic question that needs to be answered first: Is Scientology a religion?

Jason Ward said...

Absolutely not.. Of course that is only my opinion, but the German category of "totalitarian cult" seems to be more exact. And the Germans should be the pre-eminent experts on "totalitarian cults".

Personally, I thought that the ending was great. 'Chef Vader' opens up a world of possibilities. I imagine future Scientology/Star Wars parodies are in the near future.

TJ said...

Homework tonite: google-bomb "that fruity little club".

Troy said...

"Is religion a super adventure club?"

That question is no more retarded than a law school hypothetical is it?

In a completely bassackwards way, mainstream religion was defended as "less retarded" than the backstory to SAC (does the SAC now contain the salty balls??? Hmm....). Stone and Parker have found a light! (Nah!)

The episode also raises questions about the issue of "evacuation" (such as forcefulness) at death, but those may be too crass....

Marghlar said...

I'm not so sure this is honoring Hayes...I think calling someone brainwashed is generally considered rude.

Cardinal Martini said...

The episode didn't honor Hayes, but rather his contribution to the show.

The AP quoted the eulogy at the end of the episode:

"A lot of us don't agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days," one of the children eulogizes him at a funeral. "Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile.

"We shouldn't be mad at Chef for leaving us," the eulogy concludes. "We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains."

Wade_Garrett said...

I think that, in its own weird way, this episode was a pretty sincere appreciate of the contribution Hayes has made to the show's popularity. I like the way that Darth Chef leaves open the possibility that he might re-appear at some point in the future.

I also enjoyed the way in which this episode tied in a lot of old jokes from previous episodes, including a lot of Chef's best lines, Terrence and Phillip and the two hunter guys in the crowd at Chef's funeral, the "this is what the super adventure club actually believes" subtitle, and the evacuation at death.

It looks like Scientology really came out as a big loser. Now millions of Americans who probably knew nothing about Scientology before this started now know exactly how whacked-out it is.

chuck b. said...

Sure, I think religion is a super adventure club. Many (most?) religions certainly promise quite the adventure after you die--one way or another. Taking a lot of religious doctrines seriously also seems like quite the adventure to me.

And who can dispute the club mentality--either you're in, or you're out, and that's a bright line.

Me, I'm out.

Dave said...

So far as I can tell, referring to Scientology as a religion profanes religious belief.

Ann Althouse said...

Scientology calls itself a religion. Those who adhere to it regard it as their religion. Those of you who think it can be laughed or sneered off the list of religions: you need to come up with a principled standard of exclusion?

AppSocRes said...

H. Ron Hubbard, the founder of scientology, made it publicly clear on more than one occassion that the whole project was nothing more than a money-making scam. There was an editorial in the early 1970s in the science fiction magazine Analog -- before Hubbard became a "prophet (profit?)" he was a lousy sci-fi writer -- describing the editor's recollections of Hubbard. During one of his last appearances at a sci-fi convention Hubbard announced to a large audience that sci-fi was not profitable enough for him, America was ripe for a new quasi-religious scam involving psycho-babble, and he was going to make a fortune exploiting this new market niche. During the war, Hubbard lied about his credentials to obtain a Navy commission and temporary command of a minesweeper. His behavior was so erratic -- he ordered his crew to shell a small California island -- that he was almost immediately relieved of his duties and nearly discharged from service. There are fascinating stories involving Hubbard, Aleister Crowley, satanic cults, the founding of NASA, and post-WW II LA sub-cultures posted on the web. A good Google search will provide hours - if not days - of entertainment and enlightenment.

DB said...

Ann,

How about the fact that they charge a small fortune for their revealed truths? Shouldn't that exclude them from the list of religions?

Al Maviva said...

How 'bout this? "It's not a religion if they have to use lawyers to keep people from discussing it, and the holy book is copyrighted."

me said...

Well, the IRS spent decades trying to show Scientology was NOT a religion entitled to the religious tax exemption, and they lost -- according the US government, scientology IS a religion.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think the way the question "Is Scientology a religion?" has been addressed in the comments so far assumes that being classified as a religion would make Scientology deserving of respect and legitimacy. That is true from a legal standpoint: being classified as a religion is a boon of tax exemption. But there's another way of looking at it (which Stone and Parker declined to do last night).

Revealing the absurdities of Scientology can highlight the rampant absurdities easily found in most religious texts. The absurdities of Scientology are more striking to us because we are less used to them and because they have had less time to evolve and fewer scholars have tried to more deeply interpret the religious texts and reconcile contradictions than in more established churches. I personally can't bring myself to take any religion very seriously. However, I believe that other people (including Scientologists) very sincerely believe in and try to live by the rules of their religion and I respect their right to do that.

So, the bigger question is: should we be giving so much legal and social deference to entities that call themselves religions. I'd say we should let people adopt and follow whatever religion/spritituality/self-help philosophy/raised-from-the-dead-follower/cult they want but there's no need to give any of them special status under the law.

Some people may argue that Scientology is distinguished from other religions because it seems to have a commercial aspect and it rewards members who contribute lots of money and it doesn't use its money for sufficiently charitable purposes. But I think you can find good examples of those critiques in all religions. The Catholic Church encourages people to give ten percent of their income to the Church. It spends the money feeding the poor and teaching kids but it also spends a lot of money promoting itself and defending child molesters and buying expensive costumes and building palatial places of worship. The point is, there's plenty of room to critique the texts and administration of any entity that calls itself a religion but I think the problem lies in whether we should favor religions at all rather than where we should draw the line between legit and illegit religions.

David said...

Sociology and psychiatry have to deal with the distinction between cults and religions on a regular basis. Cults are a subtype of religion, broadly defined. A nice definition of a cult can be found here:

Cult (totalist type): A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g. isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. (West & Langone, 1986, pp. 119-120)

gj said...

Andrew Sullivan has more background on the evidence for brainwashing, or some kind of coercive pressure put on Isaac Hayes, here. It is all circumstantial, but as Andrew points out, something about the public stories doesn't add up.

Sydney Carton said...

JOE: "The Catholic Church encourages people to give ten percent of their income to the Church. It spends the money feeding the poor and teaching kids but it also spends a lot of money promoting itself and defending child molesters and buying expensive costumes and building palatial places of worship."

The Catholic church does not charge a fee for any of its teachings. Attendence is free, talking to a priest is free, and they do not jealously guard their theology. Scientology does.

As for the rest of your moronic comments about donations, building churches, and stuff, I don't know why you have to single out the Catholic Church. They didn't invent the "MegaChurch." There is nothing wrong with promoting one's faith (it's what a Church is supposed to do), and the Church, like any other, is entitled to defend itself in court.

I'm not even going to comment on your bigoted crack about "expensive costumes."

Joan said...

The Catholic Church encourages people to give ten percent of their income to the Church. It spends the money feeding the poor and teaching kids but it also spends a lot of money promoting itself and defending child molesters and buying expensive costumes and building palatial places of worship.
There's so much wrong with that statement I don't know where to begin, so I won't. I just wanted to highlight it as today's outstanding example of ignorance.

On to the episode: it was brutal, and Hayes was not honored, he was brutalized. How can making a beloved character into a child molester, brainwashed or not, be said to be honoring someone? Especially after the character knowingly chooses to return to a life of pedophilia after he has been freed from his brain-washing. It's not as if the only choices Chef had were being Chef, or being a pedophile. There's a whole world out there, even in "South Park."

It was a typically horrifying, brilliant episode. Chef Vader left us in stitches, although it was a little disappointing that they took the (previously) subversively funny "chocolate salty balls" bit and made it an overt sexual reference. I suppose it was too good to pass up.

I do think Stan's eulogy was heart-felt and represented Parker & Stone's true feelings about the matter. But I don't think they gave Hayes all that much of a pass for being a tool of the Scientology establishment.

Balfegor said...

How 'bout this? "It's not a religion if they have to use lawyers to keep people from discussing it, and the holy book is copyrighted."

They're just using modern means to protect the arcanum of their mystery cult. Would you prefer they used assassins like in the old days?

Moanique said...

You can make a pretty good case for Christianity as an Adventure Club. I don't know enough about Scientology one way or the other to make a real judgement about it.

The Bible however has Jonah being eaten by a whale, floods, battles with giants (Goliath), parting of whole seas to crush enemies, Sodom and Gomorrah...and while Job's story isn't an Excellent Adventure (in the Bill and Ted mode), it's certainly adventur-ish in an appalling way.

And that's just the Old Testament. It seemed pretty thrilling in Sunday School when I was a girl.

So to cap off with a question of my own, does that sound like the stuff of Super Adventures?

Alan said...

How 'bout this? "It's not a religion if they have to use lawyers to keep people from discussing it, and the holy book is copyrighted."

If you open up just about any English translation of the Bible, other than the King James version, you'll find a copyright notice. Bible translators and publishers put a lot of effort in their work, and most require citations. For example, see the NRSV permissions page

Joseph Hovsep said...

I wasn't singling out the Catholic Church or saying the Catholic Church should not operate the way it operates. I acknoweldged that the Church does charitable work that is widely accepted to be a social good. But it also does things that are widely accepted to be bad and does other things that outsiders think are downright weird. I spent an hour or more a week at a Catholic Church for eighteen years of my life and I have plenty of family and friends who are Catholic. My point is not that the Catholic Church is better or worse than Scientology. My point is just the opposite: all religions operate differently and what may appear absurd or inappropriate to an outsider is solemn and spiritual for the insider. So, its my humble opinion that we should let people to decide what constitutes a "religion" for themselves even if it differs from the religion we are used to.

Freeman Hunt said...

If you open up just about any English translation of the Bible, other than the King James version, you'll find a copyright notice.

Apples to oranges.

The work itself is not copyrighted and is freely distributed. (Go ask any church, even the poorest, for a Bible, and in just about every case, they'll give you one for free.) It's the translations (though not all) that are copywrited by the companies that produce them. Even the ones that are copyrighted are freely available online at websites like Crosswalk and BibleGateway.

In Scientology, not only is the "scripture" copywrited, but you have to pay to advance in "levels." If you'd like to become a real Scientologist sage, you'd better have hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Joan said...

Joe: I spent an hour or more a week at a Catholic Church for eighteen years of my life and I have plenty of family and friends who are Catholic. Further evidence of how poorly catechized cradle Catholics are. You may have spent 18 years in church, but your previous statement demonstrates you have a very shallow understanding of what the Catholic Church is, and does.

You never have to pay to attend a Catholic church, and you never have to pay to become a registered member of a parish. Of course we are encouraged to give and give freely, but there is no requirement. There are no big secrets, either: the doctrine is all out there for anyone to read and critique as they like.

Is Christianity a Super Adventure Club? Thrilling stuff happens in the Bible, yes. But in the context of this discussion, wondering if Christianity is a "Super Adventure Club" is very close to accusing all Christians of being pedophiles. I'm sure that's not what you meant.

Here's more on whether or not Hayes quit the show, or someone from the Scientologists quit for him.

Balfegor said...

How 'bout this? "It's not a religion if they have to use lawyers to keep people from discussing it, and the holy book is copyrighted."

Actually, now that I think of it, forget the assassins -- we know what the alternative using lawyers and copyright to shut people up is. We just saw it happen with the Mohammed cartoons.

Balfegor said...

"alternative to," I meant to say.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Joan, I think you are missing my point. You are probably right that I was poorly catechized because I am not a practicing Catholic today. I do not claim to be exceptionally knowledgable about the Church or at all devout (though I did at one time), but I think I do have a fair knowledge of the Bible and Catholic teaching and practice. However, my references to the Catholic pedophilia scandal and the relative excesses in wardrobe and places of worship do not reflect a shallow understanding of the Church on my part. I used those as examples of what someone who is not familiar with the Church could reduce Catholicism to using arguments similar to those being used to attack Scientology.

I really don't know much about Scientology and I'm not defending the substance of the religion. I'm merely saying that its legitimacy as a religion should not depend on how similar it is to well established religions like Catholicism.

Its great that Catholicism is very accessible to the poor but that doesn't mean a religion has to be accessible to the poor to be legitimate. And charging for access to religious rites is not unknown in Catholicism. The Church charges for sacraments, and things like annulments and praying for a sick or deceased loved one at mass. A few hundred years ago Catholics were expected to pay for indulgences/salvation as well, but that didn't disqualify it as a religion.

The Catholic Church is also not the open and honest place you seem to suggest. Its only been a few decades since masses have been allowed to be read in the vernacular. The election of the Pope is shrowded in secrecy. To the detriment of thousands of Catholic children, the Church went to great lengths to keep secret its priests' sex crimes and reassign those priests to new unknowing parishes. And the teaching of theology is very tightly controlled by the Vatican.

Again, I'm not trying to bash any religion. I think all religions have something to offer some people and all religions have weaknesses. But we should take care in dismissing the legitimacy of others' faith because it is different than our own. That's my point: its very difficult to draw a principled line where legimitate religion ends and illegitimate ends and I don't think we should try to draw that line.

Dylan said...

More and more weirdness. Isaac Hayes may not have actually quit. Or didn't want to. Or soemthing.

http://stillangryblog.blogspot.com/2006/03/hello-children-im-backagain.html

Ron said...

Spoiler Warning!



I have to admit, when I saw the end, even given the whole Vader thing, I thought: "Ah. Iron Chef!"

buck turgidson said...


Taking the broader view, answer the question: Is religion a super adventure club?


Based on the South Park episode, I think you are asking the wrong question. It should be, "Is religion a just pedophilia?"

Ridhi Web Expert said...

What is the South Park/Family Guy reference to the warehouse with all the boxes?
Thank-you
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