The F Word (South Park)
"The F Word" is the twelfth episode of the thirteenth season of the American animated television series South Park. The 193rd overall episode of the series, it originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 4, 2009. In the episode, the boys attempt to change the official definition of the word "fag" from an anti-homosexual slur to a term describing loud and obnoxious Harley bikers.
|"The F Word"|
|South Park episode|
|Episode no.||Season 13|
|Directed by||Trey Parker|
|Written by||Trey Parker|
|Original air date||November 4, 2009|
The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. "The F Word" argues language is ever-changing and that taboo words only carry a stigma if society allows them to, and attempts to reclaim and disempower the word "faggot".
"The F Word" received generally mixed reviews, with commentators differing on the success behind the episode's underlying message. According to Nielsen ratings, "The F Word" was seen by 1.99 million households among viewers aged between 18 and 49, making it the highest rated episode of the season, and surpassing the viewership of the NBC primetime comedy talk show, The Jay Leno Show.
Kyle, Cartman, Stan, and Kenny enjoy a nice day outside with the weather being warm until a large group of Harley riders disturb them. The residents of South Park are frustrated by a large group of Harley riders frequently making noise in town. The Harley riders eat lunch and talk about how nobody is paying attention to them, so one of the Harley riders comes up with a noise to get everyone's attention. Before the Harley riders take off, Cartman confronts the bikers, describing them as insecure losers who ride loud motorcycles to draw attention to themselves. Cartman tells them their behavior makes them look like "fags" and, when other children begin referring to the bikers with the same slur, the bikers assume they are being insulted because they are not being loud enough. They believe that they should be louder because after all, children are around loud stuff today. The motorcyclists equip their motorcycles with horns, sirens and various musical instruments. The boys devise a plan to rid the town of the bikers. However, once Butters reveals that he likes Harley motorcycles, he is not allowed to participate in the scheme. As the riders eat at a diner, Cartman defecates on the seats of their motorcycles while Kyle and Stan spray paint "FAGS GET OUT" on several buildings around town. The boys are pleased when the bikers temporarily leave town, but the graffiti alarms Big Gay Al and Mr. Slave because they interpret it as homophobia.
The boys readily admit to the spray painting, and explain to the city council that the word "fag" is not intended as an insult to homosexuals, and is being used only in reference to a contemptible person who rides a Harley motorcycle, or "an inconsiderate douchebag", as Stan puts it. They call upon the council to formally recognize this new usage. Support from the town, including the local gay community, results in a town ordinance declaring a change in the word's definition. This action leads to negative publicity from the rest of the nation, and further angers the displaced bikers who refuse to be labeled as "fags". They look up the word in the dictionary and learn its definition has adapted over the years: it previously meant "an unpleasant old woman" and a bundle of sticks.
Upset by the national attention, Mayor McDaniels wants to resolve the situation, and the boys suggest getting the official dictionary definition updated. The town invites the English Dictionary Officiates, led by the head editor, former child actor Emmanuel Lewis, to review the proposal and consider making the definition change official. As the town celebrates the arrival of Lewis and the Officiates, the bikers suddenly crash the event and begin to riot. After inflicting damage to the town and scaring off the citizens, they corner the boys in an alley. The bikers demand they stop being called "fags", but the boys refuse to do so, asserting their behavior further justifies the application of the term. Butters steps between them and comes to the defense of the riders by expressing his admiration for the Harley-Davidson lifestyle. Confronted by gun-wielding residents led by Big Gay Al, the riders ultimately accept their new label, and Lewis is happy to declare the definition officially changed. The town rejoices and celebrates.
"The F Word" was written and directed by series co-founder Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. It first aired on November 4, 2009 in the United States on Comedy Central. The day after "The F Word" was originally broadcast, T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts based on the episode were made available at South Park Studios, the official South Park website. It featured Butters standing in front of a motorcycle, standing above the word "bike-curious?"
"The F Word" advocates a philosophy that language is malleable and ever-changing, and that the idea of taboo words are only assigned their stigma because society allows them to become so. The word "fag" is used casually and extremely frequently by the characters throughout the episode, and Comedy Central agreed not to censor the word. The characters use the word "fag" very frequently throughout the episode as an attempt to insult the Harley bikers.
Although LGBT activists acknowledged the noble intentions behind the episode, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation objected to "The F Word", stating the episode still uses the word in a very derogatory context, even though it is directed against bikers instead of homosexuals. As a result, GLAAD said "The F Word" still reinforced the usage of the word "fag" as a means of insulting others, and could be unintentionally harmful to the gay community. GLAAD officials called it a "slur-filled episode" and demanded an apology from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Comedy Central declined to respond to the comments.
"The F Word" makes prominent use of Harley-Davidson, the largest motorcycle manufacturing company in the United States. Also featured in the episode is Emmanuel Lewis, a former child actor who is portrayed as the head editor of the dictionary. This is a reference to Webster's Dictionary and Lewis' most famous role, the title character in the sitcom, Webster. During one scene, a television reporter repeatedly refers to a Harley biker as a "fag" until he attacks the camera. This is a reference to an on-air confrontation between NFL quarterback Jim Everett and sports talk show host Jim Rome, whom Everett attacked during a Talk2 interview.
"The F Word" was the highest rated episode of the thirteenth season of South Park. The episode was seen by 1.99 million households in the subgroup of adults between the ages of 18 and 49. The episode earned a higher rating than that of The Jay Leno Show, a primetime late night talk show on NBC. Nevertheless, it was seen by fewer cable viewers than the FX drama series Sons of Anarchy (coincidentally, a show about a motorcycle club), which drew 2.32 million households; the E! reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which drew 2.19 million households; and a television special about reality show star Kate Gosselin, which drew 2.3 million households.
"The F Word" was considered particularly controversial, even by South Park standards due to the excessive use of the word "fag". The episode received generally mixed reviews. Carlos Delgado of iF magazine said "The F Word" marks a return of South Park's tradition of tackling sensitive social issues with intelligent and politically incorrect writing, which Delgado said had been lacking in recent episodes. Delgado said "The F Word" served as a reminder that society is always changing and that although the thoughts or intentions behind words are harmful, the word itself is not. Ramsey Isler of IGN compared "The F Word" to "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson", an eleventh season episode that contained frequent use of the racial slur "nigger". However, Isler said "The F Word" was not as skillfully crafted as the "Jesse Jackson" episode and, although some moments were entertaining, the episode "had a habit of running some gags into the ground". James Hibberd, of The Live Feed, said he found the episode "well-intended and funny", and that it forced viewers to face a difficult issue and reexamine their beliefs about it. Hibberd wrote, "This is also, by the way, precisely what great art does". Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club said the word "fag" has not lost its associations with homosexuals, so she did not believe in the episode's statements about the changing use of the word. Koski also called the episode "preachy", and said, "It took too long to get going, seemed confused about what its point was, and, most egregiously, had very few laughs."
"The F Word", along with the thirteen other episodes from South Park's thirteenth season, were released on a three-disc DVD set and two-disc Blu-ray set in the United States on March 16, 2010. The sets included brief audio commentaries by Parker and Stone for each episode, a collection of deleted scenes, and a special mini-feature Inside Xbox: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of South Park Studios, which discussed the process behind animating the show with Inside Xbox host Major Nelson.
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