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Is there no subject that remains taboo to South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker? We ask them about their puppetry spoof of the War on Terror…
On October 6 2004, Internet news service The Drudge Report published a ‘private’ letter from Sean Penn to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park and the new marionette action film Team America. The reasons for Penn’s disillusionment were a cursory comment from the former of the writer/producers (and occasional actors) suggesting that those who don’t know much (and/or care) about politics shouldn’t vote.
‘I remember not being bothered as you traded on my name among others to appear witty, above it all, and likeable to your crowd. I never mind being of service, in satire and silliness,’ Penn cited, going on to explain that Stone’s comments would ‘encourage irresponsibility that will ultimately lead to the disembowelment, mutilation, exploitation and death of innocent people throughout the world.’ The letter ended with a semi-courteous ‘All the best, and a sincere f**k you.’
While this could well be a justified response, for Stone the letter holds a rich irony that is present throughout their latest controversial outing, because in Team America the guns are out and, for the most part, it’s the celebrities with a God complex who are in the firing line.
“I don’t care about Sean Penn and what he thinks you know,” Stone explains. “The movie, for us, was about what it’s like to be an American and a big part of being an American is trying to sit through all this shit, having a bunch of celebrities tell you [what to do].”
For the casual viewer it would be all too easy to see the inclusion of the fictional Film Actor’s Guild as part of Team America’s plot – comprising the puppet likenesses of Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Matt Damon and, of course, Sean Penn (among others) – as nothing but a way of getting some cheap laughs.
And while some of that is certainly true – “I think we f**ked ’em up pretty good,” says Stone elatedly – the real reasoning had more to do with the growing trend in celebrity ego dictating what their fans should do.
“Whether it works or not in the movie is for someone else to decide,” Stone continues. “But Trey and I wanted to make a statement about when you become a celebrity you think you rule the world. It’s something that we have a little bit of experience with, you just lose your f**king mind, like you believe you control the world. If you’re Sean Penn, you don’t [control the world]. You’re a cool actor and [that’s it]; shut the f**k up. It’s like, that’s not good enough? You have to rule the world now? We want to like our celebrities, we want to like our actors and put them up on a pedestal. But we don’t really think you’re that great Matt Damon, we like living through you vicariously. Don’t really tell us how to vote, just f**k off.”
by Grant Kempster
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