Won't somebody please think of the children? Or, South Park fanfic and the political realm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Comedy Central’s South Park has proved a bone of contention for traditional guardians of youth culture. From the denunciations of pressure groups on one hand, to academics attempting to claim South Park for various political positions on the other, it is ironic that a show addressing the failure of official pedagogy has had so little attention paid to its young fans. Academics argue over the ‘message’ of South Park, in a socio-political sense, or denounce it for irresponsibly embracing post-political cynicism. Yet as Mendes et al. have argued, to draw a false division between youth entertainment and some pre-conceived notion of the political realm is a fallacy: young people’s engagement with and meaning-making practices derived from popular culture are political in themselves. This paper uses a politically informed conception of discourse analysis developed from Laclau and Mouffe to code the top-rated South Park fanfics from Fanfiction.net, a site whose primary demographic is teenagers, in pursuit of the messages young people perceive and make of the show. This project prefers concrete data over impressionistic views of ‘young people’, and attends to what teenage fans make of and do with the text, rather than imagining them as passive consumers absorbing inherent messages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1309-1325
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2015

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