Jesus christ, can you believe South Park has been on for 20 years? I know, it makes me feel old as fuck too but I have to tell you: unlike another super-long-running cartoon for adults (cough cough The Simpsons cough), South Park just gets better with age. Last year's Member Berries/Rise of Garrison story line was epic, containing some of the sharpest, most hilarious critique of the hellish Presidential election season of 2016 next to my own Garbagey Olde Party, if I do say so myself. If you missed it, please go catch up so you know what I'm talking about. Don't worry, I'll wait here until you're done............
Okay, now that we're on the same page, let me tell you about the Damascan road conversion that overcame me while watching South Park last Fall.
Throughout late 2015, I was hard at work on Garbagey Olde Party series 1. I struggled, though, with how to balance the release and promotion of a political parody work like that with the benign pop culture art that's been popular in the past with my fans. Like, what if someone loves The Goonies but is also a big Carly Fiorina fan? Will they stop liking my work if I release GOPS1? As the mass of Presidential candidates spread like a cancer across the country, I decided to just release it on Iowa Caucus day and see what would happen. And what happened? Nothing. A few likes on Facebook. A comment or two on Tumblr. Ignored everywhere else. Although the political fires burned in me and I had a million political artwork ideas to act upon, built up over years of news reading and wonkery, it seemed that this was not the path I was meant to take.
Meanwhile, Trump gained ascendancy and claimed the mantle of official Republican candidate for President. Reality became unreal.
And then the new season of South Park began.
Picking up where it left the previous season, the series continued a story arc wherein Mr. Garrison, a Trump-like Troll who, among other awful things, promises to fuck Canada to death, is running for President against Turd Sandwich (Hillary Clinton). In a parallel story line, the Member Berries are introduced. Member Berries are little anthropomorphic berries that say things like "Ooooh 'member Chewbacca? 'Member Tatooine?", lulling the person eating them into a state of euphoric nostalgia and deafening them to what's happening in the outside world. Randy Marsh becomes a fan of the Berries, and is about to pop some into his mouth when they ask "'Member The Goonies? Yeah yeah yeah! 'Member when there weren't so many Mexicans?" and Randy's like "WTF", finally realizing that the nostalgia being fed to the populace is tainted with racism and hate. He then makes it his mission to expose the truth about the Member Berries, and their connection to the rise of Garrison. I sat bolt upright on the couch, struck by my own realization:
HAMtasia peddles nostalgia. Member Berries are nostalgia, personified. Hence, HAMtasia is a maker of Member Berries.
But Member Berries also make people complacent about and/or ignorant of the goings-on of the real world. Therefore, HAMtasia, by continuing to sell Member Berries in the face of political upheaval, is complicit in the perpetual ignorance of the populace.
Oh my fucking god!!
The election was still nearly 2 months away. I made a decision to allow the outcome to dictate my artistic path. If Hillary won, I would continue making Member Berries, as I had for the previous 8 years of the Obama administration. But if Trump won, it would be time to put the Berries aside and switch to making the kinds of political protest and parody art I always wanted - but was too wussy - to do during the W era.
Well, we all know how November turned out, don't we? So here is my manifesto:
I love making pop culture art, and will continue to do so every now and again just to keep myself sane over the next 4 years. But I can no longer remain hidden away in the Art Cave shaking a fist at a computer screen. It's absolutely imperative now that we band together to squash the fuck out of the Member Berries and I intend to do my part by ceasing to feed the nostalgia machine. It's time to call out the clowns in Congress for being the duplicitous scumbags that they are. It's time to answer the never-ending babble of the TV talking heads with a resounding "STFUFFS". Most importantly, it's time to mercilessly mock the bloated sack of protoplasm topped with golden candy floss, who taps out Twitter messages with less aplomb than a counting mule. Because this December, I want everyone to see the new Star Wars movie - not a goddamn mushroom cloud on the horizon.