The other day I found a weird confluence of styles that signal a bit of a change in the entertainment business. The first is South Park — now 15 years old — and the attitude of its creators toward Hollywood and other people they lampoon. To put it bluntly, their attitude is summed up in these two words: “F*ck you.” That was pretty clear from the documentary I watched on the making of South Park. In short, Trey Parker and Matt Stone do not care about what you or society at large thinks about their antics. They just want to make stuff that’s funny. It may not be funny to everyone, but as long as it’s funny to them, that’s all that counts. The middle-finger salute approach to their projects is, however, more than just being irreverent, gross, or sexually explicit. The do weave commentary into their work, but it’s all built around going for the laugh — no matter how shocking.
In a way, Parker and Stone are an embodiment of the Internet culture before the Internet culture existed like it does now. Think about what makes for the most popular YouTube clips, Facebook posts, Tweets, and even blog posts…they all go for something that shocks, is reveling, or funny. Guess why South Park is still popular? Because they can consistently deliver a show that revolves around these three things.
The second phenomenon is Jenna Marbles — who was profiled in The New York Times. She’s solely a YouTube star who makes weekly videos that lampoons celebrities, herself, and anything else that makes her laugh. She reveals a lot about her personal life on these clips and does so in a way where she’s not shy about swearing or talking about things that teenage girls think about, but many rarely articulate. Yes, it’s all very interior, but she’s also funny and often shocking. Plus she’s adheres to the Stone/Parker schedule: deliver a show/video each week. Consistency in your brand is always a good thing, and many wannabe stars or creators will go for the shock to get attention, build a fan base, and monetize their content. Then, once they achieve a certain level of success, they often sell out, go for the money, water down their content, sometimes alienate their core audience and could potentially lose it all. For them, it’s their career. For Marbles and the creators of South Park, I get the feeling that they would do what they do even if they couldn’t make money doing it. Their fans know this and that’s what they love about them: they are authentic in what they do.
Now, not everyone in entertainment can be like Jenna Marbles and Parker and Stone. Their brand of humor appeals to a niche — but a sizable one. Being authentic and passionate in your interests may not net you a large audience, but for those who are fans of your work, they will bond with you over their love of what you create.
If you want to watch 6 Day to Air: The Making of South Park, you can below.