Monday, January 17, 2005

SOUTH PARK REPUBLICANS 2.0. Back in '03 Brian C. Anderson told the City Journal that the kids were alright, that is to say, increasingly right-wing. In support of this contention he offered several paragraphs of quotes from South Park, with gleefully unexpurgated use of the words "fuck" and "ass," and posited (on the alleged authority of Andrew Sullivan) a coming breed of "South Park Republicans" who were sticking it to the Man GOP-stylee.
Arizona State undergrad Eric Spratling says the definition fits him and his Republican pals perfectly. “The [SPR] label is really about rejecting the image of conservatives as uptight squares -- crusty old men or nerdy kids in blue blazers. We might have long hair, smoke cigarettes, get drunk on weekends, have sex before marriage, watch R-rated movies, cuss like sailors -- and also happen to be conservative, or at least libertarian.” Recent Stanford grad Craig Albrecht says most of his young Bush-supporter friends “absolutely cherish” South Park–style comedy “for its illumination of hypocrisy and stupidity in all spheres of life.”
Whee, sounds like fun, if you've led a particularly sheltered life. Now Anderson's got a book about SPRs coming out on Regnery, and has supplied a taste via OpinionJournal. But in this venue the conservative kinder come off a great deal more strait-laced:
"Today's university is without morals or guiding principles, except one," [Harvard junior Jordan] Hylden contends: "to follow in all things the ideal of 'to thine own self be true.' Individual desires, whatever they are, are affirmed, and the denial of these desires, by yourself or by another person or group, is the greatest possible evil"...

Helping students resist such pressures are a growing number of vigorous student religious groups, preaching moderation. College campuses nationwide have seen a "religious upsurge" over the last decade, the Christian Science Monitor reports...

The upperclassman leaders of these groups can set examples for younger students, as Princeton senior Renee Gardner, leader of Crossroads Christian Fellowship, tries to do with student drinking. "There's certainly pressure on most students involved in the typical social scene to drink to excess," says Miss Gardner, whose conservative values proved no bar to her joining one of the top Princeton bicker clubs. "I've chosen -- as have many Christian friends -- to abstain from drinking in those contexts, not only to make it simpler for us to avoid blurring the line between acceptable and unacceptable levels of drinking, but also to make others feel more comfortable who might not want to drink."
Anderson does cite a biologically-young "conservative libertarian" ("Say what you will about us, we like to party!") but immediately assures us that "for some conservative students, especially those from religious backgrounds, the bedlam can be unsettling."

What happened? At the outset of this manufactured phenomenon, South Park Pubbies were full of fun and games, all very "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" ('Member that one?) Now they sound like YMCA types out of Sinclair Lewis.

Here is my theory. If one is painting a picture of These Young People Today for the edification of adults, one must shade the likeness according to the perceived needs of the times. In the early 60s, popular magazine writers ballyhooed the Kennedyesque idealism of the younger generation; in subsequent years, as young people became both more obsessively covered and more fractious, and thus more frightening to their elders, these accounts went out of their way to show that adults had nothing to fear from Flaming Youth; well do I recall all the 70s spreads portraying twentysomethings coming to Jesus (with pictures of hot chicks in immersion-baptism-soaked shirts), and the yuppies of the 80s and the technerds of the 90s.

Now the right-wing alternamedia have invented their own avatars of youth, but where once the inventors posited a new breed that was as hip as any previous lazy stereotype, a need may have been felt to amend the image to suit the new reality -- that is, the second Bush Administration, with whose deficits and endless war and "ownership society" aspects a partying, cursing junior auxiliary would not be so natural a fit.

So now the South Park Republicans are turning away from drink and dirty words, and toward Jesus. Fine with me. Bring on the full-immersion baptisms!

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