20 years ago, in 1999, something unusual happened. By some sweet serendipity, Hollywood released an extraordinary amount of quality movies that range from modern day classics to wildly popular blockbusters to genre-bending films that stunned audiences. With this being the 20th anniversary of what has been called the “last great year in movies” and the “best year in movie history,”we here at the Tailgate Society want to celebrate the year that gave us films like American Beauty, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, and more. Throughout 2019, various contributors will be reflecting back on the films of 1999 through the lens of nostalgia and modern day insight. In other words, We’re Gonna Watch Like It’s 1999…
Watching the South Park movie upon release was transcendent. People left the theater exhausted from laughing. Nobody had seen anything like it before. The trivia here is fascinating: this movie holds a world record for most curse words in an animated film. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone damn near won an Oscar for the soundtrack and, by all rights, should have. “Blame Canada” was the one up for the award, but that entire album is just banger after banger. South Park was basically at the height of its popularity, but then blew us all away with a huge hit movie that was even better than the show.
In early June of 1999, there was a behind the scenes fight over what the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was going to rate the South Park movie. They wanted NC-17, due to the language concerns. The studio pushed back, pointing out (correctly) that the violence was apparently totally fine but some cuss words weren’t, thus ending up at an R rating after weeks of back and forth with no explanation from the MPAA of their criteria. The matter was settled just in time for the nationwide theatrical release, and people still argue who was right to this day.
The plot explored big ideas, like censorship, politics, racism, sexism, parenting, and sexuality. The story is a screamer, basically a direct swipe at groups like the MPAA. In the film, the kids of South Park’s TV heroes, Terrance and Phillip, have a movie titled Asses of Fire coming out. The boys lied to their parents about seeing a foreign movie from Canada, and skipped out on church to watch it. At school soon after, fourth graders did what fourth graders do and started quoting their new favorite thing all over the place. The problem was that the flick was all flatulence, f-words, and filthy jokes, and the parents and teachers of South Park weren’t having that sort of lewd behavior. Especially after Kenny died trying to set his own fart on fire. Led by Kyle’s mom, parents both in South Park and nationwide activate politically, pushing hard for the Terrance and Phillip movie to be censored. They go so far as to goad the United State government into war with Canada after arresting Terrence and Phillip (Canadien citizens) as war criminals and losing the Baldwins to Canadian bombs. Kyle’s mom even browbeat Mrs. Cartman into having a chip installed in her son to zap him like a shock collar whenever a bad word came out of his face.
Kenny, having gone to hell after dying in a flaming fart inferno, learns that Satan is in a dysfunctional and abusive romantic relationship with Saddam Hussein. Saddam spends his time belittling and ridiculing Satan, goading him into starting the apocalypse as soon as Terrance and Phillip’s blood hits Earth’s soil. Satan finally sees that the situation isn’t good with Kenny’s help, but it was too late. Saddam had Satan too twisted.
Desperate to head off the death of all humanity, Kenny showed himself to his friends in their dreams, warning them of the terror to come if their mothers are successful in their crusade against Canada. The kids of SP then formed La Resistance, a group dedicated to saving Terrance and Phillip from American parents and the US Military, who have decided to give T&P death by firing squad during a nice, wholesome USO show.
The violence of the final scenes was only made okay by the moral clarity of the ending. Trey and Matt knew exactly what they were doing here – all the themes were coming together, the musical numbers were reaching a crescendo, bloody battlefields as far as the eye can see, and the lesson, always delivered with that squishy sitcom coating, came together beautifully at the end to teach everyone a little something. Even Saddam got what he deserved.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was one of the very best in a year full of great movies, and the brilliant part was that, in a metafictional genuis-stroke, parents HATED this movie just as much as South Park’s parents hated Asses of Fire. The show was already a Problem in pop culture, and SP’s creators did a wonderful job arming their fans with arguments against illogical treatment of children and the perils of censorship on wider society.
Though you die, La Resistance lives on.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut made a dent in a culture that really needed one, and that dent just happened to be shaped like Les Miserables. Trey Parker and Matt Stone got edgelord millenial teenagers who cared about nothing to do something very interesting – love a musical. The movie became a fast cult classic and is still heralded as one of the best animated films of all time, 20 years out.
The movie was so shocking and such a call out of late 90’s culture, that it shook some things loose. This is the time when subversive went from An Aesthetic to A Commodity. Columbine had just happened, yet Britney was squirming all over our TV’s singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” The president was being impeached over a blow job at the same time ISIS was being formed. America was struggling with innocence slipping and WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN, and here comes Matt and Trey to point out how damn dumb it is to censor artists and legislate morality rather than actually parent. These guys aren’t just genius storytellers and songwriters, they’re fuckin’ patriots.via GIPHY