'Kung Fu Panda', 'South Park', and Cynicism

I ran across this mini-interview with Slavoj Žižek (from 2008) where he gives his opinion of a couple of movies and a video game:

“If you ask me for really dangerous ideological films, for ideology at its purest, I’d say Kung Fu Panda. I saw it five times because my son likes it. The movie is extremely cynical in that you know they make fun of all this ideology, of Buddhism and these things, but the message is even though we know it is not true and we make fun, you have to believe in it. It’s this split of you know it’s not true but just make like you believe in it.”

— Slavoj Žižek

I agree with Zizek that an acceptance of beliefs because they’re beliefs is a frustrating attitude. It’s one thing I dislike about so many South Park episodes. For example, throughout the episode titled “All About Mormons?” the show mocks the dubious history of the Book of Mormon. But then at the very end of the episode, Gary, one of the Mormon boys, delivers a monologue in which it is suggested, essentially, that because Mormonism is a religion its members should make like they believe in it:

“Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life, and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it.”

That attitude, however, is not Cynical. While I see many congruences between the Cynic school of philosophy and the colloquial term cynic, in this case, in Zizek’s use of the term, they are opposites. The Cynics mock ideologies which derive their authority simply from being ideologies, even if those ideologies are the very foundation of the society they are living in.

Of course with South Park I’m never really sure if it’s just being cynical or is actually being Cynical.

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