On 'South Park,' Even Jesus Supports Pussy Riot

... and opposes Belarusian tanks

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Screenshot, via RFE/RL

In their inimitably double-edged style, the creators of "South Park" have added Jesus Christ to the list of those urging Russian authorities to free the jailed members of punk performance collective Pussy Riot.  They also turned their lens on the hardships of "Belarusian farmers" at odds with a bloodthirsty government.

In an episode from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's fictional American town that takes aim at disgraced U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong, religion, and America's appetite for good causes, the Son of God flashes a T-shirt with "Free Pussy Riot" written across it before shouting the same to followers. It's the culmination of a scene in which a juiced-up Christ lays waste to a Dr. Seuss-inspired "Scauses" factory, to the delight of South Park's assembled residents. The Christ character then delivers a sermon on a South Park mount:

Thank you, my children, we've all been through a lot. We got caught up in scauses that didn't mean squat. They turned my message away from the meanings it hid, and made it about me and the things that I did -- which of course I didn't do .... So what have we learned from this great wristband theft? Maybe that when stripped of our scauses, only causes are left. And causes shouldn't be worn on our wrists with a sneer.

"Let's keep our causes where they belong, which is right here," the character preaches, gesturing piously over his heart before peeling back his robe and adding, "... on T-shirts. Free Pussy Riot!" Two Pussy Riot members are currently serving two-year sentences in penal colonies over a videotaped anti-Putin and anti-Patriarch protest in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral.

There has been considerable public criticism of the "hooliganism" verdict among Russian rights defenders, who say the sentences are unduly harsh, and critics of President Vladimir Putin. Even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has suggested that punishing the two young women further is not "constructive."

Pussy Riot was recently short-listed for the EU's prestigious Sakharov Prize for rights activism and free thought, and Western entertainers from Madonna, to Faith No More, to Franz Ferdinand and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have pleaded with Moscow to "free Pussy Riot."

The latest "South Park" episode, "A Scause for Applause," aired on October 31 and is available on the animated, profanity-soaked show's website. It doesn't stop at Russian autocratic excess, either. The episode's hero, Stan, is also mistakenly enlisted into standing up for beleaguered Belarusian farmers. "Whatever it takes, Butters," the fourth-grader tells a classmate. "People [now] are aware of the problems in Belarus -- maybe I did it all on purpose or maybe it was just a coincidence."

With South Parkers scrambling to adopt new causes de jour at a Sneetch-like pace, a newscaster deadpans: "It has become the biggest concern for most people: the farmers of Belarus and their plight against their government. And now one person is taking it upon himself to end the crisis. His name: Jesus." Cut to Christ being interviewed with a band of farmers, a line of tanks, and a distinctly Eastern European hamlet in the background. "These are very troubling times and these farmers are literally fighting for their lives," he says, adding that after talking to the government and farmers, "I think we have everything just about worked out." At that point the tanks open fire on the unarmed protesters then rumble over them and out of the frame, leaving a flummoxed Jesus.

To borrow a line from the most cynical of South Park's fourth-graders, Cartman: "Dark times, Bro, dark times."



This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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