‘The Passion of the Christ’ Fuels Antisemitism — on ‘South Park’

By Max Gross

Published April 09, 2004, issue of April 09, 2004.
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The Mel Gibson Fan Club’s president recently fielded a call from an irate viewer of “The Passion of the Christ” who disliked the movie.

“Sir,” the indignant fan club president said, “apparently you don’t understand what Mel Gibson was trying to do. He was trying to express — through cinema — the horror and filthiness of the common Jew.”

The fan club president was 8-year-old Eric Cartman, the corpulent, deadpan and hopelessly antisemitic member of the quartet of children on the animated TV series “South Park.”

In perhaps the most biting critique of “The Passion” to date, the Comedy Central show mused on the effect the movie would have on its potty-mouthed protagonists in last week’s episode, “The Passion of the Jew.”

Kyle Broflovski, the show’s Jewish character, was tormented by nightmares about Jesus (and Alan Alda). Stan March and Kenny McCormick were so disgusted by “The Passion” that they set out to get a refund on their tickets from a demented, half-naked Gibson. Meanwhile, Cartman was so moved that he organized fan club meetings and started goose-stepping around in a brown uniform, combing his hair in a cowlick and peppering his speech with words like “Achtung” and “Juden.”

“I’m happy to see all of you were affected by ‘The Passion’ like I was,” Cartman said at a fan club meeting filled with South Park’s sunny Christian residents. “Now, we all know why we’re here, and I believe we all know what needs to be done… But I think it’s best we don’t talk out loud about it until we have most of them on the trains heading toward the camps.”

Although other members of the fan club did not explicitly share Cartman’s antisemitic sentiments, many of South Park’s Christians found their faith affirmed by the film. The town’s Jews, meanwhile, complained that “The Passion” promotes antisemitic stereotypes. “Stereotyping Jews is terrible,” one Jewish character lamented in a voice that would make Woody Allen squirm.

Kenneth Jacobson, associate national director for the Anti-Defamation League, which has long campaigned against “The Passion,” told the Forward that while he is not a “usual fan” of the show, the episode’s jabs at Jews “struck me as classic ‘South Park.’ Everyone is a target.”

“The basic message of the show is: Gibson’s movie is no way to teach Christianity,” Jacobson added, noting that the film is ripe for satire. “The violence is so over-the-top it becomes cartoonish.” According to Jacobson, many people at the ADL watched the episode and approved.

In the episode’s final showdown, the town’s Christians and Jews face off, but when one of the Christians urged everyone to seek inspiration from Jesus’ life rather than his death, Cartman begged the crowd to reconsider: “Oh come on, people. We’re so close to completing my final solution….”






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