Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants: An Analysis

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Melodramas and television shows have long been a cornerstone of popular culture, offering emotional and viewing pleasure to a wide variety of audiences. Elisabeth Anker, a noted political scientist, takes this one step further, arguing that this mode of media serves more than the simple purpose of trivial entertainment. Instead, she believes that melodrama indoctrinates the audience with a positive view of the state and its policies. In her Orgies of Feeling she asserts that in American media the government is often portrayed as a moral and robust hero, which in turn results in the legitimation of the state and its actions. While Anker’s argument retains credibility when applied to melodramatic stories, it is hardly able to stand when applied to animated sitcoms and other humorous shows. In fact, shows such as American Dad, Family Guy and South Park that utilize similar melodramatic devices, such as heightened emotions and the moral dichotomy of good and evil, portray government as a damaging rather than a heroic force. In one such South Park episode, “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants,” examination of the complex interaction between the four protagonists and the government in the aftermath of 9/11 displays how melodramatic effects are used to…show more content…
Anker establishes her claim on the premise that melodramatic political discourse relies on five fundamental conventions as the means for culminating state legitimacy. The first convention, “a moral economy of good and evil,” presents the U.S. nation-state as the “good,” and the source of national injury as the “evil” (Anker, 32). The simplistic and blunt designation encourages the audience to establish an affirmative view of the state. This view is further complicated and intensified by characterizing the source of national injury as the
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