With Apologies to Jesse Jackson
|"With Apologies to Jesse Jackson"|
|South Park episode|
|Episode no.||Season 11
|Directed by||Trey Parker|
|Written by||Trey Parker|
|Featured music||"Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed|
|Original air date||March 7, 2007|
"With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" is the eleventh season premiere of the American animated television series South Park, and the 154th overall episode of the series. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on March 7, 2007 and was rated TV-MA. In the episode, Randy uses the racial slur "niggers" on national television, leading to widespread public outrage. Stan attempts to understand the epithet's impact on his African-American friend Token. Meanwhile, a dwarf has a hard time trying to teach Cartman to be sensitive.
Parker and Stone had long wanted to create an episode exploring the racial slur, but struggled with a plot line beyond its opening scene. They subsequently found it easier to work on following comedian Michael Richards' controversy, in which he screamed the slur at a group of African Americans who criticized his comedy act. "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" parodies Richards in that Randy, following his use of the word, is forced to apologize to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
Despite the frequent usage of the racial slur, the episode attracted very little media attention. Parents Television Council founder L. Brent Bozell criticized the lack of protest against the episode. The group Abolish the "N" Word, which is linked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, praised the episode, calling it a good example of the word's impact on individuals. The episode received very positive reviews from contemporary television critics, who praised the episode's humor and storyline. According to Nielsen Media Research, the episode was seen by 2.8 million viewers the week it was broadcast. "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" was released on DVD along with the rest of the eleventh season on August 12, 2008.
Randy appears on Wheel of Fortune and is presented with a bonus round puzzle whose category is "People Who Annoy You". Randy is given the letters: R, T, S, L, and E. He adds the letters: B, N, G, and O leaving the puzzle to spell: N_GGERS. He is given 10 seconds to solve the puzzle, but he says, "I know it but I don't think I should say it." But when he is warned that he has 5 seconds to go he reluctantly answers "niggers" on live national television, shocking his family, friends and millions of viewers nationwide and angering African-Americans. Randy suddenly loses; the correct answer is "naggers", and the game show ends abruptly. The next day, Cartman warns a thoroughly humiliated Stan that Token will be mad at him, so Stan attempts to defend his father. Stan talks to Token and he tells him that his dad can sometimes be stupid, such as blurting out the "N" word, and Stan tells him that it is not a big deal. Token tells Stan he does not understand how black people feel about that word. Despite Cartman's attempts to escalate the incident into a "race war", Token refuses to fight. Cartman takes this sign of defeat as a victory and announces "Whites win again!"
Randy attempts to rectify his mistake by officially apologizing to Reverend Jesse Jackson. Jackson only accepts after Randy kisses his buttocks, of which a photo is published in several newspapers. Stan thinks everything is okay now, but Token angrily states that "Jesse Jackson is not the emperor of black people!" Stan replies, although Token has angrily stormed off, "He told my dad he was." Meanwhile, Randy goes to a comedy club where the black comedian recognizes and points Randy out while jokingly calling him "the nigger guy", which soon catches on as Randy's new epithet.
Randy continues trying to redeem himself by founding a scholarship for blacks. However, he is soon accosted by a gang of socially progressive rednecks, who hunt "the nigger guy". They criticize him for "slandering an entire race of people on Wheel of Fortune" and say "We don't take kindly to social ignorance." A group of other "nigger guys", including Michael Richards and Mark Fuhrman, scare the rednecks away and invite Randy to join their organization of people who have become pariahs for the use of the word nigger. They successfully lobby Congress to pass a law saying at least seven words must always separate the words nigger and guy.
Back at school, a dwarf by the name of Dr. David Nelson is called in to give a presentation on sensitivity. He insists "Words are like bullets. I let them pass through me." As soon as Cartman sees him, he begins to laugh, disrupting the assembly so Dr. Nelson cannot speak. At first, Dr. Nelson believes that Cartman will eventually tire himself out, but Cartman continues to laugh. Dr. Nelson decides to go against his standards and get revenge by making the other kids mock Cartman's weight problem; however, he is frustrated as Cartman continues to laugh uncontrollably at him. Cartman and Dr. Nelson wrestle while the song "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed plays. Cartman easily gains the upper hand and forces Dr. Nelson to submit by saying "uncle" and "Carol Anne, don't go into the light!" Cartman then gets up and starts to walk away, laughing and preparing to gloat about his victory. As Cartman turns his back on Dr. Nelson, however, Dr. Nelson surprises Cartman and kicks him to the ground. Dr. Nelson walks away, claiming victory and to have proven his point. Cartman remains unaffected and continues to point and laugh at Dr. Nelson uncontrollably, clearly ignoring Dr. Nelson's desire for sensitivity. Stan and Kyle say that they have no idea what Dr. Nelson's point was, but then Stan concludes that not knowing the point is the point. He explains to Token that, as a white person, he will never understand why Token is so upset by the word, and why it can make black people mad when a white person says it in any context. Token is finally satisfied that Stan gets that he does not get it, thus creating an understanding between them.
"With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" was the season premiere of South Park's eleventh season, and the first episode of the show's spring 2007 run, which consists of seven episodes. Parker and Stone had wanted to create an episode centered on the racial slur "nigger" for a considerable time. The first scene, in which Randy uses the word on Wheel of Fortune, was the first idea for the episode and remained the only idea for a while; Parker called the scene "one of my favorite things we’ve ever done".
Shortly afterward, comedian Michael Richards encountered massive controversy due to a performance at the Laugh Factory in November 2006, in which he screamed "nigger" repeatedly at a group of African-Americans who heckled him. Parker and Stone decided it would be best, considering the media coverage of the incident, to work on the episode then. In the episode's DVD commentary, they noted that it was clear from the video of Richards that he had significant problems, but that they really felt contempt for him when he apologized to civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. Staff writer Vernon Chatman, who is black, was particularly outraged by this, noting that Jackson "is not the ambassador of black people”, which influenced a line in the episode where Token says that Jackson is not the emperor of black people. Stan responds by saying "He told my dad he was". Stone particularly enjoyed the ending of the episode, remarking, "If there was a word as hateful as the n-word [in how it] applies to black people, if there was a word like that against white people, [they] would make it illegal."
They created the idea of using the epithet to apply to whites only, which was when the rest of the episode began to germinate. While they felt the Randy A story was excellent, they wanted to have a B story involving the boys. They came up with the idea of Stan and Token arguing about his father's use of the word, which remained the only subplot idea. They continued to struggle with the subplot until roughly three days prior to air, when they created the idea of Cartman encountering a little person. They based the little person on an obscure old commercial featuring little people walking around in suits.
This episode received coverage by the CNN programs Showbiz Tonight and Paula Zahn Now in the days following the broadcast of this episode. Kovon and Jill Flowers, who co-founded the organization Abolish the "N" Word, which is linked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, praised this episode, saying it was a good example of how it felt to be called nigger.
This show, in its own comedic way, is helping people to educate the power of this word, and how it can feel to have hate language directed at you.— Kovon and Jill Flowers
Parents Television Council founder L. Brent Bozell claimed that there was a lack of protest against this episode compared to radio host Don Imus's comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, even challenging Flowers' comments that the episode's use of nigger was not intended to be racist, but in fact the theme of the episode was to argue against those who support civility. The PTC named this episode, along with the episode of The Sarah Silverman Program that aired right after this episode, the "Worst Cable Content of the Week" in its campaign for cable choice.
The episode received about 2.8 million viewers.
Travis Fickett of IGN gave the episode a 10/10, commenting, "There's really no other way to explain how this show remains not only brilliantly funny, but more relevant and insightful than anything else on television." In 2009, Sean O'Neal of The A.V. Club praised the episode, remarking, "I’ve always said that I believe South Park is some of the best satire on TV when it’s firing on all cylinders, and to that end I’ve seen it do ironic racism in a way that’s borderline revolutionary [in this episode]."
- Stone, Matt (August 2008). South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season: "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" (Audio commentary) (DVD). Paramount Home Entertainment.
- Parker, Trey (August 2008). South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season: "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" (Audio commentary) (DVD). Paramount Home Entertainment.
- Transcript of "Paula Zahn Now" from March 8, 2007. CNN. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
- L. Brent Bozell. "The Incomplete Anti-Imus Lobby". Parents Television Council. April 12, 2007. Retrieved April 13, 2007.
- White, Keith (March 15, 2007). "Worst Cable Content of the Week – South Park and the Sarah Silverman Program on Comedy Central". Parents Television Council. Archived from the original on March 15, 2007. Retrieved July 3, 2007.
- Lisa de Moraes (March 14, 2007). "The Show That Keeps Them Hanging On". The TV Column. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
- Travis Fickett (March 8, 2007). "South Park: "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson" Review". IGN. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
- Sean O'Neal (November 18, 2009). "South Park: "Pee" Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 8, 2014.