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 is on Wheel of Fortune, and has made it to the Bonus round. The episode is airing live, with his family watching him from the audience and the South Park residents watching from home. He has to solve a puzzle in the category, people who annoy you. He is given the letters R, T, S, L, and E. He then adds the letters B, N, G, O. Host Pat Sajak tells Randy that he's going to get a lot of help because after Randy's letters are added to the puzzle, the puzzle spells: N_GGERS. Randy, hesitant to say the answer, is given 10 seconds to solve the puzzle. He is not sure if it is appropriate by saying, "I know it but I don't think I should say it." But when Pat Sajak tells Randy that he has 5 seconds left, he yells out, "niggers!," on national television, which shocks fans, his family, and friends and angers African-Americans. He gets the puzzle wrong though, the correct answer being "naggers."
Stan goes to school the next day, knowing his father had just said Niggers over live television. Cartman brings his attention to Token, and that he is going to want to beat the crap out of Stan. He goes to Token to try and explain, saying his father isn't racist but is just stupid. Cartman, seeing an opportunity to cause conflict, tries to get the two into a "Race War". Token, instead of fighting, walks away. Cartman sees this as a forfeit, and also runs away screaming "Whites Win!"
Randy, seeking forgiveness, goes to Jesse Jackson to apologize. Jackson bends over his desk and tells Randy to apologize by kissing his butt. Randy does so, and a picture is taken which is put into the news. Stan seeks out Token, expecting everything to be better now since his dad apologized, yet Token is still mad, saying, "Jesse Jackson is not the emperor of black people!" To which Stan replies, "He told my dad he was..."
The school, in light of the recent events, hires Dr. David Nelson to talk to the students about sensitivity. He is a little person, and when Dr. Nelson walks on stage, Cartman laughs hysterically, giving Dr. Nelson no chance to talk. Randy goes to a comedy club, but is singled out by the comedian, calling him the 'Nigger-Guy.' Everyone starts to call him 'Nigger-Guy', which makes him feel like an outcast. Dr. Nelson talks to Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey about Cartman, and asks them to have him meet with him. When Cartman comes in though, all he can do is laugh and make fun of him. Dr. Nelson keeps on saying that Eric's words don't hurt him, but as Cartman keeps on laughing Dr. Nelson loses his temper and yells at him saying, "Shut your fucking mouth!" Stan once again confronts Token, but this time to say he understands how Token feels about the word Nigger after how he saw Cartman laugh at Dr. Nelson. Token is still mad at him though, not really thinking he understands. After this, Dr. Nelson calls all of the students to the Gymnasium to teach Cartman a lesson. He wants them all to yell, "Hello Fatso!" when he walks in so he understands how it feels. They do this, and Eric responds angrily, but when Dr. Nelson comes out to scold him again, he breaks up in laughter again.
In further attempts to clear his name and make people stop calling him 'Nigger-Guy', Randy opens up the Randy Marsh African American Scholarship Foundation. When walking away from the grand opening, he is chased by Rednecks carrying shotguns, who are mad at him for slandering an entire race of people. He is saved though by other 'Nigger-Guys' led by Michael Richards from Seinfeld. The rednecks run off, and the 'Nigger-Guys' accept him into their ranks. Stan gets fed up with Token, and demands to know why he is still angry. The two are interrupted though by Butters who tells them Cartman is going to fight Dr. Nelson, and the three run off to go see.
Dr. Nelson, a black belt in karate, has also had enough, and plans to beat the crap out of Cartman to prove his point, which is words shouldn't hurt you. The two start to fight, and Cartman easily gets the upper hand. In Washington D.C., at the White House, the 'Nigger-Guys' are pleading their case to the senate to ban the word 'Nigger-Guy'. The notion is passed by the senate who don't want to be considered 'Nigger-Guys'. As a result, anyone saying the word Nigger and Guy seven words close to each other would be prosecuted and fined. Dr. Nelson gives up after being pinned by Cartman, and takes a cheap shot at Cartman, who is unfazed and continues to laugh. He storms off, saying he 'proved' his point, which all the students have forgotten. It is then that Stan understands that he doesn't get it. He tells Token that he will never understand how it feels to have the word Nigger against him because he isn't black, which was what Token was looking to hear all along.
"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.