Last week’s episode of South Park, entitled “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”, while outrageous and hysterical as usual, got me thinking about metaphors and finding deeper meaning in books.
The boys were assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye in class and were told beforehand that it had offensive material that had gotten it banned from schools across the country. Naturally that piques their interest and they race through the pages, waiting for the alleged offensive parts (aka the good stuff) which never come. Incensed that they’d been tricked into reading an entire book and baffled as to why it was considered offensive, they decide to write their own book. One that would be so outrageously offensive that it would be banned in a heartbeat.
So they set out to write The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs - the most disgusting, revolting, twisted, and generally effed up piece of writing ever created. Their parents get their hands on the manuscript and despite only being able to get through a few words at a time before projectile vomiting, they think it’s brilliant and the book is quickly published and sells millions of copies.
The best part was how everyone interpreted the book and sought some deep meaning out of all the gratuitous vulgarity and obscenities. It’s pro-life! No, it’s clearly pro-choice! It draws attention to the plight of the lower class (represented by Sarah Jessica Parker)! Meanwhile, the boys are shocked and appalled that not only was their trashy book not banned like they’d intended, it’s being lauded as a masterpiece and the work of a genius (and since they were quick to blame Butters for writing the book to avoid getting into trouble, they’re getting none of the credit). They go on a campaign against the book, trying – and failing miserably – to make people realize that there is no deep meaning behind the disgusting words.
People will see what they want to see I guess.
The episode was hilarious and it made me think about my reading habits. I realized that I don’t tend to look for hidden themes or messages when I read. Unless the entire book is a glaringly obvious metaphor, like Animal Farm, I generally don’t think about what certain characters represent or whether different events address any political ideologies or global themes like war and poverty. I tend to call a spade a spade. When I read it’s more about connecting to the characters and their stories emotionally.
Am I missing out by overlooking big-picture themes and sweeping metaphors? Maybe. But I’m also willing to bet that nine times out of ten the messages and themes a reader picks up were totally unintended by the author.
What kind of reader are you? Do you look for deeper meaning in the pages?
Did you catch the episode of South Park? If not, watch it here (warning: uncensored)!