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Thread: South Park's overconfident opinions on the disease theory of alcoholism

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    Default South Park's overconfident opinions on the disease theory of alcoholism

    If you are a South Park fan, then you have probably seen the episode "Bloody Mary" at some point.
    That episode is mostly known for being disrespectful towards the Virgin Mary, although personally I remember it more for something that's been annoying me for some time - Trey's and Matt's stubborn insistence that "alcoholism is not a disease!".
    My big problem with this opinion is that it makes Trey and Matt come off as self-proclaimed know-it-alls who believe they know these kinds of things better than actual doctors with lots of expertise.
    Yes, I know that South Park is supposed to be a satire show and that it's not supposed to be taken seriously most of the time, but a lot of people do seem to take this one episode very, very seriously, so that's what I'm gonna do as well.
    My question is - why should we listen more to the opinions of two creators of an animated satire show than to the opinions of actual professionals who work with medical conditions and diseases every day?
    I know a couple doctors in real life who have openly described alcoholism as a disease/disorder, and last time I checked it was even defined as a disease by World Health Organization.
    My understanding (based on what I have heard from real doctors, by the way) is that alcoholism can count as a disease (or disorder) because alcoholics don't notice or realise their own problems and feel such a huge craving for alcohol that they cannot think of anything else - I guess you could say that alcohol makes them "unconscious" of reality so that they only have alcohol on their minds, and in that case they wouldn't even get a chance to control themselves, kind of like we are unable to decide to get out of bed right when we have fallen into deep sleep.

    My point is that Trey and Matt are in no position to make such bold statements about alcoholism when they have no medical education themselves - this just makes them come off as conspiracy theorists ("the doctors are lying to us!" or some BS like that), and this would be no different from claiming that the moon landings were faked and accusing all scientists and geologists on Earth of "being in on the hoax".

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    Actual cannibal Pheesh's Avatar
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    The point of that episode as I remember was that Randy didn't have Alcoholism, and was acting as though his enjoyment of alcohol was the same as people who do have an addiction.

    Either way, I don't remember it too well cause I only watched it once as I didn't think it was a particularly funny episode. My advice to you is to remember that the point of South Park is to get reactions exactly like the one you just had out of people. They are certainly not above being contrarian or playing devil's advocate simply to get a rise out of people who take an issue too seriously. It's comedy, whether or not it gets a rise out of you is entirely in your control.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter1986 View Post
    My question is - why should we listen more to the opinions of two creators of an animated satire show than to the opinions of actual professionals who work with medical conditions and diseases every day?
    who is actually doing this, I'd like to know

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorty View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter1986 View Post
    My question is - why should we listen more to the opinions of two creators of an animated satire show than to the opinions of actual professionals who work with medical conditions and diseases every day?
    who is actually doing this, I'd like to know
    I'm not talking about anyone specific in my original post, but I have seen a bunch of people act like this on YouTube and similar sites;
    they keep saying that "yeah the disease theory is BS" etc.
    But no, if lots of doctors count it as a disease, then it IS a disease, period, at least until those doctors change their professional opinions or change the definition.

    Another mistake that Trey and Matt seem to make in that episode is that they believe that the "disease label" is supposed to imply that the patient is "powerless" and therefore might as well give up.
    That's not the point of a "label", the point is to clearly define a particular complicated physical or mental problem so that doctors can cooperate better and help that patient.
    I mean, do we stop trying to maximise our chances to recover from a flu just because a flu counts as a disease?
    No, we do the opposite - we figure out what kind of disease we have, and then try our best to help it recover, for example by avoiding unnecessary movement, taking certain medicines (if necessary) and eating as healthy as possible.
    And from my understanding, the "alcoholism label" has the exactly same purpose, so in my opinion it should more be thought of as something that helps someone to fight a disease instead of something that makes them powerless.
    "Ah okay, so that's my problem."

    Of course, this is assuming that the patient has become aware of his/her disease in the first place.
    Last edited by Peter1986; 05-29-2016 at 05:23 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorty View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter1986 View Post
    My question is - why should we listen more to the opinions of two creators of an animated satire show than to the opinions of actual professionals who work with medical conditions and diseases every day?
    who is actually doing this, I'd like to know
    To be fair, there are tons of people who parrot everything South Park says and treat the show's opinion like their own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pheesh View Post
    The point of that episode as I remember was that Randy didn't have Alcoholism, and was acting as though his enjoyment of alcohol was the same as people who do have an addiction.

    Either way, I don't remember it too well cause I only watched it once as I didn't think it was a particularly funny episode. My advice to you is to remember that the point of South Park is to get reactions exactly like the one you just had out of people. They are certainly not above being contrarian or playing devil's advocate simply to get a rise out of people who take an issue too seriously. It's comedy, whether or not it gets a rise out of you is entirely in your control.
    That's right. They've gone on record saying so. They've said the show takes positions that they sometimes don't necessarily agree w/, as long as it makes for a good show.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorty View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Peter1986 View Post
    My question is - why should we listen more to the opinions of two creators of an animated satire show than to the opinions of actual professionals who work with medical conditions and diseases every day?
    who is actually doing this, I'd like to know
    An enormous number of people act like South Park is the holy fount of all wisdom.

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    I like choice episodes of South Park, the ones that diss Scientology or Paris Hilton. I personally drew the line when they had Chef enter a paedophile ring and he dies in a horribly explicit way.
    I never watched an episode after that.....horror

    As for the issue youre discussing, I'd rather not comment cos i will just get ripped a new one again

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    Well... As a completely recovered alcoholic, I speak from a certain level of authority, at least how it applies to me. There is little difference between alcoholism and other addictions. I suppose alcoholism was the toughest one to beat, but still manageable. I did it myself, with my own unorthodox plan. Nobody believed I could, but I did. And there were times, I came close to failing. Today, nearly a decade later, I can have a few drinks and stop. I'm completely cured.

    Does that mean there's no psychological aspect to it? No. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others. I am one of those people. It's a challenge in life. Does that mean it's a disease? No. Not any more than bipolar, PTSD, or ADHD are diseases. Some claim they are. They aren't. They're simply names we have for sets of behaviours and emotional conditions, but they are demonstrably not diseases. Diseases come from pathogens, and there are no pathogens that cause most "mental illness" or any addictions.

    To treat mental conditions, including alcoholism, as a disease is damaging to the patient, and counterproductive. You might argue that the point is so people will treat those suffering with respect, but... As Mitch Hedberg famously put it, "It's the only disease you can get yelled at for having." Treating emotional conditions as diseases when it's convenient and as not diseases when it's not convenient... That's a serious problem in our society.

    TL;DR Version: It's more complicated than you're trying to make it.

    EDIT: I stopped watching South Park when Cartman killed a kid's parents. That episode was disturbing, and should have had the show cancelled.


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    Quote Originally Posted by The Ceej View Post
    EDIT: I stopped watching South Park when Cartman killed a kid's parents. That episode was disturbing, and should have had the show cancelled.
    Scott Tenorman must die is one of my all time favourite South Park episodes xD

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    I feel you (and apparently some Youtubers) missed the point of the episode. It's not about "alcoholism is not a disease", hell just two seasons ago the series brought up the fact that Randy is an alcoholic (though in denial) and the episode brings to life that his family does have genetic predisposition for addiction of varying kinds (Randy's father is a compulsive gambler, Randy is an alcoholic, and Stan has addiction to FTP games) so so they're not saying he doesn't have a problem. Hell, Randy's actual alcoholism didn't really become a thing until a few seasons after this episode.

    The real issue is that Randy is also a bonafide hypochondriac and telling him that his alcoholism is a disease made him worse (Stan pretty much says as much to the AA members) and the real issue of the story is that alcoholism is not something that can be treated on relying on a "higher power" to do so when even religious folks would agree that the individual themselves has to put some effort into reforming but Randy literally falls apart to the somewhat cult-ish practices of some AA groups who often use religion as a tool to coerce victims of alcoholism to seek the wrong kind of treatment as opposed to real medical help.

    I saw the episode more as a "take that" to people using religion as the only means of getting past real world problems and preying on people who may not actually have a problem but have other insecurities that make them believe they have the issue. You know, like how pharmaceutical companies will sometimes use vague symptoms in their drug commercials to convince gullible people to believe that have some rare disease that only their drug can help. Kind of like that.

    Regardless, South Park largely works on shock value, and while they do occasionally nail some good cultural commentary (largely by taking the piss out of it) it's still an entertainment show and not a series with focus on social enlightenment. It's all for laughs, and shouldn't be taken seriously.

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