Film #119: Team America: World Police (2004)

Team-America-World-Police-Movie-Still-13-960x610director: Trey Parker
language: English, and some fake “foreign” languages
length: 98 minutes
watched on: 28 May 2014

This movie came out in 2004, so I guess I must have last watched it then, when it came out in the cinema. I was probably 16. This time, I picked it up in a bargain bucket in an electronics store, interested to watch it again.

I definitely remember it being better than I found it this time. There are a variety of reasons, but I’m willing to bet that chief among them is that I was 16. The humour is the same as that of South Park, by the same creators: crass at best, and downright offensive at worst – exactly what appeals to teenage boys.

It’s also become extremely dated by even this point – it was topical at the time, referencing the Iraq war and September 11 attacks, and explicitly mocking the Bush era War on Terror. Perhaps the situation hasn’t changed all that much, but the talking points are different ten years later.

And as with the genre of parody and satire in general, take away that historical context and it looks like you’ve just made a very self-aggrandizing and openly racist production – after all, the Arabs in the story are mostly terrorists, and speak a shallow parody of Arabic with six words on repeat. I think it’s just how audacious the film is with the racism that keeps me giving it the benefit of the doubt that it’s on the “satirical” side of the thin line it’s straddling.

It could very well have done without the more homophobic parts, though (eg, cocksuckers used as an insult, the cock sucking scene itself, the Actor’s Guild named “F.A.G.”), or the two-minute-long vomiting scene. Those were just unnecessary.

That’s not to say it wasn’t without merit or funny parts, of course. Most of the parts I found the most funny were those where they made jokes out of the fact that the characters are all Thunderbirds-style puppets, such as the way they walk, the “giant panthers” that are actually house cats, the whole sex scene, or the scenes of the main character driving down a regular-sized road. The music’s also funny, I thought. And anything making fun of North Korea is fine in my book, to be honest.

But in the end, I thought a lot of the more offensive parts weren’t justifiable even with it being satirical. It just isn’t clear how much they’re really condemning the attitude of the Americans in the movie. Plus they use an expletive-strewn libertarian argument as the take home lesson at the end of the movie, and I wasn’t buying it. So it’s definitely still funny, but it’s quite offensive too, and as we lose touch with the historical context, it’s only going to get more offensive.


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