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March 22, 2006


South Park "Trapped in the Closet" Photo Gallery Notes
South Park and Scientology are two great tastes that taste great together. It's a bit like the classic battles between Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell, but better on both ends. Parker and Stone are FAR sharper tools than the old pornographer- and the Scientologists far more venal and despicable than a simple country preacher like Falwell.

I wrote a review of the "Trapped in the Closet" episode when it first ran in November 2005. Of course interest has been ratcheted way up in the last few days way past when the episode first aired with out any pre-release hype. Isaac Hayes' departure due to his employers' religious "intolerance and bigotry" have made it a hot item. The cancellation of the rerun of the show last week under supposed pressure from Tom Cruise and their mocking response hailing Xenu ratchets it up another notch. Now they've returned fire, addressing the situation in tonight's season premiere with "The Return of Chef," with his lines extracted from previous shows as the Super Adventure Club turns him into a child molesting Chef Vader.

So then, I've been obsessing over this beautiful and perfectly silly November satire of the Scientologists. Naturally, I've whooped up a big honkin' 150 image photo gallery of "Trapped in the Closet" images. Doing video captures and editing for these galleries always brings out new things.

Probably the funniest new thing that jumped out from looking at it as still images was the quick ending of the closet storyline. Tom Cruise and John Travolta emerge from Stan's doorway with R Kelly sandwiched in between them. Travolta and Cruise are smiling and waving, but check out the images of R Kelly in this few seconds, with his arm protectively crossed, shifting his eyes anxiously from side to side, and looking down in shame. I wonder exactly how they imagined that playing out? I bet that'll learn R Kelly to stay out of closets.
Tom Cruise, R Kelly and John Travolta on South Park

But really, I don't much care who which celebrity is rubbing wee-wees with. It's fun to torment Tom Cruise though, on general principles. In the first place, he's got some ridicule coming just for being duped to be involved with this nonsense. The show is presenting it that he's actually in the closet because the supposed reincarnation of L Ron Hubbard isn't impressed enough with his acting.

But watching it closely, Stan does NOT "hate" Tom Cruise's acting, as it's sometimes been said in stories about the episode. It's the best attack on his ridiculous celebrity insecurities that the lukewarm response "You're not, like, as good as Leonardo D'Caprio, but you're okay" was all it took to crush his little ego so completely. It would be someone with that much ridiculous insecurity that would be drawn into foolishness like Scientology.
Tom Cruise on South Park image

Rolling backwards and forwards through this episode, it dawned on me to actually hunt down the R Kelly song "Trapped in the Closet." I haven't yet figured out just how many parts of this damned thing there are, but holy jumpin' Jebus, this thing is cheesy. I got the 20+ minute video of the first part of the story.

What's really funniest now about the R Kelly stuff is how little they embellished this for the South Park show. In fact, the high drama of the actual R Kelly video - and just the first part of it is about the length of this entire episode - is FAR more ridiculous than what Parker and Stone are doing. He's hiding in some woman's closet because her husband has shown up unexpectedly. Then the husband responds by bringing in his boyfriend. After that, it starts to get cheesy.

R Kelly threatens to cap a bitch in South Park
In fact, this South Park image is actually less ridiculous than the R Kelly video. About the time the gay boyfriend is getting all up in the mix, the real R Kelly is whipping out his gun, saying, "Man, it's getting scary, I'm gonna shoot somebody." Note that in his video, he's the only one wielding a weapon, so he's presenting it that he's scared enough of the husband and his gay boyfriend to be thinking about shooting someone. The South Park version of R Kelly seems distinctly less absurd than his real video (let alone his actual life)- which realization makes both South Park and R Kelly seem funnier.

So I've gotten a lot of mileage while I'm working on this stuff listening to the R Kelly video and the trimmed down ten minute audio installment of "Trapped in the Closet" again and again. For contrast, try mixing it back and forth with the similarly themed Elvis Costello recording of the Dave Bartholomew song "That's How You Got Killed Before."

I swear this gets funnier the more times you watch or listen to it. A lot of this comes from bouncing R Kelly off the South Park. Imagine how much fun it would be just watching MTV with Parker and Stone. It'd be like Beavis and Butthead elevated into an Algonquin roundtable.

However, the real core of the South Park episode wasn't silly gay jokes, but the transgressive exposition of the top secret Scientologist story about the evil Lord Xenu. Looking at still images of this less than two minute sequence, you can see that they took a little extra effort. It's executed broadly in their basic purposefully crude style, but it looks like some measure of extra care was taken in these depictions. They're still crude, but rather more detailed than typical South Park. This segment would make a good stand-alone briefing on the group.

Lord Xenu image
Looking at it as images, it's really mostly purposely not funny. There is the general presentation, they make evil Lord Xenu look like the cheesiest Saturday morning cartoon villain. Mwa-ha-ha!

But the actual text, the Scientology leader's narration, appears to be a scrupulous exposition. Transcribing it for captions, the whole section came up about 237 words total. Here is the Cliff Notes version of the story of Xenu, per Parker and Stone:
Usually, to hear the secret doctrine, you have to be in the church for several years, Stan. Are you ready to hear the truth?

I guess.

You see, Stan. There's a reason for people feeling sad and depressed- an alien reason.

It all began 75 million years ago. Back then, there was a galactic federation of planets which was ruled over by the evil Lord Xenu.

Xenu thought his galaxy was overpopulated and so he rounded up countless aliens from all different planets, and then had those aliens frozen.
frozen space aliens from the Xenu story on South Park

The frozen alien bodies were loaded onto Xenu's galactic cruisers, which looked like DC8s except with rocket engines. The cruisers then took the frozen alien bodies to our planet, Earth, and dumped them into the volcanoes of Hawaii.

The aliens were no longer frozen- they were dead. The souls of those aliens, however, lived on, and all floated up towards the sky.

But the evil Lord Xenu had prepared for this. Xenu didn't WANT their souls to return, so he built giant soul catchers in the sky.
Lord Xenu's alien soul catchers

The souls were taken to a huge soul brainwashing facility which Xenu had also built on Earth. There the souls were forced to watch days of brainwashing material, which tricked them into believing a false reality.

unfrozen alien ghosts invading human bodies in the Scientology story
Xenu then released the alien souls, which roamed the Earth aimlessly in a fog of confusion. At the dawn of man, the souls finally found bodies which they could grab onto. They attached themselves to all mankind, which still to this day causes all our fears, our confusions, and our problems.

I have laughed all the way through that segment repeatedly, but breaking it down in fact Parker and Stone did not ham that up. They presented the text and the images basically straight. Really, the only laugh line they needed was the flashing words on the screen during much of the segment declaring that "This is what Scientologists actually believe."

volcanoes of Hawaii
Now, I've noticed one little discrepancy. The South Park version of the story has Xenu dropping frozen souls INTO the hot Hawaiian volcano, whereas another version of the story on Wikipedia would have it that he dropped the souls AROUND the volcanoes, and then used nuclear weapons on them.

Someone's got something wrong, or perhaps L Ron Hubbard had different details between the original writing vs the screenplay treatment Wikipedia is quoting. The obvious solution there would be for the church to publicly release all of Hubbard's Xenu writings so we can get the story straight, but that doesn't seem likely to be happening anytime soon.

Ah well, then. Let's leave it with Stan's widely quoted final words.
Stan Marsh in South Park



posted by Al at 3/22/2006 11:05:00 PM

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