Puppets, Slaves, and Sex Changes
Mr. Garrison and South Park’s
Performative Sexuality

by Ted gournelos (Maryville University)

Disconnected neither from close textual analysis nor socially engaged theory, this
article shows how what can be called “responsive” levels of political discourse are
mobilized to react and propose alternatives to dominant ideology. Through an analysis
of a character’s changing sexuality in the television show South Park, it demonstrates
how cultural texts can act discursively within the wider framework of contemporary
politics. Over the course of eleven seasons, Mr. garrison has functioned specifically to
address and attack rhetoric surrounding queer identity, (hyper)masculinity, femininity,
and heteronormative sexual identity. engaging with contemporary queer theory, the
essay attempts to formulate an understanding of identity based not in “difference,”
“tolerance,” or “resistance” but as an assemblage of discourses and representations that
are both reactions to and attempted critiques of dominant (binary) positions on sexual-
ity that point us toward new, socially responsive locations and locutions within which
one can conceive and interact with cultural politics. (download)