In a time when NASCAR is diligently fighting against the image of stock car racing as a “redneck” sport, the airing of South Park episode “Poor and Stupid” may set it back. The episode portrays a young boy (Eric Cartman) as wanting to race in NASCAR but he feels that he is not poor or stupid enough to compete. South Park has been making parodies for many years about popular events, sports, and people, but at a time when NASCAR is struggling to keep viewership and fan levels high, is this parody going to have a negative effect on the sport?
In the episode Cartman and his pit boss, Butters, portray themselves as stereotypical “rednecks”, using racist language, anti-gay phrases, and anti-Obama remarks. This is the image that NASCAR has been trying to escape as it continues to push for diversity in the sport. I believe that most people who have an understanding of NASCAR as a sport will not be fooled by the negative persona South Park gives to the fans and drivers, but others may not view the episode as being too far removed from the truth. This could create a problem for NASCAR as it reachs out to different venues for new fans who already perceive the sport in a stereotypical way.
Beyond what is being said in the episode, the actual images of the fans are also stereotypical; the infield is littered with confederate flags and a fan wears a shirt that says, “Big Doggy.”
A few drivers have commented on the episode, and do not feel that it will have a negative impact on the sport. In fact, there is a consensus that any publicity is good publicity for NASCAR. Let’s hope that these drivers are right and the episode will not further hinder NASCAR viewership, because as we all know the sport is far from “Poor and Stupid” as the second most watched sport in America. TQ