Aficionados of the Guitar Hero series of video games (the third installment of which was released at the end of October) were squarely in the sights of equal-opportunity offenders Matt Stone and Trey Parker in this past week's new episode of South Park. In the show, the game serves as Stan's gateway into the heart of rock 'n roll darkness: sleazy record execs, heroin addictions, and shattered friendships. Ultimately, the game also becomes Stan's salvation but not before Stone and Parker land their finishing blow on wannabe rock stars who think their road to fame travels through a video game.
The usual South Park conceit is funny enough--i.e. addressing a patently ridiculous idea (like landing a record deal with a high score) with the utmost seriousness. But in the eyes of Guitar Hero fans like myself, the episode is also downright existential. How dare they ruin our fresh-out-of-the-box enthusiasm with intense philosophical quandaries? We're already a self-aware bunch. We realize that the incessant click-clacking of buttons sounds like an Under Armour commercial turned up to 75 rpm and that it's impossible to look cool while strapped in to that miniaturized show pony of a guitar controller.
Nope, Matt and Trey have made us feel far worse by pointing out that my quest to score over 300,000 points miming "Surrender" on a plastic guitar facsimile is a hollow enterprise, yet another accomplishment devoid of any cultural value or personal growth (except maybe carpal tunnel). It's incredibly crushing to realize that in the time I spent trying to master a five-button version of "Holiday in Cambodia," I probably could have learned the song on a real guitar.
The only real consolation is the fact that I am but a minor grifter in a sea of charlatans, as much of a part of the image-driven music industry as a guy who could actually play the bridge to "Message in a Bottle." Stone and Parker's eloquently-titled salvo "Guitar Queer-o" aside, I think I'll continue to enjoy being a fake musician. Hey, it seems to work for Daughtry.