If not the funniest film of modern cinema, then certainly the most provocative, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police is a razor-sharp satire packaged as a frivolous action-comedy crafted from physical sets and stringed puppets. Taking apart each aspect of modern filmmaking and contemporary politics, America is as much the joke as the terrorist stereotypes and acting icons that the film depicts. Whilst it may certainly cast an interesting light on popular culture, it is also undeniably silly, accentuating violence and even the act of being sick, all for the sake of physical comedy.
This includes the parody of several Hollywood stars including, George Clooney, Ethan Hawke, Matt Damon, Samuel L. Jackson and Sean Penn, with the latter being the actor depicted to voice his resentment. Portrayed in the film as an arrogant individual, Sean Penn’s puppet speaks of the “flowering meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles,” before the arrival of ‘Team America’ ruined it all.
His depiction annoyed Sean Penn so much that he even penned a letter to Team America and South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker that ended with an explicit “f*ck you”. Parker and Stone talked about the letter in discussion with ABC News, with the interviewer asking: “What happens when people get pissed off at you?” before Parker responds stating, “The only one that really did was Sean Penn who took the time to write a letter after Team America, he was that pissed off”.
Discussing the letter, Matt Stone commented, “We got the letter about an hour before it went public, and we went ‘hey we got this letter from Sean Penn’, I remember I called Trey and I was reading it to him and was like ‘this isn’t real, is this real?'”. Clearly rattled by his depiction in the satirical comedy, the interviewer asks, “What was he particularly angered about?”.
“The only way he could have been that pissed off is just cause he was in the movie and we made fun of him,” Parker stated, adding, “What was so crazy was that in the movie the big thing we were making fun of him for was like ‘I’ve been to Iraq, you don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve been there’. And he writes in the letter ‘I’ve been to Iraq'”.
The letter details Sean Penn’s dismay, remarking, “I never mind being of service, in satire and silliness,” before stating, “I do mind when anybody who doesn’t have a child, doesn’t have a child at war, or isn’t or won’t be in harm’s way themselves, is encouraging that there’s “no shame in not voting”.
Continuing, Penn comments, “You guys are talented young guys but alas, primarily young guys. It’s all well to joke about me or whomever you choose. Not so well, to encourage irresponsibility”.
To sign it all off, he writes: “All best, and a sincere f*ck you”. Judging by the interview with Stone and Parker, his comments don’t seem to have affected the duo.