The newest South Park episode finds us on Marcus’s birthday (a new friend to South Park other than a few bit parts, I believe) and Chuck E. Cheese is there to entertain the kids. Unfortunately, he’s on drugs, and he overdoses in front of the everybody in typical South Park fashion: traumatizing the kids and then getting carted away in the most inhumane way possible. Poor Chuck.
This week’s issue: The opioid epidemic
Chuck E. Cheese is apparently not the only entertainer to lose his life at a child’s birthday party. Beloved children’s characters have been overdosing from opioid usage all over South Park, and someone needs to get to the bottom of it.
“Whenever there’s a drug overdose you can usually trace it back to people who have been thrown away by society and forgotten about.”
Meanwhile Stan has been visiting his Grandfather Marvin in the nursing home (The Marsh’s “can’t afford” to keep him around of course) and bring him hummels. Hummels are, apparently, collectible little Germanic figurines adored by senior citizens. I learned something today. In order to protect his grandfather in the nursing home, Stan unwittingly trades crochet knittings filled with opioids to citizens (like poor Chuck E. Cheese) in exchange for these figurines.
Marvin Marsh is being intimidated by Ms. Mcgillicuddy, the “head bitch” with her old lady farts. She’ll have anyone sent to solitary if they don’t keep up her Hummels racket. Did I say solitary? I meant “solitaire.” I know it’s just a stupid pun, but I also couldn’t imagine a worse hell than that because I never learned how to play it the game. I don’t like doing things I’m not good at. I have very low self esteem…
Marcus takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of these deaths, because each one of them is a distinct memory of his childhood and that’s probably causing some serious psychological damage. I can’t tell if the Marcus character is just another instance of Parker & Stone amusing themselves, or if my fears of missing out on another reference are resurfacing. But the voice they do sounds a lot like Josh Gad and the melodramatic cadences of his character are amusing enough. Some lines had me giggling like an idiot, but overall his shtick does grow a bit tiresome.
Stan’s world gets turned upside-down when he sees a picture of recently deceased Swiper the Fox , whom he had just recently delivered a lovely crochet to in exchange for more Hummels. Stan now realizes that he’s definitely been involuntarily drug-muling for senior citizens and child entertainers. We’ve all been there. Even when the desensitized medical professionals perform the autopsy, they can’t seem to make any connection between the Hummels and heroin, but Marcus is still sniffing around the case.
“Hummels? In his rectal cavities? And you do not find this out of the ordinary?”
They Got Me Locked up in Here…
In this week’s ridiculously offensive musical number, Sam now starts to see the nursing home for what it really is: a dangerous breeding ground for intimidation, drug usage, and gang violence. How better to illustrate the point than with a brazen Hip Hop song?
Nana can’t handle dees old people activities
Two-a-group on the bus, Children come to sing to us
3pm conasta, they put me out ta’ pasture
Death row stops this, I think they call it hospice.
Okay the juxtaposition of a retirement community-themed gangster rap is actually pretty funny in context of the episode. The South Park creators have never felt the need to treat any group, no matter how vulnerable or disenfranchised, with kid gloves. But I don’t think they are thinking much more here than “wouldn’t it be funny if…”, and that’s kind of a bummer because the subject matter of opioid usage, as well as mistreatment of the elderly could actually have made for a very powerful episode if they had something worthwhile to say about it.
Instead, Stan needs to find a way to help his grandfather get out of the clutches of a farting old lady and her opioid scheme. Whether he likes it or not, he’s wrapped up in it too. He won’t get any help from his family, Randy doesn’t want anything to do with the old folks home because, well, it bums him out, and Stan’s fickle friends would rather play video games than get involved with heroin schemes.
Stan: Guys I need your help.
Cartman: If it has to do with your heroin operation, count us out.
Eventually, Cartman and the rest of the gang come to Stan’s aid when they realize that they can get attention from old people by singing. That’s pretty much the only reason they decide to help, actually. The plot needed them. We do get to see South Park do dorky barbershop quartet covers of some 90’s favorites though. They form a Barbershop Quartet and perform “oldies but goodies” that include hits from Cypress Hill, Nirvana, Spin Doctors, Green Day, and that obnoxiously catchy Milkshake one-hit wonder that I probably just inceptioned you into humming in your head. It’s okay; I can’t get it out of mine either.
This episode won’t be hailed as a marketable crowning achievement of any sort, but if they ever made full tracks out of those covers, I’d probably be suckered into downloading one or two for a laugh. I’m that kid.
Serial Episodes in South Park
South Park’s brand of crass vulgarity, overtly offensive caricatures, and immature morality only serve a purpose when it amounts to a greater, more poignant narrative, or explores important issues with their characters. That’s why I hold them to a high standard, because they’ve shown time and again that they can blow us away with moral lessons masked as humor. This episode however, found itself totally reliant on gag jokes which, although amusing, became tiresome without a truly compelling narrative. I could have seen them maybe doing an insider rip on the new Netflix documentary, which actually would have continued a much needed conversation about a serious crisis in this country…but then, is that putting too much responsibility on two dudes that have made their fame with weirdly profound poop humor? I don’t know, but in parts this episode felt like a bar joke that went on too long.
It’s a shame they found themselves on the more absurd and immature side of South Park, because the country’s opioid epidemic is one seriously dark issue that is affecting millions and millions of Americans everyday. Perhaps it is too close to the belt for even them? But then, perhaps I’m just making excuses for these unabashed iconoclasts because they shied away from really saying anything meaningful this episode. The climax involves beating old women with a bag of dolls while the boys, clad in barbershop quartet costumes, look on helplessly. It’s farcical, and hearing Cartman drop some funny comments as a B character keeps the episode from losing all its energy, but it seemed like they spent most of their time writing goofy lines for their faux hip-hop track than worrying about a compelling story structure. I give them this one as a pass, but we need to see something else next week.
The only true character arcs in this episode were from Grandpa Marsh and the farting Ms. Gillicutty, really, so on its own merit, this episode was worth a few immature belly laughs (we need low-brow humor in order to find the bottom, folks!) and not much more. Though it was nice to see Grandpa Marvin get vindication for his fellow seniors and free them from the smelly clutches of Mcgillicuddy.
“Now you know how we do sh*t in the nursing home!”
I’ll be looking forward to the conclusion of this satirical setup about the opioid epidemic, and hop ethey can really stick it to the Big Pharma Industry next episode. I hope they come out swinging too, otherwise it will be a waste of some pretty decent metaphors on a very important national issue.