Thursday, April 18, 2024

South Park Goes Nuclear in Penultimate Episode of Season 21

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Review of South Park Season 21 Episode 9

South Park is back after a Holiday hiatus, and they’ve decided to jump right into action with the penultimate ninth episode of Season 21 entitled: “Super Hard PCness.” Let’s do the same, shall we?

 Meta South Park

We open up with Netflix greenlighting yet another television program. Apparently the Coon & Friends expanded universe hasn’t hit full stride for them yet, so they’ve decided to give everyone’s favorite farting Canadians their own series. (Dammit, and I’m still waiting to hear back from them! What a cruel world this is?)   

Terrance and Phillip have, it seems, aged horribly over their long hiatus, but they still want to stick to their brand of crass, vulgar humor even if it kills them. This is some obvious Meta humor for the showrunners, who have made gag after gag concerning their fears of being run out of Hollywood for not keeping up with the times and refusing to “clean up their act.” Ironically, it’s Hollywood and not South Park that is in the midst of a cultural backlash and media frenzy. It turns out that making a cartoon depicting how selfish, absurd, and terrible people are is way better than preaching moral purity while simultaneously treating people as hyper-sexual objects and enabling repugnant perverts to control the culture. But let’s stay on topic.

Terrance and Phillip are back, and the whole school is jazzed about it. It’s like when they released T&P: Asses of Fire in theaters and the kids snuck into the movie (‘member?). Except this time, Terrance and Phillip are streaming on a whole new binge-able format, and a different Broflovksi is up in arms about it.

“Last Year we approved 16 original shows and movies. This year it is our goal to make that number 1087.”

Cartman and Heidi continue to be just the worst couple in the entire world, fighting over every little thing in a tornado of selfishness and obesity. Though their relationship is still infinitely more interesting than Jon Snow and Daenerys. Shots fired.

Cartman wants to watch Terrance and Phillip with the guys while Heidi wants him to keep to his promise about having a date night. So naturally they have a fist fight in the hallway and the school takes bets on the outcome. The fight is broken up by Kyle, who has been constantly tested and pushed to the brink this season at skewl. No longer having another voice of reason to confide in (Stan has mentally checked-out and Heidi has become Cartman 2.0), it’s now Kyle that feels isolated, so it’s now Kyle that the mob rejects and picks on. And we all know what happens when disillusioned people have nowhere to turn…   

Kyle: Guys, this has gone on way too long, can’t we all stop being so mean to each other?

Heidi: Shut up Kyle, you sound like your mom.

I’m PC, Brah.

There’s a new Sheriff in town; or should I say Ms. Sheriff…no, that makes no sense, Sheriff is gender neutral. Anyway, Strong Woman, the New Vice Principal has arrived at South Park Elementary to be a powerful, intelligent, and independent female role model for the kids. The satire behind this nameless caricature, much like PC Principal himself, is so deliciously South Park-esque that I couldn’t help squealing with delight. Apparently South Park has heard the public’s cries to have more female representation in their show (a legitimate observation even I myself have made) and they’ve thrown us a bone in the best way possible.

Strong Woman is here to lay down the law with all this bullying. PC Principal needs to assert his dominance clashes with his ingrained “SJW” behavioral tactics when Strong Woman calls his out for being, well, himself. Her glib passive-aggression is the perfect complement to his overzealous political correctness, and I found it immensely entertaining to watch them together.

PC Principal feels the connection too. He feels the raging PCness so hard inside that he starts inadvertently transmitting Hootie and the Blowfish tunes from of his head. This was one of the funniest gags in the entire season. Just absolutely ridiculous in every way, and a perfect song choice for his character as well.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry but is anyone else hearing Hootie and the Blowfish like very, very softly?”

PC Principal gets his condition checked out. It’s as we’ve feared… he’s caught feelings for the new girl in town. This is of course unacceptable for PC Principal because romance in the workplace is totally immoral and unprofessional. He’ll just have to live with Hootie and the Blowfish playing on repeat in his head all day. How can he end this nightmare?

“Are you out of your f*cking mind? Asking if a coworker is available? In today’s times?!”

Look, we’re all a little goofy and I think, a little messed up in the head. We all get butterflies when we meet someone we’re attracted to. We all bleed when we’re cut, and cry when we’re sad. You should never feel ashamed of thinking thoughts or feeling emotions. Even Mr. Mackey and PC Principal, as by-the-book, ordinate, and well, politically correct as they aim to be, they cannot turn off the very human urges in their head telling them to love a good, strong woman… The best that, the best that they can.    

Blame Canada

What’s worse than a bully singling you out for torment and constantly picking on you day-in and day-out? What about when they turn the whole group against you in order to make you and everything you stand for into a relentless joke? What if one of the bullies was someone you at one point had romantic feelings for? Well, that’s Kyle’s current dilemma.  

The current climate of Kyle’s social world has flipped on its head, and Kyle is having trouble dealing with it. Everyone is just sort of being assholes to one another as a defense mechanism, and Kyle’s “can’t we all just get along” mentality is seen as weak. 

“For the first time, I feel bad for the Person Being Farted on.”  

Kyle, no longer relating to the way his friends search and destroy anything in their path for a laugh, decides to do some self-evaluating. He realizes that he has outgrown Terrance and Phillip’s potty humor. But rather than just letting go, he makes a search and destroy mission of his very own aimed at Canada. He has turned them into the enemy and blamed them for everything going wrong in his life. Even when Kyle goes to Strong Woman, who he figures will have his back, he’s told to lighten up. Strong Woman shuts down his attempts to blame farts for the current cultural mess they are in.   

“More and more Millennials are turning into Jewish mothers today as they demand the censorship of entertainment.”  

With no place left to turn, much like Heidi earlier this season, Kyle finds that blaming other people for the current culture is the best use of his time. He joins a self-serving protest group and fills himself with hatred towards Canadians. Ultimately he ends up pushing the President to Nuke Canada. When you mix a morally bankrupt culture with a morally puritanical movement, and then sprinkle in a volatile and ignorant buffoon with access to nuclear codes…bad things can happen. (Also, if you caught it, Kyle dropping Michael Jackson lyrics as a vehicle for his protest before the commercial break was hysterical.)         

Gotta Nuke Somethin’…      

If you speak your mind, you’re always going to offend somebody, especially if you’re doing it with the intent to get a laugh. Whether it’s a Jewish mom, or a guidance counselor, or a Canadian diplomat, you’re going to have to accept that some people have a problem with expressing humor at someone else’s expense. Nobody knows this struggle more than Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

What we as a culture have to be cautious of, and what I think Stone and Parker have been touching upon this entire season, is moving the goalposts too far in either direction when it comes to our humor, our politics, and the way we treat one another in general. If you grab your torch and pitchfork for every minor inconvenience that you read about, you’ll soon lose touch with reality and find yourself alienated, resenting anyone who dares to offend you, or decides to not champion your cause-of-the-day. You just end up being another outraged millennial, who by Stone and Parker’s assessment, embody their overprotective mother. By the same token, if you find pleasure in bullying, and discriminating against those different or weaker than you, you’ll end up hated and alone, and eventually turn into the ignorant troll that everyone already sees you as.

There has to be a balance between mean-spirited, ignorant potty humor, and outright censorship. To some creators, and even to some fans, this culture clash is a matter of life and death. South Park delivered a very potent, very funny meta-narrative concerning the effects of what a liberated, consumer-driven entertainment machine can do to an ever-changing culture. I’m going to go ahead and pull the cliched pun out of the air and say that South Park dropped some serious bombs this week. They threw down some cutting satire, added some fun new characters with new perspectives that have the potential to bud into some hilarious new situations, and as penultimate season climaxes go, it’s hard to get bigger than the nuclear annihilation of an entire country.

I look forward to seeing their conclusion next week. This episode however, will probably end up being my favorite of Season 21.

Images courtesy of Comedy Central    

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