STUNNING AND BRAVE: A REVIEW OF SOUTH PARK’S SEASON NINETEEN PREMIERE
Rick McDowell, Comic Geek Punk
Not to sound like an obnoxious statist, but few states in our great country stack up to Colorado.
Last week, I touched on statism a little bit, taking a few digs at Texas. And being that I live in Colorado, I will admit there is glaring bias in my opening statement. We catch a little flak for being this centralized vacation spot where flaky suits overpay to stay in towns like Silverthorne to ski and fool-heartedly dabble in illicit substances with their side chicks. We’re known internationally for our sunsets, our relationship with the outdoors, our overfunded, golden boy football team. We’re not known so much for our inconsistent weather, our land-destroying energy development, or our underfunded and amazing hockey team.
There is a lot more to Colorado than what pop culture makes it out to be. At the core of our social-political beliefs, few states can claim to be as truly swing-state as we are. There is a real Libertarian streak to living here; this same streak is what lead to the controversial legalization and business boom of a certain plant. Just don’t mess with our Second Amendment rights, or our jobs, and we’re good.
Surprisingly, there is very little media representation of my state. Pop Culture seems to throw Colorado a bit of shade. Sure, we had that one John Cusack movie, where he was the depressed high school kid who was into skiing and before that, Mork & Mindy. I’m pretty sure the Winchesters drove through my hometown of Grand Junction in the first or second episode of SUPERNATURAL. If Stephen King’s books are any indication, we happen to be his second favorite state for unspeakable acts of horror, next to Maine. Colorado makes for a nice background for a story. But nothing that content creators outside of here really touches the subject, and truly captures what it’s like to really live here. Except one show. One crude fart joke that, for eighteen seasons, has managed to poke a stick in the eye at the rest of the world, while sitting comfortably nestled away in any-small-mountain-town, Colorado, and doing so from that same sense of foul, rugged Libertarian sensibility that tells us to shop for organic vegetables at Wal-Mart, using recyclable bags, while double-parking our Ford F-350 in the handicapped zone in the parking lot. A show that is clearly written, directed and voiced from two of our own. I’m talking, of course, about SOUTH PARK.
I have been a life-long SOUTH PARK fanatic. It first aired my freshman year in high school. And the concept of four kids standing around a dumpy bus stop spouting lewd comments in contempt of the world around them was, well, completely relatable. I have written about the series before at great length on a couple occasions, and despite being a self-admitted raving fanboy – I wouldn’t even go near a Seth MacFarlane production until I finally was corralled into seeing TED a couple years back – I cannot say that the series has been without its bad seasons.
Trey Parker has evolved the show’s dynamics over the years, last year being a major shift from self-contained one-off’s with continuity plot holes thrown in for the sake of humor, to a surprisingly tight overarching story arc that cumulated in a showdown between “Lorde” and the dying music industry, all while Eric Cartman maliciously pulled away at the puppet strings of his warped machinations. Some of the story threads felt a little forced, and we were denied our usual Butters-centric episode for it, but overall I felt last season was probably the best in terms of quality, that they had put out in a good five or six years.
WARNING: MINOR SOUTH PARK SPOILERS
Our Nineteenth go-around opens with “Stunning And Brave”, a takedown of political correctness, Caitlyn Jenner, and the social shift of consciousness. Anybody who spends any amount of time in any South Park forum could have told you this episode was coming. Some even thought the subjects would be tackled separately. Regardless, Trey Parker and Matt Stone had plenty of time to have this episode put together, and it certainly shows. If we are to believe the current trend of tightened continuity, it appears that one long-standing South Park character has been replaced by something more ominous: A young fraternity pledge fresh out of college, obsessed with upholding political correctness. This could obviously be seen as a physical manifestation of the campus culture that has drawn the ire of the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, as of late. The episode makes short time exposing the irony of this, by showing him as a brutish white male of privilege who beats and bullies others into change, as an extension of a long-standing patriarchal system. In an attempt to combat this potential threat, the boys enlist long-time antagonist Eric Cartman, to fight back using his dirty playbook. Unpredictably, things backfire on the lovable bigot, and for the first time in the show’s history, Cartman finds himself broken, empty, and completely stripped of his life’s purpose of creating biased dissent.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a metaphorical statement being made by the writers at the fact that SOUTH PARK has waned in popularity in recent years, and has found itself a bullseye of political correctness criticism. As Cartman lays broken and beaten, Kyle Broflovski, Cartman’s longtime-frenemy and the show’s most vocal component of political correct compassion finds himself targeted by a fraternity of meatheaded PC alpha jocks. It is in these moments the episode calls into question at what cost of civil liberty can we expect in this shift of social zeitgeist? And if left unchecked, what would it take to bring things back down to perspective?
I cannot honestly say this was the greatest opening in the series’ history; after all it was dialed in, with a great deal of thought. However, that extra effort did pay off in terms of setting the overall narrative of where this season likely will be headed. South Park has never been afraid to change. But, for better or worse, we have a new player on the field, in the form of Political Correctness personified. And it will be interesting to see how this introduction impacts the show’s long-standing dynamic of crudely dissecting our world’s sensibilities. I’d give it about a 3.5 out of five Tasteless Bill Cosby Jokes. I can say it is certainly a must-watch. As a life-long spectator, I enjoy sitting back and letting special interests get roasted. But as someone who self-identifies as, and who counts himself as part of the PC bro fraternity, I felt a beautiful sting being the butt of a South Park episode joke, for once. I’m not even mad. This is what this show is supposed to do: Make me laugh, and make me think.
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Rick McDowell, AKA Comic Geek Punk is a writer, blogger, and gentleman adventurer. His credentials include being featured on an Adult Swim bumper at two in the morning, and haven captured all 720 Pokemon through six game generations. You can reach out to him through any of Blueswade Cartoons various online media, or check out his stuff at facebook.com/comicgeekpunk.