TV REVIEW: South Park

2016-11-13 06:00
South Park

TV SHOW: South Park

TV CHANNEL: Comedy Central (DStv channel 122)

DATE AND TIME: Thursday, 21:25

I had given up on South Park a couple of years back. It’s not just that I’d outgrown finding scenes like Randy bouncing on his own massively inflated testicles funny (although, to be honest, I did giggle a bit), but the fact that the show wasn’t addressing any of the things I cared about any more. Where creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker used to be on the pulse of pop culture and beyond, I felt that South Park was sliding into obscurity – or maybe I had only just realised how androcentric it had always been.

It was through some punts by my favourite tweeps that I learnt that the last three seasons have been pulling it back to a relevant space, addressing just about everything the world cares about now – from drones to transgender issues to gentrification to political correctness.

It was enough for me to tune back in, and just in time for season 20. And man, is it one hell of a season.

Across seven episodes, Stone and Parker focus their wit on one event in particular that the whole world was watching – the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton US presidential elections.

They have not only brought South Park firmly back into the now, but done what I wish more shows would – added to the debate.

Feminism, women in comedy, Caitlyn Jenner, #BlackLivesMatter, nostalgia, trolling – they all get the Stone and Parker treatment.

And, as can be expected, not all of it is kind. The show absolutely revels in its disdain for Trump supporter Caitlyn Jenner, who they portray as a sycophantic imbecile maimed by plastic surgery. Those who don’t get it will call it transphobic; those who do will call it just deserts. After all, the fact that Jenner – with her white privilege and fame – has been shoved down our throats as the ultimate trans icon shows how wrong the media got it.

Then there’s their scathing take on how many Americans feel about their electorate choices this year: South Park residents can place their tick next to Turd Sandwich (Clinton) or Giant Douche (Trump). But it goes further – this isn’t the first time America has been screwed in the elections, it’s just the latest.

“Why are we doing this again? Why are we back to Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich?” Stan sighs, defeated.

And then there’s the story arc about the girls of South Park, who are furious because someone called skankhunt42 is trolling them on the internet. Just about everyone thinks it’s Eric Cartman, especially when he makes a speech in the school gym in support of the girls.

“Girls are funny; get over it,” he says. “Wendy, go ahead, be funny. Just do women’s comedy stuff – like how fat you are and how you wanna have sex with guys and then say ‘my vagina’ a lot.”

It’s scathing but insightful – much of the comedy writing for women now involves them doing the kind of puerile, genital humour men have been doing for years. The shock factor of hearing it come out of a woman’s mouth is supposed to be the kicker. But here’s the thing – and I say this as a feminist who loves women in comedy – it’s growing stale quickly. Amy Schumer, what are you going to give us next?

South Park has always been shrewd regarding race. At a time when the topic was hardly ever addressed on TV, one of the black characters in the show was called Token. In this season, Cartman wears a #Token’sLifeMatters T-shirt. I’ll be watching closely to see how much further they’re going to take the #BlackLivesMatter story line – or if it’s going to left as a single gag. After all, the fact that the show hasn’t evolved Token as a character – or expanded its black character repertoire much – is a problem.

The eighth episode of the season airs on Thursday. If you’ve been tuned out to the show, like I have, maybe it’s time to go on down to South Park again.

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