SOUTH PARK, COLORADO—
THE EPICENTER OF A GLOBAL CATASTROPHE
Written by Joseph Patterson
Man is inherently destructive. The progress of civilization is cyclical; we destroy as much as we build. The postmodern television comedy South Park exposes man’s egocentric irrationality. Creator-writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s introspective series paints quite the misanthropic portrait of the human race. Yet despite their illustration of hopelessness, they refuse to despair. The satirists certainly get a sadistic kick out of watching the world burn—but they’re also philanthropists, and they endeavor to find a partial solution. Their didactic stories invert the teleological fallacy that equates liberalism with progress, evincing the fallibility of ostensibly humanitarian ideology. Any intrinsically benign doctrine is corrupted by man’s selfish nature.
Like most polemics, they concentrate on their own society. Parker and Stone deride our nation’s laziness and superficial materialism. Americans are depicted as infantile, self-destructive fools, incapable of growing past their immature state. Our healthy, capitalist society affords us with an unparalleled opportunity to improve man’s welfare, but its commercialized infrastructure fosters apathy. The greedy corporate elite distract us with frivolous pleasures so that we remain satisfied with our stasis. South Park explores the lives of children to illustrate how this cycle is perpetuated, portraying the adults’ irresponsible failure to impart the next generation with beneficial advice.
Humanity, as the satire depicts it, is a doomed existence. The human condition is incurable. Still, Western civilization provides a faint beacon of hope for a world in chaos. Our democratic franchise constitutes a society capable of ameliorating the world’s suffering. But America’s exceptionalist pride fosters an insular ego in each of her citizens, preventing the individual from hearing censure that forces him to assume accountability. Such pride inhibits communication and thereby limits the democratic process, revealing the United States’ sociopolitical system’s tragically ironic regressiveness.
THE PERPETRATORS OF AMERICAN STASIS
THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD
The children of South Park exemplify the bliss afforded by ignorance of the world’s discord. “Life is kinda gay, but it doesn’t seem that way, through the eyes of a child,” sings Michael McDonald during the credits of Bigger, Longer & Uncut. “There’s a sparkle in their eyes, they’ve yet to realize, the darkness in their souls”—Parker’s lyrics satirize Disney’s vision of childhood beauty, mocking the desperate adult desire to return to a world of innocence, irretrievably lost.
Such innocence fuels the kids’ irrational desire that stems from their miseducation—their cerebral malnutrition resulting from their addiction to the brain-melting box sitting in their living room. In Towelie, when the four boys’ videogame console, the Okama Gamesphere, is stolen, Eric voices their dependency: “This isn’t funny, man, I need my fix!” They go to extremes to fulfill their needs, as in The Terrance and Philip Movie Trailer, where their intense desire to see the titular advertisement causes them to sit through a tedious program they have no interest in, insuring that no commercial break is missed. They amass junk food and other items, assembling a TV survival kit that even eliminates the necessity of bathroom breaks, as it includes toilet paper. Television’s detrimental effect desensitizes them, reflecting the escalation in violence and vulgarity from network dramas since the 1980s—networks that have continuously invigorated their eternal climb up the mountain of controversy. For instance, It Hits the Fan sees HBC executives garnering views by exploiting America’s thirst for such controversy, leading to the nation’s ubiquitous excitement to hear “shit” uttered on television, then to hear “shit” uttered twice, etc. Hence, the children incorporate what they have seen into their imagination, even during harmless roleplaying. When they’re playing crime detective in Lil’ Crime Stoppers, an old woman hires them to find the culprit who has stolen her pie. They discover her dog licking the pie tin, but envision an elaborate, demented scheme, informing the old woman of her husband’s murderous machinations.
“The rage built inside his mind,” Eric narrates. “Why won’t she let me eat that pie?. . . His only solution became obvious: Kill her.”
“Oh my God! What kind of television have you kids been watching?” The horrified old woman responds to their story.
Their biggest fear, then, is punishment that restricts their TV dependency: being grounded. Even in the face of peril, their irrational fear of parental reprimand outweighs their fear of death. After finding cover in the heart of a warzone in Bigger, Longer & Uncut, they emerge from their protective trench. “Fuck this, dude! I’m getting out of here before I get in really big trouble,” Kyle states, seconded by Eric: “I heard that!” In Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery, Stan suggests they scare the fifth graders by digging up Kyle’s dead grandma. Kyle’s disapproval stems from a fear of his mother’s wrath, not moral consequence: “We’re not digging up my grandma, I’ll get in trouble!”
In spite of our society’s exultation of pre-adolescent naivety, the same society pressures the boys to reach adulthood as soon as possible—a race to maturity, evinced in Cartman Joins NAMBLA, where the fat boy replaces his friends with adult companions to evoke Kyle and Stan’s jealousy. They each undergo Modernity’s crisis of representation—in their case, an anxiety of exposure—a fear of embarrassment and emasculation. According to Parker and Stone’s text, this importance our society holds for our outer image impedes the progress of civilization. For example, in World Wide Recorder Concert, the boys dread appearing impotent before the insulting New York kids, who are far more literate in vulgar discourse. Therefore, they desperately research encyclopedias to find the definition of “queef” (a vaginal discharge).
The neoclassical image of a Roman structure is ironically centered to symbolize enlightened learning. Here, the boys bastardize the Enlightenment tenet of self-cultivation, as their independent study serves only to further vulgarize their rhetoric.
Eric Cartman is the paragon of American reproach. He embraces the three most common iniquities that the world charges America with: gluttony, bigotry, and selfishness. His machinations are primarily motivated by pride. As a schemer, he hates being schemed. In Scott Tenorman Must Die, after Eric has been repeatedly outsmarted by Scott, he is driven to insane aggravation when Kyle encourages his acquiescence, pointing out that “[Scott’s] smarter than you.”
He prioritizes the maintenance of his prideful upkeep, projecting self-assurance to compensate for his internal instability. Eric must continually avoid introspection. In Up the Down Steroid, Kyle feels legitimate concern for his fat friend’s soul, fearing that this time he has gone too far and “will go to hell” if he continues on his immoral path. But Eric refuses to examine his own soul and averts the subject to Kyle’s, which he claims is damned, as “Hell is reserved for the Jews.” Though his projected self presents him as the most stable among his friends, Eric’s identity is actually the most fractured—shattered pieces in such a state of disarray that his only way to maintain a tenuous composure is to live a life of denial—denial of his obesity; denial of the existence of his moral complex that he fights to suppress; denial of his innate need for human companionship.
Fat Camp— When he finally acknowledges his severe weight problem, it’s too late. The help he had adamantly rejected before is no longer available. Coming to terms with his grotesque physical image invokes an emotional meltdown—a realization of his irreparable self that infects him with uncontrollable whimpers, staining his face with the tears of despair and powder of doughnuts.
How to Eat With Your Butt— His suppressed morality finally emerges when he grows perplexed by an uncontrollable inclination to feel bad for the victims of his cruel prank: the parents of a lost child. He wanders lost in melancholy, unable to laugh again until the parents are reunited with their son.
Chef Goes Nanners— The episode concludes with an uncharacteristically doleful piano coda that accompanies Eric’s depressed sighs—easily the most somber ending of any South Park episode. Whenever he feels a surge of amiable happiness with Stan, Kyle, or Kenny, he immediately subverts his contentment with a quick denial of “I hate you guys!” (exemplified during their camping trip in Jakovasaurs). Acknowledging any companionship would conflict with his projected isolation, so his composure is threatened when he becomes a victim of selfless love, overcome by an unexpected childhood crush on Wendy Testaburger. In the final scene, he discovers that Wendy’s displayed affection for him was merely her attempt to break their sexual tension and subsequently break from him, and he is caught off guard when she tells him, “All my feelings for you just vanished. See you later!” As he commonly does to distance himself from girls, Eric responds by throwing a misogynistic slur at her, but his voice is shaky when he calls her “ho.” He had allowed an incipient desire for human intimacy to linger, and when his bond with Wendy is suddenly broken, he is forced to come to terms with the dissatisfaction of his antisocial life. When left alone, he will typically reassure himself with a lie, claiming that he wants to play by himself—“That’s fine! I like playing with myself!” he angrily declares when Eric and Kyle grow fed up with his cheating and abandon him in Clubhouses—but not here. He is left too empty to find words of denial.
The modern racist figure subjugates the minority in order to subdue a threat; he fears that emasculation from a marginalized member of society will thereby marginalize him. Eric’s caricature embodies this fear to such an extent that he will endure extremes to rob Kyle of happiness and humiliate him so that he may subsequently elevate his insecure self-worth. In Mecha Streisand, he finds the Triangle of Zenthar and shows no interest for it until he sees Kyle takes interest. Eric craves nothing more than Kyle’s jealousy. He even manufactures a competition in Butt Out, hoping to stimulate Kyle with continual taunts, even as his rival remains uninterested.
Eric’s adversarial motivation is completely irrational, and he will frequently spend an entire episode digging his hole deeper—the stupidity of his perseverance increasing at an exponential rate, as he will travel to any extreme to avoid yielding to Kyle.
The Red Badge of Gayness— “They don’t respect our authoritay… I say we take Topeka,” Eric urges on his drunken reenactment teammates, feeding them booze and pillaging the South until they reach Washington, as he is unwilling to surrender to Northerners Kyle and Stan.
Trapper Keeper— “Don’t you get it?” Kyle yells. “You can’t have any trapper keepers, fat ass!” Despite possessing knowledge of the apocalyptic doom that his high-tech trapper keeper will bring if not destroyed, Kyle’s insulting demands harden Eric’s stubbornness, and he quickly grows incapable of surrender, regardless of the world’s fate.
Fat Butt and Pancake Head— “Do you really think he’d go through all this just to make us look dumb?” Stan asks Kyle, who responds with certainty, “Yes, dude!” And he is proven right. Throughout the episode, Eric pretends his hand has inexplicably become host to a soul named Jennifer Lopez (an homage to Left Hand from the anime Vampire Hunter D), who strives to attain a record deal. After a studio signs on Eric and his hand, his delightful dreams comprise different scenarios of triumphant mockery—“You were wrong, Kyle!”—rather than the prospect of fame and wealth.
Kyle Broflovski is the ostracized Jewish figure—a vagabond identity struggling to gain a foothold in American society, longing for the acceptance of his peers. His identity crisis is no less severe than his fat friend’s, and his desire to avoid abasement is as strong as Eric’s desire to inflict it. Their rivalry is intense enough to make Kyle despair and abandon his Jewish faith when Eric receives a million dollar inheritance in Cartmanland, as the conflicted boy cannot accept the existence of God in such an unfair universe. We often see him internally suppress the strife that Eric’s antisemitism elicits—anger that society forces him to withhold because of his marginalized status.
Bigger, Longer & Uncut— While his fat nemesis sings “Kyle’s Mom is a Stupid Bitch,” every student (including his loyal friend Stan) dances along and celebrates the Jew’s denigration. Kyle’s internal instability forces his body to tremble, and he briefly demands that Eric “shut [his] fucking mouth.” But his protest is ignored and drowned out by song, his voice silenced.
He can only internalize so much strife, and we occasionally see him release his stock-piled fury on his victimizer.
Fun With Veal
I’m a Little Bit Country
These bursts of rage result from Eric’s continual degradation of Kyle’s race—an uncontrollable explosion of violence, not unlike the destructive anger finally released by the black community during the 1992 riots.
Goobacks— Eric incurs a bloody nose from a swing of Kyle’s shovel after he grows fed up with the fat boy’s laziness and is pushed over the edge by another racist insult: “Don’t boss me around you fucking Jew!”
Kyle’s detached position is worsened by the domineering role his mother plays. Her overbearing restraint keeps her son entrenched within the confines of his otherness. He lacks his friends’ faculties to break from parental restriction, evinced in Bigger, Longer and Uncut. When the Terrance and Philip movie is released, Stan and Kenny truthfully inform their apathetic mothers that they are seeing it, and Eric does not even bother to ask permission—only Kyle must be dishonest, fearfully fabricating a lie when his mother asks him where he is going: “Um, we’re going ice skating.” In The Wacky Molestation Adventure, the option of deception never occurs to him when the four boys plan a trip to see the Raging Pussies concert. After asking his mom for permission, he informs them that “My parents said I can’t go.” “Well of course your parents said you can’t go!” Stan replies, followed by Eric’s lesson in the art of lying: “Dummy, you don’t ask if you can go! I’m telling my parents I’m staying at Stan’s house, Stan’s telling his parents he’s staying at Kenny’s house, and Kenny’s not telling his parents anything ’cause they’re alcoholics and they don’t care.” When they want to purchase lethal weaponry in Good Times with Weapons, Kyle hesitates: “Our parents won’t let us have weapons, dude.” Cartman reproaches him—“Who’s gonna tell them, dumbass!”—and Stan reminds him that “our parents are gonna be at the stupid fair all day long, they’ll never know what we bought.” Kyle fears his mother’s reprimand so greatly that it causes him to consider extreme measures to avoid punishment.
When a shuriken becomes imbedded in Butters’ eye, Eric voices his typical, ridiculous solution: “We have to kill Butters.” Of course, Stan objects, but Kyle surprisingly supports the plan, “I agree with Cartman! You don’t understand what my mom will do to me if she finds out I was playing with weapons.”
In this regard, his otherness is incurable, since his restriction is perpetually self-inflicted. He does try to escape his racial identity, however. His intense longing to conform provides a commentary on the self-loathing Jew stereotype. Kyle’s desire to transcend his hereditary marginalization invokes a guilty conception of his inescapable Jewish identity. After he watches Mel Gibson’s controversial film in The Passion of the Jew, he is internally riddled with guilt over Jesus’ death.
During a nightmare, he is forced to literally embody Christ’s murderers.
Toilet Paper— He suffers a similar nightmare, troubled with guilt for the devastation that he believes the art teacher’s family has suffered as a result of their house being TPed. The foolishness of his internal turmoil represents the nonsensical nature of the Jew’s self-blame.
Kyle’s resistance to his Jewish identity is represented by his continual corrections of Eric’s misnomers. When they are playing Star Trek in The Passion of the Jew, the fat bully asks “What kind of atmosphere are you reading on the planet surface, Jew?” to which he angrily responds, “I’m a Vulcan.” Similarly, The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers sees the boys on a quest, with Eric narrating, “And so the party journeyed onward, the great wizard, the skillful ranger, and the covetous Jew.” “I’m a paladin, Cartman!” he adamantly corrects, but Eric responds, “Jews can’t be paladins,” reflecting Kyle’s inability to join the societal majority.
His displacement creates a need for identity reconstruction. During the crude church service in Probably, Kyle willingly subjects himself to Eric’s racist exploitation of Christian doctrine. “Do you want to be saved from Hell?” the fat boy eagerly asks, to which Kyle responds with an emphatically hopeful “Yes!” Eric continues, “That’s good, because right now, all the Jew-ness is comin’ out of your body, being replaced by the spirit of God!” In The Entity, he is visited by his cousin of the same name—a city-born Jew who exemplifies every negative stereotype; a representation of Kyle’s origin (as his mother is originally from the city); an embodiment of everything he has continually resisted. He desperately tries to convert his cousin, demonstrated when he endeavors to teach him how to play catch with a football. “You need to play some sports,” he tells the bookworm, and instructs, “Now throw it back to me.” “But it’s down in the snow,” his cousin sniffs. “So dig it out.” “But I’ll get snow on my gloves and then it will melt and I’ll have wet hands,” cousin Kyle protests, fully incapable of conformity. “I spent five years in this town making a good name for Jews and this– this stereotype shows up and wrecks it all!” the troubled boy laments to Stan. “You know what my biggest fear is? That I’ll become him.” And rightfully so, because society literally forces their proximity, encouraging Kyle to merge with his stereotype.
Forced to share a bed with his cousin, Kyle is unable to rest over his incessant asthmatic breathing.
“The school seems to be completely out of extra desks, so you’ll just have to share with your cousin,” Ms. Choksondik informs a devastated Kyle.
He then fights to expel the stereotype by shipping his cousin out of town, but to no avail.
“I’m baaaack!” cousin Kyle snorts, returning yet again, even after being packaged and loaded onto a plane. The unlikelihood of each inevitable return symbolizes the other’s inability to escape his socially-ordained identity.
Yet the displaced Jewish boy has an unrelenting resolve, and he never falters in his mission for social acceptance—a doomed mission fueled by irrational conformity, molded by irresistible peer pressure. In Are you there God – It’s me, Jesus, when Eric and Kenny catch a disease that causes blood to flow from their rectum, the two naive boys show their sexual ignorance by concluding that they have reached puberty with their first period. His fear of late development is so great that Kyle lies and claims he has had his first period too.
His irrational desire to conform even leads him to abandon his best friend Stan and replace him with Eric, who conducts silly sessions of girl talk, which are clearly not enjoyed yet embraced by Kyle.
Chinpokomon satirizes the transience of fads in the manipulative hands of corporate puppeteers. Unlike his friends, Kyle cannot foresee the next stage of popular culture’s evolutionary cycle. Before school, he shows his friends his new Cyborg Bill doll, which, unbeknownst to him, is no longer cool; it “hasn’t been cool for a long time,” Eric informs him. Desperate for acceptance, Kyle procures money from his father to purchase the newer toy that “everybody else has.” After selling him a Chinpokomon action figure, toy store owner Red Harris tells him “I honestly don’t know what you see in these things.” “Neither do I,” the confused boy confesses. His vision lacks lucidity when filtered through the eyes of the unauthentic identity that society has exhorted him to assume.
“Oh. . . you didn’t get a special Chinpokomon game controller? Jesus Christ,” Eric laughs after Kyle shows up with his action figure, only to discover that such a commodity has already lost its value, replaced by the next fad. Yet his desire for acceptance is reinvigorated, pushing him to irrational extremes to achieve it, like when he readily prepares to bomb Pearl Harbor, swayed to abort only after learning that such a mission has lost its cool factor.
South Park is Gay— When a popular wave of metro-sexual clothing sweeps through South Park, Kyle is late to join the idiotic fad. Of course, he initially allows his friends to convert him and undergoes a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover.
He is pulled through the mall by his friends, unable to grasp their attraction to this new, seemingly asinine trend. He is distraught by the affectations society forces him to display and confesses to Chef, “I don’t feel very metro-sexual.” Under his mentor’s guidance, Kyle then displays unusual bravery and escapes the clutch of pop culture, shedding the artificial veneer. “I didn’t feel comfortable in that stuff, dude,” he confesses to Stan. “I’m just being me.” But his resistance to conformity does not empower him with individualistic freedom, but rather results in pain and ostracization, as he is beaten up and even abandoned by Stan. This crisis of representation exhibits an unsolvable dilemma that has been perpetuated by society’s demand for conformity; Kyle can either project a falsified identity or incur scornful neglect from America’s insidious consumer culture.
Similarly, Kenny McCormick is marginalized by society—an inconsequential member of the working class. His muffled voice represents the unheard pleas of the impoverished American family, restricted by their lack of means to emerge from unrefined, lower society. Their rustic bubble is unbreakable, its walls strengthened by incurable self-degeneration—the parents’ alcoholism. The refined social sector does not endeavor to remedy this problem, shunning the parents without consideration for their victimized children. When a drunken Carol McCormick stumbles into the Marsh home pleading for help finding her lost son in Spooky Fish, she is ejected from the civil domicile of the middle class. “Mrs. McCormick, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Sharon demands, escorting the distraught mother to the door. “You’ve been drinking!”
All society neglects the impoverished child, his parents being the most culpable. They fail to help respond to his marginalized existence. Their irresponsibility does not only inflict their child with want but also insures his social immobility; Kenny is destined to repeat his parents’ erroneous lifestyle.
A Ladder to Heaven— “Kenny, do you by chance know what happened to my Playboys?” Stuart McCormick demands, furious that his son has ruined his porn magazine by cutting a masturbatory hole in the page—but unconcerned with his son’s experimental sexual development.
Kenny’s accessibility to such lewdness at home cultivates his precocious sexual knowledge—not a beneficial knowledge, but a twisted prepubescent conception of human sexuality. He often educates his friends on lewd sexual acts, as in Something You Can Do With Your Finger, when he explains the process of “finger-banging.” This perversion contributes to his unrefined social disposition, as he possesses an unequivocally strong propensity for crude humor. In Volcano, when the boys are mocking Eric’s mom, he throws in an inappropriate sexual joke—incomprehensible for the audience, as usual, but so depraved as to make a pervert like Jimbo remark, “Oh-ho! That’s disgusting!” Kenny thoroughly enjoys Eric’s toilet jokes, sometimes erupting at the fat boy’s low comedy that even Stan and Kyle are too mature to find amusing. For instance, Fat Butt and Pancake Head sees only him giggling at Eric’s defecation joke, and in Cancelled, he is assaulted by uproarious laughter every time the fat boy farts on Kyle, over and over, even though Chef insists “it stopped being funny forty seconds ago, boy!” Because this destitute child denotes the profane, society exploits his air of vulgarity.
Fat Camp— After being offered $41 to eat a manatee spleen in science class, Kenny’s stomach rejects the intestine during recess. Then Kyle makes an offer—“I’ll give you five bucks to eat your puke”—followed by offers from additional students. Stan initially protests, assuming the rare social voice that defends the poverty figure’s dignity. But after realizing the monetary potential of Kenny’s grotesque abasement, even he cannot resist suggesting his friend’s further exploitation to Kyle. Kenny’s poverty is so severe that he is incapable of resisting such relatively large amounts of cash. He lets off a moan of despair before scooping the vomit into a thermos, knowing that he will inevitably endure any amount of bodily discomfort when the intangible prospect of financial abundance becomes tangible.
He is essentially subjugated by society—entrenched within his inherited blue collar class. He cannot resist his slavish orders, having no voice to disapprove.
Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut— As the sole member of the working class, Kenny alone is assigned the duty of restoring power to the generator while the doctor orders everyone else to “drink cocoa and watch family programming.” Though there is “a nice heated walkway,” the doctor instructs Kenny to crawl through the sewage duct—a representation of the filth the working class is forced to trudge through as a result of their social superior’s disinterested incompetence—their total lack of concern for the disenfranchised workers’ living condition.
Kenny is absent in the sixth season, remaining dead throughout, and the boys unsuccessfully search for his replacement. They need an obedient servant to fill the vacant spot, requiring a friend who will embrace his subjugation. Therefore, they choose the two weakest characters—first Butters, who is then replaced by Tweek—and constantly guilt-trip them into obedience by reminding them of Kenny’s devotion to his friends. In Jared Has Aides, they forcefully conduct liposuction surgery on Butters, continually silencing his objections by insisting that “Kenny would’ve done it.” In Free Hat, the three boys force Tweek to fill the role of the laborer of unpleasant tasks, reminding him that “Kenny would’ve” worked all night to make enough paper hats for their club. However, neither replacement can fill the working class void left by Kenny. The impoverished figure alone can adequately serve the needs of the prosperous, as only he lacks the voice to object to the whims of his social superiors.
Eric often accuses poor people of overpopulation—an insensitive accusation sometimes voiced by wealthier whites, applied toward economically disadvantaged neighborhoods (i.e. the pejorative phrase “welfare queen”). The increase of the poverty birthrate is commensurate with the decrease in their life expectancy, with childhood deaths often going unnoticed by unsympathetic higher society. This tragedy is of course exaggerated by Kenny’s death in almost every episode (early on in the series), exemplified in Cartman Joins NAMBLA, when a pregnant Carol gives birth at the end, which follows her son’s death in the penultimate scene.
“God, this must be the fiftieth time this has happened,” Stuart observes as he and his wife coo over their newborn son. “A brand new Kenny,” Carol christens the boy, representing the interchangeability of the impoverished child, easily replaced and lacking his own unique identity.
Hence, Kenny struggles and fails to solidify his own individualism. In Rainforest Schmainforest, he meets a girl named Kelly, introducing himself behind the social barrier that is his coat. “My name’s Kenny,” his hindered voice mumbles. “Lenny?” she asks, and he corrects her. She tries again: “Donny?” “Kenny!” he yells, yet Kelly is incapable of deciphering his muffled voice and gives up. She eventually falls in love with him, alternating titles for her nameless, forlorn love (“Benny,” “Larry,” etc.), acknowledging that their partnership is hopelessly doomed.
Kenny Dies— Kenny’s inability to be heard is epitomized by the failure of Make a Wish Foundation. They represent society’s only humanitarian aid for the impoverished child, providing inadequate relief due to their failure to communicate with the lower class. They wrongly assume that the poor’s desire for the materialistic lifestyle of the wealthy is so great that experiencing transient luxury will satisfy them in their final days. “So Kenny, if you can have one wish, what would it be?” asks Laura of the foundation. Incapable of understanding his muffled reply, she asks Kyle what he said, who translates, “He said his wish is not to die.” After an awkward pause, Laura’s partner Bob suggests, “I know! I bet you’d like to meet Madonna, huh?” They still believe brief association with the members of high society will grant the impoverished wish fulfillment, but Kenny corrects their conceited assumption of the lower class’s fickleness. Kyle translates his unintelligible response: “He said Madonna is an old, anorexic whore who wore out her welcome years ago, and that now she suddenly speaks with a British accent, and she thinks she can play guitar, and she should go fuck herself.”
THE PROFESSIONAL’S IRONICALLY REGRESSIVE MISSION
The adults in South Park abuse their societal responsibility out of selfish desire. The power afforded to them to advance civilization is mistreated through its ironically regressive application.
The dysfunctional faculty of South Park Elementary fail to adequately cultivate the children. The main culprit is Herbert Garrison, the boys’ third and fourth grade teacher. Mr. Garrison has a preoccupation with serialized 1980s television and celebrity culture, and his obsession drives his ineffective lesson plan. When teaching the boys the importance of acceptance in Gnomes, he alludes to an anecdote from Medical Center, then asks “so you see?” to which Kyle flatly replies, “No.” When instructing them on how to write their report on current events, he tells them to “read a newspaper, or better yet watch television.” He shuns substantial curriculum, exemplified in Starvin’ Marvin, when he silences the children’s social debate over wealth redistribution, ironically eschewing high literature: “That’s enough Dickens for one day.”
Succubus— “And that, children, is what you need to know about the facts of life,” Mr. Garrison summarizes in the opening seconds of a classroom scene. We are surprised to learn that the incompetent teacher has ostensibly imparted valuable advice to his class, but then…
…“So let’s review. Tootie left in the fourth season but Blair and Jo stayed on and got husbands, leaving the fifth and sixth seasons hideously stagnant.” We then realize his lesson is not imparted wisdom but rather an opinionated summary of the television sitcom The Facts of Life.
Mr. Garrison induces student motivation through antagonistic stimulation, as he genuinely dislikes the children he is forced to teach. He continually pits his kids against each other, as their vitriolic feuds entertain him. When he is demoted to a kindergarten teacher in Fourth Grade, he informs his class, “I will be grading you all on a curve,” imbuing the students with disdain for their peer Ike, who Garrison continually singles out by calling him “Ike the Genius.” Instead of discouraging a heated exchange of insults between Terrance and Kyle, he supports their adversarial relationship by fashioning their argument into a competitive homework assignment in An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig. “Isn’t this exciting,” he remarks to Mr. Hat, “two A plus students in a cloning war.”
He strives to achieve classroom order; however, this is no endeavor to construct a healthy learning environment, but an effort to maintain his own complacency.
Mecha Streisand— After Eric interrupts the archaeologist and incites the snickers of his classmates, Mr. Garrison angrily snaps, “Eric, keep quiet! I’m trying to sleep!” His nap demonstrates the disdain he holds for legitimate curriculum, as he clearly has no interest in archeology.
Similarly, when a touring choir arrives at South Park Elementary in Rainforest Schmainforest, he voices his disinterest in such a field—“Now I know that choir tours are totally stupid and lame, but please give [the choir director] your full attention”—then proceeds to scream at the four boys each time they interrupt. He hopes to maintain order through bursts of frustration, exemplified by his conducting methods in World Wide Recorder Concert, where he attempts to achieve harmony with berating insults.
“What the hell was that?” he snaps, responding to the discord of his kids’ recorders. Mr. Mackey arrives and tells the class they “sounded great,” to which Mr. Garrison replies, “Sure, if you like the sound of a peacock getting its neck broken.” The frustrated teacher is only versed in destructive criticism.
Hence, he is only able to maintain order through the children’s discomfort. In Butt Out, Mr. Mackey hopelessly attempts to quiet the bleachers with patient requests: “Mm’kay, kids, could I have it quiet please? Mm’kay, quiet now, mm’kay.” His efforts are futile, so Mr. Garrison intervenes by holding the microphone to the speaker, releasing a spine-tingling screech.
His method is highly effective, silencing the children after they briefly howl in pain. Such contrasting approaches to classroom management reveal the faculty’s inability to adequately address problems.
Mr. Mackey is an ineffective counselor who ironically confuses the boys in his attempt to disillusion them. He adheres to a grotesque methodology, which he selfishly conducts by exploiting Eric’s grief in Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut, asking the boys to record their fat friend’s unusual behavior so that he can “study him psychologically.”
In Clubhouses, he attempts to correct Stan’s disruptive classroom behavior, informing him that “school is a time for learning, mm-kay, not for immature skylarkings.” Confused, Stan inquires, “What’s skylarkings?” and Mr. Mackey explains, “You know, like tomfooleries.” “Who?” Stan asks, more confused than before. His pedagogy often achieve the opposite of his desired result.
Bigger, Longer & Uncut— When he concludes his song “It’s Easy, Mm’kay,” the satisfied students sprawl out happily, and consequently he believes them to be “cured.” In reality, the children’s enjoyment of his sing-along lesson plan was attained through the thrill of cursing. Meant to discourage the kids from swearing, the song actually fulfills their profane desires, evinced by how they linger on the most extreme curse: “Step 4 don’t say fuck anymore, because fuck is the worst word that you can say, fuck is the worst word that you can say! We shouldn’t say fuck no we shouldn’t say fuck, fuck no!” Similarly, Mr. Mackey’s attempt to punish the students for supporting the vulgar film Asses of Fire backfires when he ironically rewards their rebellion. “Terrance and Phillip shirts are no longer allowed in school. Anyone wearing a Terrance and Phillip shirt is to be sent home immediately!” he calls in the loud speaker, followed by a celebratory “Hooray!” from the excited children.
Mr. Mackey’s obscure counseling is twisted by his adherence to misguided doctrine. In Rainforest Schmainforest, he reveals his position on the board of the “Getting Gay with Kids” choir organization and orders the four boys to sign up, believing the tour will cure their insensitivity. Ironically, his self-interested actions bring the boys to hate the rainforest rather than respect it after they narrowly escape death in the jungle.
Similarly, Principal Victoria is incapable of correcting childhood ills, ironically reinforcing the boys’ faults. Unable to reach the children on a personal level, she foolishly relies on outside sources to correct their confused morality. During Halloween in Pinkeye, Eric dresses as Adolf Hitler, unaware of his costume’s problematic connotations. Victoria endeavors to enlighten the boy with her “educational video” featuring historical footage of the Nazi uprising. Of course, the video serves only to excite the fat racist, who fantasizes about Hitler and projects himself onto the screen, filling the tyrant’s shoes and watching himself direct Nazis.
She replaces his Hitler outfit with a new “scary ghost” costume—hardly a racially sensitive substitute.
After the video, Eric asks if he can watch again—an undesired reaction seen again in The Death Camp of Tolerance’ Museum of Tolerance.
The Tunnel of Prejudice is built to “show you what it can feel like to be discriminated against,” the tour guide explains. However, Eric feels not discomfort but elation when surrounded by the racial slurs. “I wanna ride again, I wanna ride again!”
South Park portrays America’s police force as a sadistic gang of bullies who disrupt the social order they have pledged to uphold. They ignore their civic duty to protect the needy and instead exploit them, abusing their state-appointed power in order to fulfill their murderous desires. We continually see them apply excessive force—pointless, unprovoked violence.
Cartman’s Incredible Gift— After firing three fatal gunshots into a suspect armed with only a butcher knife, Sergeant Yates plugs the dead body with a fourth, unnecessary bullet. Then, after glancing aside as if checking for witnesses, he discharges one last round, satisfying his sadistic thirst with a second deluge of squirting blood and gore.
Chef Aid— When apprehending Chef for a nonviolent offence, the officer randomly strikes him. Chef angrily demands, “What the hell did you do that for?” The officer can of course devise no reason, so he evades the civilian interrogation: “I don’t tell you how to do your job, don’t tell me how to do mine.” Such a rejection demonstrates their impersonal relationship with civilians, who they ignore to maintain their prideful sense of superiority. When Kyle finds the loose serial killer in Cartman’s Incredible Gift, he brings conclusive evidence to Sergeant Yates. Disregarding all advice that conflicts with his misguided investigation, the detective tells Kyle not to “waste my time.”
The police keep themselves ignorant of the adversarial relationship they foster with the civilian body, justifying their excessive force through self-reassurance. In Something You Can Do With Your Finger, the mall cop has grown frustrated because he is not allowed to carry a gun, claiming that the shopping mall environment “can be very dangerous”—a justification for the necessity of violent force. He compensates for his weakness by overextending his limited power and becomes a nuisance to shoppers with his pointless badgering, constantly halting passerby and demanding “Hey! What’re you doin’?”
As Eric begins to explain why the boys need to meet with the manager in the restricted office, the mall cop quickly silences him with pepper spray, demonstrating the police’s refusal to communicate with those they have privileged authority over.
Rather than protect and serve, the police prefer to attack and subjugate. Their ironic application of violence contradicts the goal of their protective mission. In Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) mistake a meteor shower party for a cult gathering to commit mass suicide. The squad leader vows to prevent the suicide, “even if it means we have to kill each and every one of them.” Throughout the night, the ATF gun down several partiers as they exit the front door, never allowing them a second to explain themselves.
Quintuplets— The police arrive to forcefully remove Kenny on a mission to safely return him to his father. The officer demands that Carol “hand over the boy, now!” “Okay! Okay!” she panics, immediately obeying. The officer ignores her, desiring conflict over compliance, and quickly riddles the boy with bullets before his mother can safely deliver him.
In order to maximize the power of their violent prerogative, the fascist police direct their malevolent gaze at marginalized segments of society—at the citizens most easily exploited. Their innate bigotry results in a racially-driven agenda during their investigations. The justice of South Park’s society is distorted by hatred, as in Butters’ Very Own Episode, where Linda Stotch blames “some Puerto Rican guy” for the disappearance of her son. “Naturally,” the news reporter broadcasts, “the police are on an all out manhunt for ‘some Puerto Rican guy.’” All their resources are allocated to perform a search for the nonexistent minority, as the endearing prospect of apprehending an Hispanic clouds their judgment to such an extent as to prevent them from even questioning the mother’s poorly fabricated coverup story. In The Jeffersons, we discover that Sergeant Yates’ precinct has always endeavored to frame rich, innocent black men. Hence, the law and order of South Park is perpetually fragmented. Order may have been maintained by the police force, but only by indicting the innocent—by implementing an illusory justice.
The federal government exploits the court system, so eager to enact their power of condemnation that they blow minor misdemeanors out of proportion. Just like its law enforcement, the state’s judiciary receives gratification by unduly exercising their power. When sentencing Chef in Chef Aid, the judge enthusiastically condemns him to jail “for eight million years!” Then, after the bailiff whispers in his ear, he corrects himself, sentencing him to merely four years in spite of his voracious desire to exact the most severe punishment possible. In Cartman’s Silly HateCrime, the FBI is overdetermined to insinuate their federal power into insignificant, local proceedings when they arrest and charge Eric with a severe felony.
Christian Rock Hard— The boys’ ridiculously severe punishment for illegally downloading a handful of songs demonstrates the courts’ exploitation of the weak. The episode exhibits the ostentatious lifestyle of Hollywood musicians in order to convey the state’s misuse of power when punishing the comparatively poor for a harmless offense against the rich.
Chef Aid— Parker and Stone challenge the idea that “justice is blind,” literalizing the axiom with the figure of a blind-folded judge—an image suggesting that it is not justice, but its enforcers who are blind. Inside the courthouse, a millionaire music executive robs Chef of his relatively small wealth by exploiting the court system, which favors the rich. The case seems to be open-and-shut, favoring Chef as the victor—but enough money can overthrow justice, no matter how clear the verdict. O.J. Simpson’s manipulative lawyer Johnnie Cochran represents the judicial omnipotence money can buy, and he dissuades the jury from thinking rationally by besotting them with inextricable logic. Chef is found guilty as charged by the jury; by his fellow lower-to-middle class citizens; by the foolish masses, oblivious of the state’s subjugating force that they allow to entrench them, willingly participating in the perpetuation of fragmented justice.
The American politicians in Parker and Stone’s universe do not endeavor to serve the public. Rather, they strive to manipulate them. Mayor McDaniels longs to achieve a nationally prominent career and transcend the rural boundaries of South Park—boundaries that impede her political mobility and confine her to an inconsequential role in the governmental sphere. When she despairs in Weight Gain 4000, her true colors are revealed: “I’ll be stuck in this podunk town forever with all these stupid, hick, redneck, jobless, truck-driving idiots!” Such a vitriolic slur exemplifies the disdain she holds for all the local citizens she has sworn to serve.
Mayor’s disdain is illustrated by her highly impersonal relationship with her community, the members of which she continually misidentifies. The arrival of celebrities in her town excites her to no end due to the national attention they bring, and in Weight Gain 4000, we see her idolization of celebrities contrasted with her disinterest in local citizens. When she announces that “Miss Kathie Lee Gifford will be in South Park to present the award to some kid for an essay,” her voice lingers on the Hollywood star’s name, which she expresses with enthusiastic cadence, then rushes past the impersonal title she has christened Eric with. Despite his reminders, she cannot remember the fat boy’s name at any point, referring to him as “Eric Coffman” when presenting him before the ceremony. Earlier, she had to clarify Chef’s identity when her aide suggested that he should sing for Kathie Lee and “play at the ethnic diversity of our town.” “He’s a black guy, isn’t he?” she asks.
Mayor is convinced that a rustic incompetence permeates her community, and consequently, she denigrates its members without prudent consideration. In Gnomes, the school’s committee praises Mr. Garrison for the socioeconomic awareness he has seemingly cultivated within his students, and she must verify that Mr. Garrison is in fact “the guy with the puppet” whom she has believed to be an idiot due to his deviant idiosyncrasies. “Well I must say, Garrison,” she tells him, “perhaps you’re not as stupid and crazy as I always tell people you are.” When Dr. Alphonse Mephisto barges into her office in Starvin’ Marvin, she asks “you’re that insane engineer from up on the hill, right?” Such an unfounded mistrust in the townspeople’s mental stability causes her to foolishly ignore their professional advice.
“Somehow I don’t think you’re taking me seriously,” Mephisto remarks after Mayor turns her back on him three times, each time inviting her aides’ snickers by making gestures denoting lunacy (like triggering a cuckoo clock). Her dismissal of his warning results in chaos when a horde of genetically-engineered, evil turkeys descends upon the town. Similarly, her refusal to hear Randy’s scientific remonstration in Spontaneous Combustion—when he advices her that a geologist is not equipped to solve the episode’s biological phenomenon—results in a transitory solution that is quickly disrupted by the return of mass civilian casualties.
Because she is without any sense of loyalty or devotion to the townspeople, such a citizenry is quickly replaced by a more desirable community in Here Comes the Neighborhood, when she abandons the South Park natives and begins catering to the rich Hollywood celebrities who have overrun and converted the rural space. Her policy-making, then, is not driven by the needs of the townspeople, but by Mayor’s self-absorbed fixation on her reputation. We often see the children suffer as a direct result of her selfish decisions.
Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut— When the children go missing with a killer on the loose, the crew for America’s Most Wanted arrives to document the mystery. Her stress instantly dissipates, her mood elevated by the prospect of South Park’s inclusion in a nationally televised event. “Mayor,” Jimbo admonishes her, “shouldn’t we be focusing on—” but before he can say “the children,” she tersely silences him with a harsh “Shh!”
In order to combat the brainwashing fad in Chinpokomon, she suggests a temporary cure: “Children are fickle. All we have to do is come up with a new fad. We find the next toy and turn them all onto it as soon as possible.” Her plan does not offer a beneficial solution to the boys’ dilemma, but rather it demonstrates the manipulative means by which she maintains social order and subsequently public approval—by exploiting the foolish naivety of South Park’s easily-appeased citizenry. Her policy-making is not an endeavor to progress her segment of civilization; it is solely an effort to reinforce her career’s stability. By implementing the next stage in the cycle in which these fads are perpetuated, she directly entrenches the children within the harmful bonds of America’s consumerist culture.
In Chef Goes Nanners, the mayor struggles to solve the predicament of her town’s racially insensitive yet historically significant flag. We do not find her weighing the merit of opposing moral arguments, nor is she considering the most constitutional path—instead, she is asking her aides “how do I absolve myself of any responsibility with this?” Her assistant suggests that they publicize the elementary school’s debate, and she adamantly responds, “Yes, of course. Let the children be responsible!”
Mayor is a coward, terrified of facing public upheaval and unwilling to fix her mistakes. In Summer Sucks, a giant snake firework begins to grow exponentially, showing no signs of stopping as it terrorizes the town. Having never consulted a professional regarding the snake’s safety, her negligence is fully to blame, but she refuses to stand before the frantic townspeople, sending her aides to lie and announce her illness. Similarly, President Clinton’s policy-making is driven by his desire to avoid backlash from the public. When a hostile Eric demands that he declare the Confederacy’s sovereignty in The Red Badge of Gayness, the fat boy threatens to release a sex-tape of the president and Marisa Tomei. “Oh dear God,” Clinton immediately responds. “We have to meet their demands… my hands are tied.”
The townspeople’s approval and reelection of such a despicable politician exemplifies the failure of American democracy conveyed throughout South Park. Ironically, Mayor’s policy-making system epitomizes the alleged goal of our democratic republic—to publicly appoint officials who will make decisions based on the majority opinion of the people. It’s Christmas in Canada demonstrates her strategy whenever faced with a predicament: turn to the public to find the most popular solution. “Are there any suggestions on how we might help [the Broflovskis]?” she asks, before consenting to their unified proposition. The illusion of individual efficacy involves the voter’s misguided belief that the public servant elected by his vote will reflect his voice. Mayor makes such an illusion a reality. Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo reveals the disaster that would result from the unregulated implementation of this seemingly utopian system. If everyone is offered power in the legislative sphere, our innate selfishness would disrupt social order and give way to violent upheaval.
Because Mayor is so desperate to avoid public disapproval, she allows every citizen to decide the legality of publicly displayed Christmas symbols. A system of fully democratized policy-making results in the individual abusing his prerogative. Disregarding the consequences of their influence, every member of the community becomes blinded by selfish ambition, exercising their power simply to wallow in the self-gratifying pleasure of witnessing society altered by their own will. Hence, we see the ironically de-unifying potential of unrestricted democracy; the holiday season—a hallmark of social cohesion—besets the town with adversarial chaos, and the children are left alone to suffer, robbed of the joy that the Christmas tradition is meant to bring them.
A figure meant to connote the hope of life, the doctor of South Park ironically denotes death. Rather than maintain his patients’ mental stability in the face of peril, Dr. Doctor continually perturbs them with a frank diagnosis. In Fat Butt and Pancake Head, he tells Liane “your son appears to be completely insane;” and in Cartman’s Incredible Gift, he informs her, “I’m afraid your son is. . . incredibly stupid.” In Cartman’s Mom is Still a Dirty Slut, he adds to the chaos of his waiting room by loudly announcing “unless we get help soon, all these people in here are completely fucked.”
Chickenpox reveals his disturbing preoccupation with death when he unsuccessfully tries to help Stan’s parents after the boy disappears. He calmly informs them “if he doesn’t get his antibiotic shot today he could die,” then proceeds to describe the pain Stan will experience: “it won’t be an easy death either. The chickenpox will slowly move down his trachea into his lungs—” “Okay, well let’s go look!” Randy interrupts, but the doctor continues his gruesome description, ignoring Sharon’s fearful cries and Randy’s urgent insistence. The parents then hurry to find their son, leaving Dr. Doctor alone to continue his morbid narration. Hence, we see his obsession with the prospect of death contrasted with his disinterest in preserving life.
Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery— When the body of Kyle’s dead grandma is stolen from the cemetery, the morticians embark on a humanitarian mission to raise public awareness of necrophilia. Like Dr. Doctor, they endeavor to disillusion the public by delineating morbid realities. They share the doctor’s cadaverous obsession—a preoccupation that does not beneficially enlighten the public, instead leaving them distraught. “Now, Alek will demonstrate what having sex with a dead body might sound like,” the mortician announces while his partner fists a jar of mayonnaise. These nihilistic doctors serve to perpetuate the presence of death even in life.
South Park’s “Hells Pass Hospital” exemplifies the doctor’s denotation of death’s proximity, as its name ironically implies that its patients have a pass to Hell—an inference of inevitable death that does not leave any hope for life.
Dr. Doctor will sometimes express his preoccupation with death by implementing rhetorical devises, demonstrating his nonchalant attitude toward the loss of life. He embellishes his morbid descriptions in Are You There God? It’s Me, Jesus when informing the McCormicks of their son’s demise, utilizing simile when describing the cause of death—an anally inserted tampon, that “plugged him up until he finally burst from the inside out like a ruptured septic tank.” Then he surmises that Kenny was a victim of some grotesque fad, informing the parents that “we must get to the bottom of this—if you’ll pardon the pun.” He never misses an opportunity to casually trivialize the solemnity of death.
Parker and Stone defame the most nationalistic segment of our country’s society—the proud Southerners—to aid their deconstruction of American history’s glorified depiction. The writers exaggerate the backward attributes of their redneck caricatures, imbuing Jimbo Kern and Ned Gerblansky with a nonsensical desire for environmental destruction.
Volcano— “Well, I think that’s about the limit for our fishing permit,” Jimbo remarks after annihilating the pond’s ecosystem with a military-grade rocket, not even bothering to retrieve the game. Their sport is pure sadism.
“It sure will be nice to get out of the city for awhile– away from civilization,” he remarks. Three seconds after exiting the town limits, his jeep breaks to a halt. “Well, here we are.” Jimbo and Ned’s conception of nature has a comical proximity to civilization. Their unwillingness to venture deeper into the woods illustrates their impatient reliance on technology. They lack the proud southerner’s supposed natural fortitude. “Hunting sober is like. . . fishing. . . sober,” Jimbo tells the children, parodying the Southerner’s alcoholism; he can only enjoy nature when drunk. Unwilling to engage in primitive fishing, they shorten the traditional waiting period with grenades, every cast from their modernized pole guaranteeing a catch. Accordingly, they remove all sport from hunting.
There is no challenge for them, their game invariably obliterated. The precision of their advance weaponry insures an easy kill with each pull of the trigger.
The Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka— Ned blasts five deer with a flamethrower reducing them to ash. Such satire is reminiscent of Dances with Wolves’ critique, where the white hunters wastefully slaughter a buffalo herd solely for their hides, leaving the carcasses to rot. But Jimbo and Ned never collect any such trophy. Their hostility for the environment is completely senseless, accomplishing nothing but their own self-gratification.
Summer Sucks— “These babies have enough power to blast a fire hole right through the ozone,” Jimbo explains eagerly, evincing the excitement that overcomes him at the prospect of nature’s destruction.
Jimbo is an habitual liar who embellishes his past exploits in hopes of garnering the respect of his community. In Jakovasaurs, he claims that capturing the titular beast was “like wrestlin’ a Louisiana alligator,” when in reality it demanded no physical effort. In The Mexican Staring Frog of Southern Sri Lanka, he regales the boys with a fantastical retelling of his experience in the Vietnam War. This episode’s title alludes to Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” in which the American author explores the twisting of facts and fabrication of fiction that occur throughout the process of oral story-telling, parodying how the Southern public often mistook legend for history. When Jimbo practices the oral tradition, we see a romanticized story of impossible heroism unfold: Leaping from the wreckage of his crashed helicopter, he draws his sword and mounts a white horse that emerges from the jungle, then proceeds to “kill the entire Vietcong army” with Ned before riding off into the sunset.
Prior to WWI, warfare had commonly been glorified in the annals of civilization, and not until the gloom of Modernity did authors so heavily endeavor to reconstruct the depiction of war in literature. Stanley Kubrick’s 1957 Paths of Glory deconstructs the supposed glory of battle by juxtaposing the prevalence of gruesome death in the soldier’s trenches next to the decadence of the commanders’ aloof society, where the soulless aristocrats foolishly adhere to an archaic sense of honor by launching a battle that accomplishes nothing but meaningless death. Similarly, The Red Badge of Gayness mocks the historical sense of pride maintained during the pointless slaughter of the Civil War. Parker and Stone attribute the Southern figure’s patriotism to intoxication and belligerence, as Eric, acting as the Confederate army’s general, must continually besot his men with s’more schnapps to perpetuate the incoherent state that keeps their chauvinistic blood boiling. Like Paths of Glory’s General Mireau—who initially refuses to risk the lives of his men in a suicidal assault but succumbs to his pride at the prospect of promotion—the Southern warmongers of South Park are compelled to defend their pride when it is threatened by insinuations of cowardice—insults spread by Eric when he surreptitiously instigates an argument and fakes the voice of a Northern adversary, telling Jimbo “I’ll bet you can’t [march on Topeka] because you guys are all pussies!” Roused by the alcohol, Jimbo fervently declares war on the Union and recruits his fellow Confederates with a passionate speech, unifying them with a mission to “win back your pride!” Hence, we see Parker and Stone defame the unification of American patriotism that our society has propagated throughout history, depicting this passionate swell of emotions as an intoxicating state that induces us to provoke unnecessary violence in irrational defense of our nationalistic pride.
Chef Goes Nanners— This reappraisal of American history continues when Chef demands an alteration to the town’s racist flag. The episode’s allegorical message reminds us that our regional pride should not prevent us from alleviating the sins of our forefathers, despite historical tradition.
South Park’s proud Southerner is capricious and quick to violence. He is represented well by Skeeter—an idiotic redneck with an unreasonably quarrelsome disposition—who continually extends the bounds of his bigotry by frequently exclaiming, “Hey! We don’t take kindly to your types in here.” These “types” range from “panda bears” to “eight year-olds,” and his hatred expands to such irrational extremes in Sexual Harassment Panda that the pacifist bartender—who continually attempts to placate him—grows exasperated and tells him to “shut the hell up.” Skeeter’s life’s purpose is to incite of violence, and we sometimes see him riling up a mob by yelling, “Let’s get him!” Associating the proud Southerner with irrational violence reconstructs the image of American patriotism, revealing it as a contagious spread of infantile belligerence.
South Park’s entertainment industry is run by highly archetypal ambassadors from Hollywood whose conceited idolization of their work disconnects them from reality. They are perpetually occupied within their industry, haughtily assuming that their talents garner the praise of everyone. Their depiction recalls the chaos of film production explored in Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963), where a director is imprisoned within the world of movies, incessantly accosted by crew members and actors who mercilessly demand updates regarding his script, as the only dialogue they are able to engage in is one discussing film production. The surrealism of 8½ portrays the movie world as an otherworldly space where the concerns of the real world are forgotten. Those who occupy this realm are absorbed by the bustle of film production, the constant stress of this busy industry preventing their minds from escaping their permanent preoccupation with movies. In South Park, the entertainers are similarly cemented, making the real world their stage. Their portrayal literalizes the wisdom of Jacques from Shakespeare’s As You Like It when the forlorn lord laments that “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
The melodramatic stage actor Jeffrey Manors from Helen Keller! The Musical is emblematic of their disconnect from reality. His world is an eternal musical. His rhetoric is excessively emotional and is sung, not spoken. When cast as Helen Keller, he demonstrates the entertainer’s vanity and hunger for the spotlight, adding verses to the mute’s silent role and ruining the musical to satisfy his melancholy preoccupation—a need to externalize grief to an audience.
He exploits the tragedy of a child’s death when Kenny is killed. Seizing the opportunity to capitalize on the heightened emotions that surround death, he sings a melodramatic dirge of infinite sadness. But he is ignored, exemplifying the entertainer’s misguided assumption that everyone is their fan.
The Biggest Douche in the Universe— The vain John Edward makes his butler introduce him as if he were taking the stage. He waits for the butler to play a recorded voice that announces “Ladies and gentlemen– John Edward,” then walks in amidst a second recording of applause. “Thank you, thank you,” he says presumptuously, but Stan is there to do anything but.
Their egotism twists their perception of life; they foolishly assume that everyone else is participating in their culture. In Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls, Kyle pleads with the Hollywood natives who are perverting South Park. He informs them that their pollution has sickened Mr. Hankey, and that they must leave or his friend will die. The audience members misunderstand the boy, hearing only a movie pitch. “What a great story, it has everything!” “This could be the next Free Willy!” the enthusiastic filmmakers respond, demonstrating Hollywood’s attraction to sentimental, highly-marketable and recyclable kid fodder. Then one asks, “Does it have to be a talking piece of poo?” “It could be a crime-fighting rabbit, or a loveable turtle!” another answers, revealing the interchangeability of such conventional storytelling. When Mr. Hankey attempts to warn the Hollywood immigrants of the toll their presence is exacting on the environment, they ignore him, unable to see the misery they perpetrate from the detached vantage point they inhabit. An old man utilizes the filmic rhetoric that governs their everyday lives when he requests, “Mr. Poo, if you wouldn’t mind, we can’t hear our chairman. If you could just turn yourself down, you’re at about seven right now, we need you at about three, okay?”
The vanity of the entertainers clouds their judgment with delusions of humanitarianism. They legitimately believe that their influence helps people. Their presumption of the public’s needs for their assistance fuels their imperialistic venture—a colonization of commercialism that prevents the progress of civilization.
Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls— Their contaminating expansion brings the destruction of enlightenment.
Robert Redford thinks he is “honoring the South Park people”—who he audaciously claims “have welcomed us”—by “building a Hollywood Planet restaurant, right here where this library use to stand!”
Hence, we see that their vanity overpower their responsibility, imbuing them with a misguided sense of duty to do more than entertain. Ironically, this aggrandizement of their career prevents some entertainers from entertaining; they do not amuse their audience but instead harm them by twisting their fickle minds. In The Passion of the Jew, Parker and Stone critique Mel Gibson’s biblical adaptation, scorning a movie that strives not to entertain but to vex the audience. They depict Gibson as an insane sadomasochist who adamantly advocates the spiritual importance of his film. Meanwhile, this bastardization of the cinema has infected the minds of South Park’s Christian body with delusional morality, and they turn to Nazism. This zealous, cult-like following results when entertainers abuse their trade. In The Biggest Douche in the Universe, the professed psychic John Edwards reads a disclaimer to Stan, confessing that his show is “given for entertainment purposes only.” And yet he continues to convince the public that “I really hear voices in my head,” unwilling to surrender the persuasive power of a prophet.
The insidious entertainment industry’s abundant riches have instilled them with a god complex. They have mistaken their audiences’ admiration for exaltation, believing that those entertained by them also desire to be subjugated by them. Their depiction continues South Park’s rendition of America’s superiority complex—the elitist’s endeavor to control the financially inferior under the imperial guise of philanthropy.
The Religious Leaders
The religious leaders, represented by the ostensibly conservative priest Father Maxi, exploit their influential power to serve their selfish desires. Maxi embodies the hypocrisy that the Roman Catholic Church has continuously been accused of practicing; he demands strong faith but lacks Christian fervor. When Jesus prepares to spar with the physically formidable Satan in Damien, the son of God is dismayed to find that everyone in the town is betting against him. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves, betting against your lord and savior,” Maxi growls with zeal, but then Jesus exposes his affectation of righteousness by revealing that his bet favored Satan’s victory as well. In Spontaneous Combustion, the priest attributes the town’s mysterious epidemic to weak attendance every Sunday. But during such a service, he selfishly abuses the ancient rites, praying for the Denver Broncos’ success and concluding his prayer by leading the audience in a chant where they repeat “let’s go, Broncos!” In Are You There God? It’s me, Jesus, his selfishness brings him to misuse doctrine. He voices his desire to witness Jesus perform a supernatural spectacle when he proclaims that Jesus must do something special for the new millennium because “it’s in the Bible.”
Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?— This desecration of the sacred recurs when he is caught fornicating with a woman in the church’s most holy space—the confessional. His transgression was preceded by a fire and brimstone sermon, where he demanded strict adherence to Scripture. His sinful hypocrisy reveals his evangelism to be a mission to better the conditions of his church—not a mission to save souls.
Like the eponymous hero in Schindler’s List, Maxi idealizes the presentation. Though he fails to demonstrate conservative morality, he nevertheless enforces strict adherence to conservative rituals, claiming that the mentally handicapped like Timmy may be doomed to Hell because of their physical inability to properly receive Communion. In Spontaneous Combustion, he takes advantage of the innocent appeal of children, as their involvement makes the service more pleasurable for his audience.
“Awww,” the congregation coos after the priest introduces the “darling local children.” The boys are needed to maintain the church members’ interest, and Maxi’s endeavor to recruit them demonstrates the stereotypical Christian’s disrespect for outside religious doctrine, as he manipulates Kyle into converting by asking him, “You’re not too Jewish to worship Jesus, are you?”
Parker and Stone comment on the selfishness that the hierarchy of religion invokes in its leaders in Jewbilee. Scout leader Shlomo admits that he does not care about his troupe’s spiritual cultivation: “I don’t want to be the Squirt leader, but I don’t have a choice. It’s the only way I can earn my Chutzpah badge.” He surmises a plan to expedite his promotion, hoping to impress the elders by capturing a bear that has become a nuisance to the camp. He abuses his authoritative position by ordering his Squirts to assist him, putting the children’s lives at risk and continuing the hunt undeterred even while they are seemingly killed off one by one. South Park’s religious figure is not driven by a desire to better the lives of his assembly, but by a desire to elevate his individual authority over his flock by strengthening their devotion to his institution.
THE ACCIDENTAL HARM INFLICTED BY PARENTS
The foolish parents of South Park are infantilized with irresponsibility, failing to adequately nurture their children thanks to their incorrigible inclination to put their own needs first. They lack due concern for their kids and continually harm them inadvertently—a result of their misguided parenting that does not foster but ironically impairs the health of the boys’ cultivation.
Careless Role Modeling
The childish adults misshape their kids, each allowing their idiosyncratic weakness to guide the rubric of their parenting. Randy Marsh is driven by a passion to shape his son in his own image. He goes to imprudent extremes to insure that Stan is sculpted by his narcissistic hand. In Something You Can Do with Your Finger, he is horrified by Stan’s newfound mission to achieve wealth and fame in a boy band. Randy recalls his youth when he fell prey to the temptation of riches promised by studio executives, having foolishly joined such a boy band and having suffered for it. When Stan ignores his remonstration, he carelessly offers the boy detrimental alternatives, advising him that “there’s better things you could be doing on a Saturday… You could be watching TV, or laying in bed.” Stan protests that he “likes being in a boy band,” and, growing desperate, his father goes so far as to suggest that “maybe it’s time” for him to “try marijuana.” Randy becomes equally terrified when his son deviates from the masculine path he has set for him in Cripple Fight. Stan begins to emulate the femininity of their new Scout leader Big Gay Al, which perturbs him greatly. He slams on the breaks when he hears Stan call Eric a “big silly goose” (uttered with the sibilant “S” that connotes homosexuality). Infuriated, he attempts to antagonize the boys’ friendship, demanding, “You do not say ‘big silly goose!’ You call him an asshole like a normal kid!”
You Got Fucked in the Ass— After Stan is served by an unprovoked dance crew, his father forces him to learn his treasured dance routine (to country music). His son has no desire to participate in a dance competition and would rather passively endure the humiliation of his assailants. Fearing that his son’s abasement will diminish the ideal masculine image that he projects onto the boy, Randy instructs him on the necessity of retaliation—if he gives no response, “they’ll think you’re weak.” Stanley’s Cup further demonstrates this erroneous assumption that Stan shares his idealization of manliness. At the age of four, the boy had once stumbled in the final seconds of a Pee-Wee hockey match, losing a winnable game. Since then Randy has suffered extreme humiliation and believes his son has shared his horrible memory, contending to Sharon, “I’m sure it eats at him every single day.” Of course, the boy does not remember, nor does he care about reclaiming the pride that his father demands must be recovered—a fact Randy fails to see, too selfish to ever consider the edification of his son’s individuality.
Gerald Broflovski’s role modeling is correspondingly driven, with greed undermining his moral obligation to his child. Chinpokomon demonstrates his avidity when Kyle asks for money to buy more toys. He instinctively refuses, but when Kyle reminds him on “how it works in the real world”—where consumerism is requisite for attaining acceptance from one’s peers—he sees the logic and acquiesces to his son: “Good point. Here’s ten dollars.” Whenever the boy questions why his family should prosper while others suffer, as in Chickenpox, Gerald hopes to confuse him by justifying their lavish lifestyle with arcane vindications for capitalism, arguing that the order of the world is balanced by a wealth gap in a society of “gods and clods… Kenny’s family is happy the way they are,” he lies, hoping to maintain Kyle’s ignorant bliss. In Sexual Harassment Panda, the Broflovskis keep moving into a bigger house with money won from suing the school. When the boy questions whether his family has the right to extort the school’s funding, his father is unable to justify his avarice, so he vaguely offers teleological rubbish, explaining how he is simply functioning within the system that “nature has designed. All things flow into each other.” “You’re trying to confuse me now, aren’t you?” Kyle asks. The boy is still unsatisfied, so Gerald draws his attention to the luxury of wealth, hoping to blind his son with the greed that blinds him: “Just look at how big this house is Kyle, just look at it!” His arguments illustrate the inevitability of inequality in America’s “liberal, democratic society” (as he calls it)—a society whose order is balanced by the powerful caste’s stockpiling of wealth and marginalization of the poor’s plight.
Thirdly, Mr. Tweek is so enthusiastic to see his son embrace the family’s multigenerational tradition that he forgets the boy’s physical immaturity, never considering the notion that eight year-olds can’t handle coffee in excess. He never notices the boy’s sporadic flinching, blinded by his selfish desire to see Tweek appreciate his passion. He essentially forces him to follow in his footsteps by inducing him with a severe caffeine addiction. During a withdrawal in Gnomes, the boy randomly blurts out, “I need coffee!” “I know how you boys feel,” the father replies. “Sometimes a hot cup of French roast amaretto is just what a man needs to get him through the day.” But clearly, he does not know how the child feels, mistaking his dependency for appreciation of his trade.
Some parents rule by tyranny, overextending their power in order to satisfy their need to control their children. Like the domineering Sheila Broflovski, Stephen and Linda Stotch endeavor to micromanage their son’s life by unreasonably punishing him, grounding him incessantly—an effort to immobilize him within the barriers of their domicile. And like Kyle, Butters develops an irrational fear of his parents, terrified of their domineering censure, even while alone. Such anxiety destabilizes his pubescent development, as seen in A Very Crappy Christmas, where he begins to experiment with the female body, voicing a Barbie doll: “Well Butters, would you like to slap my titties around?” But then he grows uneasy, saying, “no thanks, ma’am, I-I’ll get in trouble again.” His sexual growth is deterred by his fear of masturbation, resulting in disaster in The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers, where he is abruptly exposed to extreme perversion by watching the pornographic film Back Door Sluts 9 (“the single most vial, twisted, dark piece of porn ever made,” Gerald informs us). Having never seen the female body rendered naked in any form, the shocking porno traumatizes him, afflicting his mind with sexually depraved insanity.
Liane Cartman is the foil for the oppressive parent, being far too lenient because of her disinterest in Eric. Her authority is tenuous thanks to a lack of devotion to her son’s upbringing. She is unwilling to discipline him, preferring his satisfaction to the annoyance of his whining. He is prone to protest until he gets his way, constantly beginning his plea with an obnoxious “But, Mooooooom…” In Up the Down Steroid, we see her resistance to refusal when Eric asks if he can pretend to be handicapped and participate in the Special Olympics to win one thousand dollars. At first, she hesitantly refuses to grant permission, her voice irresolute, and when he begins berating her with begging, she says, “I’m sorry, Eric, the answer is no.” She must apologize for displaying prohibitive authority, and soon she concedes to his vexatious persistence.
Cat Orgy— Being an alcoholic, drug-abusing prostitute, Liane selfishly gives her dissolute lifestyle precedent over her son’s upbringing. Preparing for a meteor shower, she tells Eric to “come on down stairs” before she leaves. He protests, complaining that he is in the middle of playing Wild Wild West. She tells him that she “has to leave soon,” but he refuses again, so naturally she succumbs to his stubbornness, telling him that he can now “come down as soon as [he is] done.”
The town’s parents are highly hypocritical, teaching honesty but practicing deception. At times, their contradictory example results in the boy’s confusion and subsequently his problematic emulation. When Kyle asks for permission to see the Raging Pussies concert in The Wacky Molestation Adventure, his strict parents characteristically forbid him from going, and when he begs, Sheila deceptively promises, “Alright fine, Kyle. You can go. . . if you clean out the garage, shovel the driveway, and bring democracy to Cuba.” The boy then implores Fidel Castro to free his people in a tearful letter and, appealing to the dictator’s soft side, succeeds in democratizing Cuba. But Sheila and Gerald will still not grant him permission, confessing that their promise was a stratagem designed to manipulate him into doing extra chores. Confused and hurt, he reciprocates the deception, telling the police that his parents have molested him. Butters is equally befuddled by his father in Butters’ Very Own Episode. The boy witnesses him entering a gay men’s bath house, and, desperate to avert his wife’s discovery, Stephen teaches his son the art of deception. “I know lying’s bad, Dad,” Butters says. “You told me so.” “But,” he responds, “sometimes telling a little white lie is okay.” The parents of South Park are rarely concerned with their child’s edification when their personal interests are threatened.
Finding the Easiest Solution
When faced with a predicament, the parents will typically choose an expedient solution—the most convenient one available, but never the most beneficial one for their children. At desperate times they will bribe the boys, as is seen in Probably, when they tempt them with dozens of toys in hopes of pulling them away from their cult. In Towelie, Eric finds Sharon’s used tampon in the garbage. Terrified at the prospect of having to explain woman sexuality to the four boys, she offers a vague explanation, which only further piques their curiosity. Therefore, she must quickly distract them with the promise of a fresh commodity: “I’ll tell you what, if you’ll just drop the whole thing right now I’ll buy you that new video game console you’ve been wanting.”
Often, their offering of fun and games masks ulterior motives. In Chickenpox, Sheila, Sharon, and Liane encourage their children to sleep over at Kenny’s house, secretly hoping that they will catch his chickenpox. As a result, the boys lose trust in their parents, and Stan is almost killed.
They are too lazy to educate their own kids—and far too scared, (perhaps wisely) not trusting their ability to properly pull their child into the real world and uproot his innocence. Neglecting their instructive responsibility during his pivotal transition into adolescence, they allay difficult subjects to a third party. In Stanley’s Cup, Nelson’s parents confess their inability to inform their son that his life will soon end. Noticing Nelson’s admiration for Stan, they jump at the opportunity to pass on their difficult responsibility.“I’m just his father,” Mr. Brown begs, “but you’re his coach.” In My Future Self ‘n Me, the Marshes try to dissuade their son from drugs. They seek help from Motivation Corp, who sends an actor to play Stan’s “future self.” The actor instructs the boy on the perils of drug use, hoping to convince him that any contact with marijuana will infect him with addiction to harsher drugs and thereby condemn him to a destitute life of withdrawal and dependency. Questioning the truth, Stan sneaks into Motivation Corp. There, he witnesses a couple contriving with an agent. The husband exemplifies the South Park parent’s fear, explaining that “we just don’t know how to talk to our son about drugs.” “Well now you won’t have to!” assures the agent.
Pretending to amputate his hand, Stan explains that if the imposter really “is my future self, then his hand will disappear.” Randy is so desperate to perpetuate the lie that he allows his son to (seemingly) cut off his hand, then amputates the Motivation Corp employee’s hand with a butcher knife. “His hand did disappear. He is you from the future!”
More than anything, the parents dread administering sexual education. In Proper Condom Use, the naive Stan masturbates his dog in front of the Marsh’s book club. After punishing him, Sharon asks, “Don’t you understand what you were doing?” He of course does not, and his parents hesitantly explain the process of ejaculation with vague description. Frustrated by his son’s confusion, Randy demands, “Well Jesus haven’t they taught you these things in school?” The episode comments on the potential consequence of total reliance on such an untrustworthy institution. The bitter and physically undesirable Ms. Choksondik, whose childhood rejection has hardened her aversion to adolescent sexual activity, zealously endeavors to dissuade the girls from sex by exaggerating the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Consequently, a gender war ensues. The girls have grown irrationally afraid of the boys, believing that any proximity to a male will put them at risk of infection if he is not wearing a condom.
Such sexual confusion is also induced by a third party in Red Hot Catholic Love, where the parents worry that Father Maxi has molested their children. They hire an outside counselor to discover the truth.
Perplexed, the boys contemplate, “What would the priest possibly want to put in our butts?” They have misunderstood the counselor’s obscure interview, which convinces them to experiment with anal insertion, not understanding the sexual connotation. While their disconcerted children search blindly for answers, the parents always find comfort in the knowledge that a difficult instructional stage of parenthood has been trusted to a social faction. They rest easy, too irresponsible to consider this outside party’s ineptitude.
Fostering Impersonal Relationships
These parents live by a paradox; they expect their children to embody adult maturity yet disregard any precocious wisdom their child may offer, assuming his ignorance. At times, they ignore their child’s strife, believing him to be dishonest without ever considering otherwise. They are too proud to ever weigh their level of competence, as such consideration might force them to surrender to their boy’s intellect—his often-superior intelligence, the existence of which they will entirely negate throughout the episode, then sometimes acknowledge only after their foolish vanity has caused catastrophic damage. In Spooky Fish, Sharon continually finds murdered bodies around her son. Each time, she completely ignores his explanation. He constantly strives to convince her of the culprit’s identity—his pet fish from an evil parallel universe—but to no avail, as she will not even acknowledge his testimony, treating him like an infant by hushing his explanation with a lullaby: “I’ve got such a good boy, Mommy’s little angel.” When an imprisoned Eric phones his mother in Cat Orgy, he tries to inform her of the babysitter Shelley’s torment. But Liane blows him off, claiming, “Oh, no no no, that’s impossible, hon’.” Eric desperately attempts to convince her otherwise, asking, “Don’t you believe me?” to which she easily answers, “Not really, hon’.” She holds no concern for her son’s distress, too eager to return to the party—even letting him hear her moan at Mr. Mackey’s sensual advances without bothering to hang up.
The Jeffersons— Like Liane, Mr. Jefferson’s selfish desire outweighs his duty to his son. This infantilized adult prioritizes his need to remain in boyhood, ironically buying toys for himself and not his son Blanket. When Blanket is injured, Kyle attempts to inform the father. But his shouts are drowned out by Mr. Jefferson’s fantasizing song; he is too preoccupied with the “magical journey” aboard his “choo-choo train” to acknowledge his son’s distress.
When they aren’t treating their boys like irrational toddlers, the parents are reprimanding them for not acting like adults. At times, they forget their children’s age. When the boys defy their parents and lock themselves in Stan’s room in Fun with Veal, Randy angrily calls, “Stan, you’re behaving like a kid!” And in Timmy 2000, Sheila demonstrates the same stupidity, complaining that “Kyle gets so hyper sometimes he runs around and screams like a little eight year old.” “I am eight,” Kyle reminds her, his voice going unheard. When Stan is faced with two undesirable candidates in Douche and Turd, he refuses to vote, telling Randy, “I just don’t see the point.” Angered, his father exclaims, “Oh, you young people just make me sick!” Stan’s refusal to participate in adult, democratic citizenship gets him banished from South Park.
Sometimes they credit their children with an experienced sexual understanding, as is the case in Sexual Harassment Panda, where they assume that their kids’ knowledge is so advanced as to necessitate awareness-raising seminars on the boundaries of courtship.
“Did you know that when one little panda pulls on another little panda’s underwear, that’s sexual harassment?” asks the titular mascot. The children reply with blank stares, and Kyle tells Stan, “This is freaking me out, dude.” The adults have carelessly credited them with precociousness, and the presentation serves only to confuse them.
Similarly, Rebecca Cotswold’s parents imbue her with adult sensibilities in Hooked on Monkey Fonics. They have robbed the girl of her childhood innocence by fearfully limiting her to a rigid, scientific explanation of life—an inadequate preparation for her exposure to the real world. The Cotswolds deprive their home-schooled kids of public school’s social trials, equipping them with an emotionless, objective lens to view the world through. When Kyle tries to explain love to Rebecca, she responds, “Oh, you mean a mate? When it is time to increase the herd, my provider will select one for me.” The girl’s complete dependence on her parents (not unlike Butters’) results in a total dissipation of her propriety when she unexpectedly experiences a sexual awakening. Having only been taught a scientific definition of sex, she does not know to repress her desires. Hence, she adorns herself in a risque outfit and roams about the dance floor, kissing and flirting with any boy in her path.
In The Wacky Molestation Adventure, the adults flee South Park and abandon the children, who then begin referring to their parents as “the birth-givers.” Such a title reduces their role and impersonalizes them—and appropriately so, as their inadequate parenting skills hardly entitle them to a more estimable label. Their estimation of the child’s intelligence oscillates according to their favor. When he is excusably ignorant, they punish him for not showing maturity beyond his years. Then when he does evince precocious maturity, they discount his intelligence. “But Mom, you never took the time to talk to me,” Kyle points out in Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, lamenting Sheila’s maternal absence. He begs her to end her warmongering campaign—“I don’t want a fighter. I want my mom.”—but she refuses, and in her rage murders Terrance and Phillip. Kyle’s undeniable wisdom evokes her fury—her proud refusal to accept his superior reason that in effect allows Satan to rise from Hell.
Putting Their Children Second
The parents’ devotion to their children takes backseat to their own self-satisfaction. Whenever their irresponsibility garners reproach, they divert the blame from themselves, refusing to make any confession that would debase their parental image. Randy and Gerald are domesticated husbands who fear their wives’ wrath to such an extent that they will force their son to take the fall for their mistake. In Clubhouses, we discover Randy’s secret love for the comedy series Terrance and Phillip—a forbidden love, as both Sharon and Sheila condemn the existence of such vulgar television. Enjoying an episode in solitude, he is interrupted by Stan, then by his wife, who is immediately angered by her son’s exposure to the show. “Stanley, I thought I told you not to watch this horrible cartoon!” Before the boy can declare his innocence, Randy leaps on the opportunity to prevent Sharon’s discovery and sternly reprimands his son for his sin: “Yeah, Stanley, you should know better!” In Red Man’s Greed, Gerald’s gambling addiction is awoken at the blackjack table, where he puts his house up as collateral, then loses everything. When Randy finds out, he begins yelling in surprise, but Gerald quickly hushes him and reveals his spousal fear: “Shhh! I have to win it back before Sheila finds out!” Obviously, he fails, then sulks in depression, dreading the explanation he will have to give. But when his family finds him, he demonstrates his cowardice by pathetically attempting to place the blame on Kyle when the boy complains, “This place sucks, I wanna go.” “What did you say?” he asks, contriving to twist his son’s words. “I said I wanna leave,” the boy repeats. His father responds with feigned anger and rants, “Oh, you wanna leave, huh? Okay fine, Kyle, when we get home we’ll just pack up our things, load them in the car, and we’ll leave!” His wife and son respond with confusion, so he presses the blame further, “Oh, you heard him, Sheila! Kyle wants to leave! Our nice old house doesn’t interest Kyle anymore!”
Sheila also misplaces blame, redirecting it from herself and aiming it at society—a constant refusal to confess her parental shortcomings when her son displays his faulty ignorance. In Butt Out, for instance, the boys are caught with cigarettes, and Gerald asks, “Haven’t you boys heard anything about how harmful smoking is to you?” But before any of them can answer and blame their parents for insufficiently informing them, Sheila snatches the opportunity to exercise her power of civil sanction. “Of course they haven’t because the tobacco companies have gotten to them first. This is really their fault.” She is South Park’s paradigmatic hypocrite, projecting a humanitarian veneer when organizing her protests, submerging her hunger for power and thirst for blood deep within her unconscious.
Conjoined Fetus Lady— She demonstrates her hypocrisy when reprimanding Kyle for his fear of Nurse Gollum’s defect: a dead fetus attached to her head. “Your poor nurse’s condition… is nothing to be made fun of,” she claims, even while encouraging the exploitation of the physically deformed by showing the four boys’ her pulp encyclopedia Freaks! A-Z. After Eric and Stan flee in horrified disgust, the vulgarly-inclined Kenny leans close, inspecting the grotesque pictures. Then he chuckles, exemplifying the counter-productivity of Sheila’s mission. Her awareness-raising parade of the physically deformed does not spread sensitivity but ironically encourages lewd minds to assume the position of depraved voyeurs.
She is completely incapable of introspection, fooling even herself with her alleged goals to better the lives of American children. But her habitual protest organizing is actually a continual, egocentric effort to elevate her influential authority over the will of others. She craves the domineering power that her voice gains when she assumes the role of hegemon—a voice powerful enough to regulate her society’s normative ideology.
Bigger, Longer, and Uncut— After Bill Clinton introduces his “newly-appointed Secretary of Offense, Ms. Sheila Broflovski,” she shoves him aside, usurping the seat of the most powerful man in the world before addressing the nation. She even slaps him away when he attempts to introduce his plan during her ardent declaration of war. Not once does she mention the children that her “Mothers Against Canada” (M.A.C.) coalition is supposedly fighting to protect. Her message is only one of death—an immense hatred for Canada stemming from the frustration she has accrued in her failure to shield her son from adult vulgarity. Her egomania subverts her insecurities, and when she leads M.A.C. through the song “Blame Canada,” the final couplet unveils their aggression as a desperate attempt to divert censure: “We must blame them and cause a fuss, before somebody thinks of blaming us!”
Death— The first time Sheila finds Kyle watching Terrance and Phillip, she is perturbed by the fart jokes; yet later in the episode, she participates in the immature toilet humor spread by her fellow adults. When Liane catches the “explosive diarrhea” that has infected many South Park residents, she asks for directions to the porta-potties. Then, laughing heartily, Sheila asks, “You need to drop some friends off at the pool?” Marching on Cartoon Central’s headquarters in New York to get the vulgar show taken off the air, Sheila evinces her dramatic love for theatrical bloodshed when she announces to the crowd and news cameras, “In the past, people have had to die for what they believed in, and we are prepared to do the same!” However, she herself is not prepared to die. But she is more than willing to sacrifice the lives of her followers, ordering them to splatter their bodies along the skyscraper. She displays the same enthusiasm when ordering the execution of Terrance and Phillip during the USO show she hosts in Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. In both cases, she strives to prolong the violence, murdering the Canadian duo (in the film) after every soldier around her has lowered his weapon. And in Death, after successfully banning Terrance and Phillip, she is furious to hear similar vulgarity on the network’s replacement show She’s the Sheriff. “C’mon everybody! Back to New York!” she orders the parents eagerly, leaving the children behind without bothering to turn off the program she claims is so harmful. Sheila is frequently blinded by the thrill of commanding a personal army, easily forgetting about the welfare of the children that such an army was formed to protect. Essentially, she exploits their endearment, as their innocent appeal is necessary for strengthening her followers’ support.
The kids are often forced to waste their free time, suffering from boredom in order to entertain their parents. The dads love watching their boys play sports, but the boys never share their enjoyment. Ironically, the games are played solely for the parents’ benefit. In Child Abduction Is Not Funny, both moms and dads are seen cheering foolishly from the bleachers of a baseball diamond, beers in hand. Unreasonably fearful for the boys’ safety, they have banned outsiders from entering South Park. “But there’s no other team,” Stan protests. “It won’t be any fun.” “Don’t worry, it’ll still be fun for us,” his father and coach tells him before taking a swig of beer. The boy then awkwardly throws a pitch to the imagined batter, and Jimbo enthusiastically calls a strike to elicit the drunken cheers of the audience.
The Losing Edge— Stone and Parker portray little league baseball as a chore where the kids compete not to win but to lose and consequently be freed of the sport’s tedium. The belligerent dads utilize this opportunity to indulge in alcohol, never considering whether victory will bring their boys happiness; they only hope for victory so that they can elevate their masculinity above that of the opposing team’s dads. When their boys continue to win (not being skilled enough to lose), their ego inflates accordingly. Their drunken pride prevents them from hearing the players’ complaints. They continue to foolishly congratulate them, even after Stan explicitly voices his opinion of little league, calling it “gay.” As the boys unwillingly advance from one championship to the next, we do not see Randy training his son to pitch as one would expect in the rising underdog narrative; we only see him training himself, physically preparing for the fight that he will inevitably start with a dad from the opposing team.
During sporting events, the parents have no concern for their child’s safety. Too excited for the prestige that a dodge-ball world championship would bring their town, they voice no concern for the South Park Cows’ lethal Chinese opponents, who “use steroids and advanced training equipment to make them not kids, but animals,” explains a frightened boy in Conjoined Fetus Lady.
Two paramedics dressed as clowns bring a stretcher to seemingly help a severely injured Denver Cougar player. They exploit the boy’s agony in order to provide entertainment for his parents, performing a dance before placing him on the stretcher.
We realize it is a fake stretcher when they lift it and leave the boy behind.
The gag incites an uproar from the bleachers, where the parents’ hysterical laughter drowns out the child’s agonizing call for his “mommy.”
The parents’ support for their child’s team is tenuous. They don’t bother to encourage the boys when victory appears to be unattainable. In Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride, they essentially root for the Cows’ defeat. As far as they’re concerned, supporting the children with hopeful encouragement would be a pointless venture, so they cut their losses at the bookie, betting on South Park to merely beat the seventy point spread. This financial investment causes them to bemoan and curse the inadequately skilled Kyle when he is forced to replace missing star quarterback Stan. When their own stupid mistake evokes frustration, they direct their anger at their innocent children, punishing the boys for their own sin.