South Park's desire to embrace continuity while simultaneously tacking the crazy-mixed up world of 2016 has left the show with a difficult task: How do you tell a compelling story without it being too depressing? Episode three struggles to provide enough laughs over the course of twenty minutes, instead creeping towards the master plan, which involves a confused voting population and a possible memberberry conspiracy. Yet it still works on a dramatic level, which is testament to the strength of the show. Check out the episode promo below:
In this respect, South Park is beginning more and more to approximate those Golden Age drama series, in which individual episodes move ever. so. slowly. Of course, a lot happens in this episode, only that compared to classic zany, fast-paced South Park episodes, the time does feel relatively slower. Additionally, more so than before, the show is venturing past its usual everyone-is-fair-game satire into a rigorous analysis of what seems to be getting lost in modern culture. It opens the proceedings by showing how:
Trolling Has Horrific Consequences
I wonder if Stone and Parker have been watching Bojack Horseman. In a move more befitting of the Netflix original series, a storyline that initially appears as a joke suddenly sobers up into something quite serious. With all the gags about how quitting Twitter is like committing suicide — abetted here by Cartman wandering around like a lost soul — South Park surprises us by reporting that Danish olympian Freja Ollegard has actually killed herself by jumping off her balcony.
With this, South Park shows its moral stance — by laughing at abuse such as this, and seeing it as only satire, we become part of the problem. It also stands to show the disconnect between what we say online and how it actually affects people. Gerard's response is one of mortification: He never thought this would happen, and this is the problem with internet trolling. We don't see the person behind the screen. Naturally the Danish people, who equate internet trolls with real mythological trolls, have sworn their revenge. We shall have to see how they factor in later in the season.
Nevertheless, the influence of the internet on everyday discourse extends not just to individual deaths, but seems to be affecting the nation as a whole. Which leads us to:
The Presidential Election
It is a common law on the internet that if you make a comment about Trump which is based in fact, there is a high chance someone will respond to say that you're a biased liberal who can't face the truth. The spaces of genuine dialogue online are slowly being squeezed out. The same could be said for the Bernie-or-die camp, or people who inexplicably waste their vote on a third party candidate. The internet has made it significantly easier for people to believe exactly what they want to believe, and if someone disagrees, vehemently abuse them.
Therefore what Mr Garrison cannot understand, is that his rise as an internet phenomenon as much as a real presidential candidate, has made him a pre-sold event. He almost doesn't have to say anything, his supporters will go with him anyway. Yet it certainly adds to the humour that Hilary responds to his claim that she should be President instead by saying he is a liar and cannot be trusted. Cleverly enough, its hard to see whether the show is satirizing Hilary's debating approach, or the media's absurd criticisms of her that she is over-prepared. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see the show make fun of both candidates. Its too easy to just criticise Trump.
Love South Park? See Also:
- 'South Park' Season 20 Premiere: Giant Douche And Turd Sandwich Return To Pour Scorn On The US Election
- 'South Park' Season 20 Episode 2: Not All Trolls Are As They Seem?
- 'South Park' Trolls Trump And The White House With Mobile Billboards Saying "We've Been There"
Randy Sees A Conspiracy
Randy, who was supporting The Turd Sandwich (Clinton), suddenly finds himself drawn to the Giant Douche (Mr Garrison), because he doesn't speak like normal politicians, mainly by saying stuff like:
“I am not the guy you want going to Russia to try and negotiate with Putin. I’ll probably end up getting drunk and trying to suck his dick.”
Yet when he suddenly changes his mind and starts criticising Turd Sandwich supporters, he manages to stop himself and realize that he is not in control of his own mind. Feeling apathetic, his only viewpoint is that "everything sucks" before going to eat some more delicious memberberries. Then it strikes him, the memberberries could be behind it all, feeding into our nostalgia desire for a non-existent time to create a certain fatigue with the present day. To what end?
The Cartman subplot suggests a different approach, that:
Maybe Its Better To Plug Off And Have Some Authentic Experiences
Cartman is the shell of the boy he used to be. No longer having his stuff, he roams the school halls, unable to connect with anyone. Except Heidi, who committed Twitter suicide. She beckons him over, and they go to talk in the park. Resembling something out of Dante, the park of lost, pitied souls, who do things like sit and think on benches or fly kites, is a classic South Park example of taking an everyday place and making it absurdly strange. How weird is it, onlookers ask, to be off Twitter to spend some time by yourself or with a friend? The fact that it seems so strange, only seems to indict a culture in which social media presence is valued higher than your real presence.
Even though I am glued to my phone most of the time when I am inside, I'm glad I don't have mobile data. It means that when I am outside, either alone or with someone, I actually make a conscious effort to live in the moment. It seems South Park is also trying to say the same for how we live our lives. How are we supposed to connect to people through the guise of a screen? Heidi and Cartman's burgeoning friendship/relationship seems to be a genuine connection, and shows a vulnerable side to Eric that hasn't been explored in much detail before. That is until the final couple of lines, which is some hell of a curveball. I wonder if the South Park writers just throws these kind of things in last minute to challenge themselves for next week's episode.
It is while watching this episode that I wish the season was released all in one go. Naturally, this doesn't make sense, given that the production schedule for the show is right down to the wire, yet with its overarching storyline some individual chapters are bound to be less satisfying than others. Nevertheless, the disparate pieces are slowly being put into place, and its fascinating to see where it will go. The central question remains: Who is behind these memberberries? Are they the reason "everything sucks?" We may not find out until the season finale. For now, its only getting more exciting.