Last episode, I thought that South Park was getting more depressing than ever. Yesterday's instalment hardly cheers things up, yet it manages to sustain more laughs as it dives into the deep-end of troll addiction, mass surveillance and what men do when they feel under attack. By briskly moving things along, there seems to be more hope that this will resolve itself in one way or another. Watch the promo video below. It's NSFW:
This episode avoided any obvious lampooning of current affairs, instead using subtle-ish references to recent events as a way to underpin its direction. The result is a well-focused episode — especially for this season — that centers around two main threads and does it well. First and foremost, there's:
The War On Trolls
Gerald is running scared, convinced that the Danish, who have dealt with trolls before and have vowed to destroy them again, are onto him. Having destroyed his computer in the last episode, he finally agrees to meet the person sending him messages purporting to know who he is. Turns out, it's just another troll: Dildo Schwaggins. In an amusing touch, Gerald meets him under a bridge.
Yet Gerald doesn't want to be known as Skankhunt 42. As a way of justifying what he said online, Gerald says that it was just "locker room talk" a clear reference to Trump's insufficient 'apology' for his "grab them by the pussy" comments. Without trolling, he descends into petty rages, a stark contrast to how happy he was when he was horrifically abusing women on the internet. Things take a humorous turn when he walks into an addiction support group, only to find it only regards addiction to memberberries, something he has never heard of. This was a smart way of acknowledging the expanse of the series without the episode getting unduly sidetracked.
Gerald can't avoid Dildo Schwaggins, especially when he learns that the Danish have built a program that can track the real identity behind each and every troll. When the interviewer asks about whether this website means you can spy on everyone regardless of whether or not they are trolls, it raises the question about all-encompassing surveillance, which introduces a Snowdenesque theme for the show to explore later. For now, the trolls are assembling, and naturally they contain the gamer from "Make Love, Not Warcraft" and a douche in an Anonymous mask.
Gerald's addiction also leads to problems with his wife Sheila, especially as he hisses at her when caught trolling on the iPad she bought him. Unable to admit his true shame, he admits he is into "Piss Porn" (yes, this episode is gross) so she, in order to please him, strips into her finest lingerie and pisses on his face while he pretends to enjoy it. For now, it doesn't seem like Gerald wants to repent, but this Golden Shower does feel like an iconic (if highly disgusting) moment in the South Park canon.
Meanwhile in the other plot, its:
Butter's girlfriend from Canada splits up with him, so he rallies the boys to get their weiners out (didn't expect to be writing that on a Thursday morning) to protest against the girls. It seems that the overly aggressive, unsolicited nature of the boys getting their weiners out is a smart way of conflating both the horrific claims made in the leaked Trump tape and a reference to the popular meme #dickoutforharambe. Let's start by unpacking the Harambe reference.
Want To Catch Up With This Season? Check Out:
- '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; Season 20 Episode 3 Argues That "Everything Sucks" In Its Most Depressing Episode Yet
The Harambe phenomenon is an bizarre one. It is a meme that has extended way past the average life-cycle, and now truly entered the public consciousness. It has been written extensively about elsewhere, so I shall just paraphrase here: the meme is both a way of mocking internet outrage and a shorthand for expressing upset over something. It also means nothing, making it extremely useful in any situation, such as South Park, a show which prides itself on satirising the ridiculous.
In a normal society, dropping your pants and showing your genitals during a girls' volleyball game is a form of sexual assault. Yet here they aren't condemned by those in power. This is a distorted reflection of the real world. The fact that the sexual assault allegations — more of which have dropped this very morning — haven't completely derailed Trump's candidacy, and he hasn't done the honourable thing by stepping down, is a disgrace. Instead, the man just gets worse.
The same can be seen for the boys: instead of working to heal their broken relationship with the girls, they have decided to engage in sexually abusive acts. What's worse, is that it feels like a meaningless Harambe meme, therefore standardized, just as sexual assault is seen by people in power as merely "locker room talk." Once again South Park uses ridiculous behaviour in order to make pointed comments about how sexual assault is talked about. Also, now that the national anthem can be protested in any way you want, PC principal finds himself in a "PC pretzel," now weakly unable to condemn their actions.
If You Can't Beat Them...
As a way of stopping this, "Uncle Kyle" — as Butters has dubbed him — tries to get the old Cartman back. Here South Park toys with our usual expectations: we expect him to come back, plot his revenge, and make a stand, but instead he is simply living life with Heidi, a self-proclaimed feminist, pretty much uninterested in the problems of the world. Having had a glimpse of her vagina (this is a very weird show to cover sometimes) he realises that mankind has the potential to reach the infinite, a direct contrast to the display of power on offer by the boys at the volleyball game.
Cartman's new found sobriety is exasperating and patronising, and Kyle, also worn-out by the whole affair, decides to give up, joining the wiener-boys by dropping trou in the cafeteria. It looks less likely now that Cartman will re-emerge as the hero of the piece, instead becoming part of the problem by refusing to act and instead constantly patting himself on the back. And now with "Uncle Kyle" giving up, it seems that there is no one left to make a stand. Except Randy, but he's too busy with his the memberberries. How this will all resolve will be fascinating to see.