South Park is Still Great
After more than ten years on the air, “South Park” is better than ever. It consistently delivers intelligent satire and sophisticated analysis of our culture.
What makes the show different from other cartoon comedies is the outsider attitude of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They’re from rural Colorado. “South Park” reflects their spirit of freedom, personal responsibility and mountain-west libertarianism.
Parker and Stone never tire of attacking liberal Hollywood celebrities for arrogantly assuming that they know better than common folks about the way we should live our lives.
“South Park” has the best musical numbers this side of “Family Guy.” Sometimes there are Weird Al-style parodies of popular songs, like the brilliantly silly Kanye West send-up called “Gay Fish” (look it up on Youtube.com if you have a free minute).
Sometimes the show features songs just because Parker and Stone love music, like last season when Eric Cartman performed a no-frills cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” There wasn’t anything satiric or even funny about it. It was just a terrific, sincere karaoke cover of a great pop song sung by an 8 year old boy. It made me smile.
That brings me to third key element of the show’s greatness: Eric Cartman. Cartman is the ultimate anti-hero. He is selfish, manipulative, crass, and completely bigoted.
But he’s also smart, ambitious, and single-minded in his pursuit of what he wants. And when he does achieve what he wants, he takes a pure joy in success that is enviable. I can’t help but root for the little monster.
Here are a few classic episodes that illustrate what makes “South Park” unique:
“The China Problem,” (2008) – Based on their superb pro-war film “Team America: World Police,” Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a reasonable, nuanced view of American foreign policy.
They argue that we are safer due to the actions of the military and they definitely have no tolerance for people who argue that the United States is the bad guy in the war on terror. However, Parker and Stone do not turn a blind eye to American mistakes and abuses of power.
In this episode, Cartman is convinced that the Chinese are plotting to take over the United States. He and his friend Butters decide that the best chance they have to stop the nefarious plot is to hold up the local PF Chang’s restaurant.
During the stand-off with police, Butters shoots a number of cops in the groin. Cartman scolds his friend, angrily proclaiming that there isn’t anything funny about pointing a gun at a man’s groin.
Cartman eventually loses his motivation to fight the terrorists if those methods are going to be used.
Without ever even mentioning the words Abu Ghraib, Parker and Stone make a powerful argument that the United States military needs to be careful about the way it behaves abroad or it risks losing popular support and the moral upper hand.
“Manbearpig,” (2006) – People on the right foolishly combat environmental extremists by arguing with them over the facts. The truth is that no one knows how much climate change is taking place, how much of it is caused by man, or how destructive it is.
In this inventive episode, Parker and Stone manage to ruthlessly lampoon Al Gore without making any argument about global warming.
Al Gore comes to South Park on the hunt for the deadliest threat humanity has ever faced: Manbearpig. It’s half man, half bear, half pig, and only the former Vice President stands in its way.
In his ridiculous quest to save us all from Manbearpig and become a hero, he puts the lives of children at risk.
Throughout Western history, there have always been men who are kooky enough to think that the end of the world is coming, and arrogant enough to think they are the only ones who know how and when. Al Gore is such a man. “South Park” is the only show that is clever enough to call him out for it.
There are new episodes of “South Park” every Wednesday night at 10pm on Comedy Central.