Review: ‘South Park’ on the election: ‘Oh Jeez’
One of the casualties, if that’s the word, of Tuesday’s big result, is that the third quadrennial “South Park” day-after-the-election episode — a stunt that has become a tradition — required some last-minute revision. And this is a show that works late to begin with, operating on a six-day production schedule — like “Saturday Night Live,” essentially — to keep the satire as fresh as possible.
The Comedy Central series’ two previous election hangover specials, following the first and second Obama wins, had alternate versions ready to go. This year, the result seemed less in doubt, and the episode, originally titled in online program guides as “The Very First Gentleman” on Wednesday became “Oh Jeez.”
“Things have not worked out the way they were supposed to,” says the series impression of Hillary Clinton.
The themes in the 20th anniversary season, which began in September, have interwoven a number of serial strands, including the election. Former elementary school teacher Mr. Garrison has served as a stand-in for Donald Trump, with the series’ (typically) unflattering version of Caitlyn Jenner as his running mate; as Garrison described his candidacy in last week’s episode, in a speech meant to bring an end to it: “When I started this campaign, I was saying a lot of [crap] because I was angry, and then I turned that anger into pushing buttons by being more and more outrageous. Slowly people started paying attention to me, and I guess it made me feel powerful.” Then he asked people to vote for Clinton.
“I tried being dirty. I tried being vulgar. Nothing mattered,” Garrison said in Wednesday’s episode. Now he will be president, maybe. One apparently late line, which escaped bleeping, announced his intentions in the rudest terms.
Other threads and references this year, not unrelated to the political scene and climate, play off Internet trolling and cyberbullying, social media, email dumps, Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, the colonization of Mars and, in one great shaggy dog punchline, Rickrolling. A story line in which Butters, who has become the series’ locus of anger now that Eric Cartman is a love-struck feminist, leads his male classmates in exposing themselves in what plays as a critique of what one might call the white male victimization movement. (Small cartoon children exposing themselves may be less sexual than if it were adults, I guess, but it is still bizarre.)
Even stranger, perhaps, is one involving “member berries,” a talking fruit with nostalgia-inducing psychotropic effects that is used to explain both a rash of conservative yearnings for a time when “there weren’t so many Mexicans” and “marriage was just between a man and a woman” and also the success of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” (“Star Wars” and its then-new relationship with Disney was the satirical centerpiece of the 2014 post-election special.)
“Oh Jeez” includes appearances by “Bill Clinton,” who is opening a South Park “Gentlemen’s Club” — to teach boys to be gentlemen — and eventually will sit down with Butters to explain that the female payback is coming and they will need to “keep our heads low and act like we’re changed men.” (This seems to be a hangover from the version of the episode in which Clinton won.)
Clinton, meanwhile, portrayed as something like “M” in a James Bond film, sends Kyle’s father, Gerald Broflovski, on a secret mission to take down the Danish company Trolltrace. As an act of revenge for Gerald’s trolling, Trolltrace has created a program to reveal everyone’s Internet history to the world and it has destroyed Fort Collins, Colo., down the road from South Park.
Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are equal-opportunity satirists — “People on the far left and the far right are the same exact person to us,” Parker has said. (The show’s nickname for Clinton has been Turd Sandwich.) But they are not scattershot, and their take on the historical moment is pretty clear.
Late in the episode, at the family dinner table, Stan’s dad, Randy Marsh, under the influence of the member berries, says robotically, “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sure excited. America’s going to be great again.”
“This country’s going to suck for four years,” says his daughter, Shelly, protesting.
“Aw, come on, Shelly,” Randy responds. “We’ve learned that women can be anything, except for president.”
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd
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