For 14 years, “South Park” has offended nearly every celebrity and organizations from the Catholic League to Al-Qaeda with its crude humor and satirical plots. If there’s a line, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone crossed it ages ago. Over the years viewers have become accustomed to the humor seen on “South Park,” and consequently, the show no longer has its initial shock factor. The seemingly strange concept that Eric Cartman is nine years old and a sociopathic anti-Semite has become standard and unsurprising. However, critics and viewers feel it still continues to be one of the funniest shows on cable television and furthermore, one of the greatest satirical shows ever.
Over the course of 15 seasons, the four main characters (Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny) have only moved from the third grade to the fourth grade. Time does not seem to progress on “South Park,” and there are no narrative arcs that carry over from season to season. For example, an episode can end with one of the boys stranded in Somalia, but he will be back in school by the next episode. This never-changing world is part of the show’s charm. But this June, Parker and Stone ended the first half of their 15th season with an episode that managed to truly shock “South Park” fans.
The episode, entitled “You’re Getting Old,” dealt with Stan’s 10th birthday. After having made the transition into the double digit ages, Stan began to realize that the things he once liked at a younger age no longer appeal to him. The sound of the “tween wave” music he used to love now infuriated him. The food, video games and TV shows he once used to enjoy seemed trite. According to Stan, they all sound, taste or look like “sh*t.” After seeing a doctor to find a cure for his issue, he is diagnosed with “cynicism,” meaning he can’t even watch a movie trailer without complaining about how awful the movie looks.
As the episode goes on, Stan’s luck and outlook only gets worse. Stan’s parents, Randy and Sharon, then decided to separate. Sharon was tired of “doing the same thing every week” and Randy was unhappy about getting old, which ended in their split. Many fans and critics saw this as Parker and Stone’s own feelings about doing the show. Each week, they put their characters into ridiculous situations, which were all reset for next week. For the first time, the show’s creators changed the world of “South Park” by ending the episode with Stan moving away with his mother.
The mid-season premiere, which aired two weeks ago, was the continuation of this arc. The promos on Comedy Central emphasized the fact that nobody had any idea where Parker and Stone were going with the show. The premiere, “A** Burgers,” showed that the creators may have just been messing with viewers.
The episode followed Stan, whose newly-found cynicism was mistakenly identified as Asperger’s Syndrome, and he was sent to a clinic. Cartman mistakes Asperger’s Syndrome for “Ass Burgers Syndrome” and displayed it by going to the nurse’s office with hamburgers in his underwear. Kyle later tasted these burgers and found them so delicious that he convinced Cartman to open up a food stand. Meanwhile, Stan turned to alcohol to make the world more bearable. The episode ended with the Marshes getting back together and everything returning to normal.
With all the praise the show receives for its social commentary and timely response to current events, “South Park” is first and foremost a show about elementary school boys. While television audiences waited with bated breath to see what radical changes the town of South Park would go through, Parker and Stone were writing some very funny fart jokes. Fourteen years is a long time to be on the air and the fact that Parker and Stone have not lost their edge is a testament to how talented they are. It also shows that as the years go on, topical episodes might become irrelevant. However the sight of Cartman with hamburgers in his pants will continue be funny for all time.
Danny Marchant is a Collegian correspondent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.