South Park S15E12: 1%

November 4, 2011


The only really surprising thing about the South Park take on the #Occupy protests is that it took them so long. Given that it’s maybe not so surprising that the show spends so little of its time dissecting the politics of both sides and so much on Cartman’s explosive psychoses.

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South Park Elementary – under the terms of a Presidentially-endorsed school fitness programme that measures the average health of the school into account so as not to hurt any individuals, i.e. Cartman, who has ‘the cholesterol level of a seventy year old man’ – is forced to take extra PE lessons, much to the students’ chagrin. Naturally they take out their anger on Eric, who interprets it as the 99% ganging up on the 1% for something that’s President Obama’s fault.

As for the protests, there are neat puns about ‘occupying’ and  ’class’ warfare – two fourth graders (as the 99%) get in a fight with some fifth graders (representing the 83% of the school who are not in fourth grade class) – and some well-delivered but predictable gags on the two sides of the protest – one dirty hippie plays drums and another prances about in a V for Vendetta mask, while the police presence takes up two square miles around two eight-year-old protesters, including the stage a Bon Jovi concert.

It seems pretty clear that Stone and Parker aren’t terribly interested in the intricacies of exactly who is blaming who for what, and there is no deep investigation into the OWS movement’s motives. What they do explore is how over-reported the protests are (when Butters goes to the bathroom, the bathroom is #Occupied) and how self-interested the media is in following its own agenda (the episode ends with the reporters going to ‘occupy’ another fast food joint).

Anyway, the episode is just as concerned with Cartman’s apparant breakdown over his feelings of guilt and the demands of the other kids to grow up, which manifests itself as a series of horrific stuffed toy murders committed by Cartman’s own toy, Polly Prissypants and culminating in a fire-side, pistol-wielding confrontation while a lightning storm rages outside. Before Cartman brings Prissypants’ campaign of terror to an end, she implores, “say hello to the sunrise for me”. Perfect.

Put this beside Stan’s own trouble dealing with reality (is he still an alcoholic?) and this series might actually be taking conscious steps to change the personalities, however slightly, of its leads. Even if that is the case, I don’t see the poop jokes taking a bow any time soon.

This wasn’t a classic episode by any means, but this season of South Park has been a pretty decent one, particularly considering the time Parker and Stone took off for The Book of Mormon. Next week is the season finale, and not a multi-part episode in sight! What evil will the boys face next? And will it involve mocking a celebrity?

How do you think this series has matched up against previous ones? Let us know in the comments.


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