South Park S16E05 – Butterballs

April 13, 2012

TV

Another kind of uneven week last time round for South Park. “Jewpacabra” was more of the same for a lot of reasons, and leant pretty heavily on some easy targets and some of Cartman’s well-explored personality quirks. Fun episode, but not a massive return to form.

Image via Yidio

So it’s kind of a relief this week to get something that not only hits all the right comedy notes but engages with something that actually has some common currency. When Butters turns up to lunch with a black eye and no food, Stan starts agitating for better protection against bullying, and eventually makes a anti-bullying video at the behest of Bucky Bailey’s Bully Buckers (TM) with Butters as the reluctant star. The video, called Let’s Make Bullying Kill Itself and which is far catchier than it has any right to be, is bought by a movie company without Bucky Bailey’s permission, starting a chain of bullying that goes all the way to Christ.

The point of the argument is pretty straightforward: we are all bullies. We’re trying to get someone to do what we want or think how we think, and there are few things more invasive or intrusive as viral marketing, however benign the intent. Kyle, as is so often the case, is the voice of reason when Stan starts to lose sight of the actual victims to concentrate on his new-found celebrity, and the aggressive communication of his ideas. Kyle warns him that eventually he’ll end up jerking off on a street corner in San Diego. Stan is perplexed, clearly having not seen the ignominious end (pun) of the maker of the Kony 2012 video.

Meanwhile Butters is struggling to face up to his own actual bully, his grandma, one of the more unsettling villains in the show’s history. As Stan gets famous Butters is no better off, until he finally cracks on live television and attacks Dr Oz. But this teaches him a lesson, which he relates to his grandmother in the episode’s small moment of genuine feeling, a moment that also works as its strong message for bullied kids. Butters realises from attacking a talk show host that being angry and taking it out on others leaves him feeling dark and empty, which must be how his grandma feels all the time. He reminds her that although as a kid it seems like things last forever, someday (someday soon in his grandma’s case) she’ll go away, and that on her death bed she’ll still be that awful, empty, angry person, and Butters will go on living. South Park basically made an It Gets Better video, and there are few times I have been more proud of it.

Anyway, back in the comedy, Butters’ outburst has backfired on Stan, who loses his contract when it turns out the face of the video is a violent psychopath not unlike the Kony 2012 guy. When he returns to school all the kids who supported him (and shared his video on Facebook no doubt) hate him all the more for being covered in his reflected shame. He remembers that there’s only one thing left to do: get on a plane to San Diego and masturbate naked on a street corner while a guy in a nearby apartment block films it. The results are glorious:

This is definitely an episode to remember, and features two superb musical numbers. There just isn’t another show on the tubes like South Park, and it’s episodes like this one that remind me at least how much of a special thing it is.

There’s so much to see in San Diego. Tell us how you spent your vacation in the comments.

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