Apr 16 2010
I still enjoy South Park every week, but many have claimed that the show has lost a lot of its luster over the years. I don’t know that I disagree, as the show has leaned much more toward social commentary than ridiculous humor recently. Granted, South Park has almost always been known for its social commentary and penchant for tackling current events, but the past few years have seemed particularly preachy. In some ways, it become the opposite of Family Guy.
The 200th for any show is a big deal, but you expect the unexpected when it comes to South Park. Personally, I thought that South Park delivered big time, and the 200th episode was everything that has been great about South Park rolled into one. One thing I’m not clear on, though, is – will there be a part 2?
After years and years of absurdity and balls-out shock, it’d be tough for Matt and Trey to come up with something so outlandish for the 200th episode so as to overshadow or trump everything they’ve done in the past. Nobody likes “flashback” or “clip” episodes, in which the show’s main characters sit around and reminisce over the things they’ve done in the past, which in turn prompts the running of an old clip of the show. When it comes to television, flashback shows are about as lazy as writing can get. Instead, what Matt and Trey did was bring back some of their older, more memorable gags – a sort of “greatest hits,” if you will – and revisited them in a whole new context. There was no risk of a new joke that didn’t quite catch on, and longtime fans of the show were rewarded with a plethora of
pinatas references to the past.
And what was picked for the “greatest hits” was terrific, too – Cartman doing his Jennifer Lopez (or Mitch Conner) routine with his hand, Mecha-Streisand, the Gingers, and even a cliffhanger about Cartman’s father, just to name a few. Of course, every celebrity South Park has ever mocked made it into the episode, too, from the recently ridiculed Sarah Jessica Parker to Tom Cruise to George Lucas to Mel Gibson to gay fish Kanye West to even Paris Hilton coughing up man milk. No doubt, South Park’s 200th episode made good on showcasing all it’s done and poked fun at over the years.
But, like I mentioned above, South Park is more than just toilet humor and making fun of celebrities. It’s about social commentary, too, and so a 200th episode celebrating the show’s impressive run just wouldn’t be complete without referencing a relevant social issue. I guess Matt and Trey figured that they might as well go big and ridicule the one concept that is immune to ridicule: Muhammad. Of course, the portrayal of Muhammad is a topic that South Park has addressed in the past – which makes it once again relevant for the purposes of the 200th episode – but Matt and Trey pushed the envelope a little bit further this time.
Now, the jokes about Muhammad weren’t really about Muhammad, but about just what is offensive to Muslims and therefore off limits. Because, you know, it is pretty ridiculous the way westerners have to tiptoe around his portrayal. A Dutch cartoon showing the Prophet’s head as a bomb is obviously going to offend, but what about a crudely drawn stick figure by Randy Marsh? What about Muhammad’s muffled voice coming from the back of a U-Haul? Or, of course, how about Muhammad being completely unseen because he’s dressed up in a goofy bear mascot costume? The show never really answers these questions, instead “showing” Muhammad in these situations and having the self-awareness to have its characters ask, “Is that OK?”
The light metaphor of the celebrities as fundamentalists worked rather well, too. As for the Gingers, well, it’s not a stretch to imagine them as South Park’s (dwindling?) viewers, claiming once and for all, “If you don’t show us Muhammad, South Park is finished!”
All in all, I thought the 200th episode was everything that made me a South Park fan to begin with. The show was cleverly written and managed to somehow, for me at least, make a bunch of old jokes seem new again, all while providing the social commentary we’ve come to expect from Matt and Trey. The question is, of course, was this a stand alone episode, or will we see a part 2 next week? We were either duped again a la the revelation of Cartman’s dad (which, admittedly would be clever), or we’re going to indeed see Cartman’s dad and, possibly, Muhammad. Yes, he’s been shown before, but somehow I think it’s going to be a over-the-top this time. And will there be more “greatest hits?” Personally, I’d like to see some Terrence & Phillip, some anime, and maybe Lemmiwinks.
What did you guys think?
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