“Do you member the `90s?”
“Oh yeah, I member!”
These and many more nostalgic remarks could be heard from a group of “member berries,” the mysterious and devious fruit from last week’s South Park episode, “The Damned.” The show didn’t seem to be indulging in the nostalgia of the “member berries,” however, because after the episode had concluded, it exceeded my expectations of what South Park can (or should) be in the present.
“The Damned” came back to the topic of the election with the most recent debate, as well as the “member berries,” while also going back to address last week’s plot points. Gerald increased his trolling on the Danish Olympic athlete/breast cancer survivor Freja Oldengaard, as Cartman dealt with a post-social media world.
The election coverage was topical and laugh-inducing. Mr. Garrison, also known as Giant Douche (posing as an obvious comparison to Donald Trump), began the self-sabotaging of his campaign. This follows the revelation in episode 1 that he had no plans regarding how to be president and would like anything but that outcome. Garrison was welcomed with applause, even when throwing insults to his own supporters, while the portrayal of Hillary Clinton, as Turd Sandwich, robotically responded to everything he said with, “My opponent is a liar and cannot be trusted.”
As much as I would like to send this review’s word count into another galaxy ranting about politics and this election, I’ll keep the commentary brief. Show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always been great at lampooning both sides of the political spectrum (and of most controversial issues) and last week was fortunately no exception.
The hilarity from the election scenario works even better from a character standpoint than just social commentary. Those that have watched South Park for years know that through his many side-splitting and incredibly offensive acts, Mr. Garrison is the last person in the South Park universe who should be president. Nobody knows this better than him. (Note his campaign slogan from last season, “Fuck’ em all to death”). Seeing the way he reacted makes complete sense in the scenario he has put himself in. The political commentary added on top of it is just the icing on the giggle cake.
Gerald got his due this episode as well, as he had to learn real-life consequences of his trolling. After encouraging many others to attack Oldengaard online, she succumbed to the pressure and killed herself. This was an incredibly insightful twist for the plot and for the satire. Gerald now has to deal with being responsible for a suicide. There’s also a mysterious stranger who claims to know who he is by leaving ominous notes. The Danish also plan a counter-attack against the troll, which you can be sure they made plenty of jokes about.
The commentary here was really spot-on, especially after the previous episode equated suicide with deleting Twitter. This season so far has portrayed trolling as something tasteless, an act people commit to get a rise out of someone. But this episodes depicts how it can get out of hand, especially en masse, and actually result in severe consequences.
This week gave Cartman’s story more development, as he made friends with the social media-less Hedi Turner, but the two were doomed to “just hang out and stuff” in the park. This plot line really piqued my interest. It might be the first time Cartman could have a real friend, and may get actual proof that girls don’t have balls. As stated by the big man himself, “I just don’t understand what is at the bottom of a vagina.” Me neither, buddy.
What I found in the episode to be most striking was the serialized storytelling, something this show has been shifting to recently. Season 20 has started to feel like a movie that we are gradually seeing parts of, partially because the plot threads are being woven so nicely. Each of the aforementioned plots are being connected together by some mysterious force that just might have something to do with those damn berries. This woven-narrative storytelling is a topic that will render this season divisive for some people. I really enjoy this new narrative direction South Park is taking, especially since they are doing it so well.
Sure, the episodes may lose some of their individual impact with this format, but that is fine by me. I’m not eating any “member berries,” and I don’t want South Park to be stuck in the past. Bring on episode 4.
Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Austin Willeke at Austin.Willeke@colorado.edu.