Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this article for a class blog for a different class. Please check out the original post and the rest of the class blog if you are interested.
Anybody who knows me well knows that I absolutely love South Park.
I have seen practically every episode, and in a way it has shaped my viewing of pop culture. Through its unique brand of satire of popular culture, South Park in my opinion is one of the smartest shows out there right now (side note: who in 1997 when the show debuted would possibly think that phrase would ever be uttered?).
But over the past few years, South Park has changed. The current season and the two before it have ditched the single episode storylines for entire season storylines. And with it, they are able to tackle larger topics with more depth and be more up to date as new developments happen. One of the best examples of this is this current season. Also warning: this article contains spoilers.
As in previous election years, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are tackling this election cycle while also paying homage to a previous election episode. In the previous season, Mr. Garrison decided to run for President and performed some unspeakable actions on the Canadian President that was a thinly-veiled attack of Donald Trump.
This season’s main story arc revolves around Garrison’s campaign for President with running mate Caitlyn Jenner. The only problem is that both Jenner and Garrison come to the realization that they would not know what to do if they actually won the election despite the fact that they are gaining in the polls day in and day out. It gets to the point where both of them actively try to sabotage their own campaign, although these actions usually have the opposite intended effect and they become more popular than ever after each hijinks they pull.
Let me stop it right here and bring it back to October 2004. In the last episode they put out before the election, South Park engaged in some biting social commentary in which the two candidates for the new school mascot were a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. Stan said that he didn’t want to vote since he didn’t see the point.
Now that we have some context, let’s go back to this current season. In the election scenes Garrison and Hillary Clinton are never referred to as their actual names, but instead by this “douche and turd” model with Garrison as the douche and Clinton as the turd.
To me, the season is the perfect social commentary on the election and its ridiculousness. Their depiction of Clinton as a person devoid of all emotion and personality while being completely incompetent of running an effective campaign is spot on. Relating her back to the turd sandwich is genius in that she is a very flawed candidate but one that appears to at least have some ideas. Meanwhile having Garrison be Donald Trump is absolutely hilarious. Garrison, after all, is the craziest character in the show outside of Eric Cartman.
On top of the character chosen, the way they depict the Trump campaign is also spot on in my opinion. Donald Trump is many things, but stupid is not one of them. He knows exactly what he is doing. But I think that he got caught up in the moment and his enormous ego took over. What was originally a protest candidate became the nominee of a major party, and nobody (including the candidate himself) knew how to deal with it. Trump is probably aware that he doesn’t know how to run the country, but realizes that if he were to admit it publicly he would be the laughing stock of the world. Instead, he has tried to be even more ridiculous in an attempt to have people stop following him to no avail.
The reason I love South Park so much is because while it is funny, it still makes you think and look at different perspectives. Because they have crossed the line of decency many times over, there is no subject that is off limits or a way they can cover it that is too controversial. With this season, they rehashed an old idea, built on it, and adapted it for today’s environment while providing some of the bluntest social commentary of our day. In an election cycle of absolute craziness, South Park provides some clarity and a slap in America’s collective face to get it together.