Or was not having a point the point?
South Park isn’t exactly a model of consistency. Whereas Family Guy and The Simpsons can generally be divided into their respective “great”, “mediocre”, and “fucking awful” eras, South Park can land in any of those categories on a weekly basis. For every gem like the “Trapped In The Closet” episode (for which Tom Cruise sued them — just in case “What do South Park and The Beast have in common?” becomes a popular trivia question), we get a turd like “A Million Little Fibers”, where Matt and Trey apparently thought having Oprah’s vagina talk to her asshole would be funny for 22 minutes (if they had stopped at 5, they would’ve been right).
The same rule tends to go for the political episodes. The one where they said the Tea Partiers are just mad because they have small dicks? Hilarious. The one where they attempted to parody Wikileaks by having a hamster with Julian Assange-hair named Wikileaks do things that had nothing to do with what Wikileaks actually does? Not so much. Seriously, that was groanworthy. Just because I’m glad Wikileaks exists doesn’t mean I think it can’t be mocked, but a parody should at least be accurate. Instead, they had “Wikileaks” do things that were closer to TMZ than anything else, and shied away from making a political statement because it was more fun to say “Hey look, a Julian Assange hamster! How fucking irrverent is that!”
This week, South Park once again ventured into the realm of current events, giving us their, erm, fractured take on the Occupy Wall Street movement. With a plot line like this, the words “Trey Parker” and “registered Libertarian” become quite scary. Was South Park going to spend the entire time saying that the 99 percent are a bunch of lazy hippies who should just get jobs and that the big business is totally super mega awesome?
Well….no. Which is too bad, because at least then the episode would have had a point. First off, the show has no discussion of actual class warfare, but rather it begins with the Presidential Fitness test, which Cartman does horribly on, dragging the entire school’s score down to the lowest in the country. Since, he’s worse than everyone else he becomes the “one percent”, and everyone else who is mad because they have to do extra work become the “99 percent”. Then, a protest starts asking for Cartman’s score to not be included with everyone else’s. See how this has nothing to do with what OWS is actually about? Just like with the Wikileaks episode, Matt and Trey aren’t parodying anything. They’re simply acknowledging that it exists. They are to current political movements as Seth Macfarlane and Seth Green are to ’80s pop culture. As long as they mention that something happened/is happening, they don’t have to say anything about it.
Also, did you notice the sneaky bit of libertarianism in there? The whole point is that Cartman should be judged for his individual performance, and the masses shouldn’t suffer for one shitty person bringing them down. Maybe that’s more understandable than Rick Santelli and the Tea Party not wanting to pay for the “losers” mortgages, but it’s a snide bit of anti-collectivism that would give Ayn Rand a satisfied smirk.
Admittedly, there a few decent bits of satire in here. The news anchor continually trying to make the protests about himself was funny, and a good send-up of news personalities who bash OWS simply because they don’t understand. Then, there was a decent joke about the police forces making up more of the area than the actual protestors, but even that one was mild failure because they imply the protests aren’t being well-attended (which they are), and they completely miss a chance to mock the vicious police brutality that had taken place. The atrocities at Occupy Oakland had already taken place by the time this episode was being produced, and Matt and Trey missed a serious opportunity to make a point about what was going on there.
Eventually, things get wrapped up with a splinter group being created – the 83 percent. Why? Because the 4th grade (which Cartman is in) only makes up 17 percent of the school population. So, it’s all the other classes against the 4th grade class. Class warfare! Get it! Bwahahaha! And with that, the chance to say anything relevant about actual class warfare had passed. Sunrise, sunset.
This wasn’t the worst episode of South Park ever (nothing will ever beat the Oprah’s vagina episode), but it was a misfire by a team who are usually capable of a lot more. Even when I don’t agree with what Matt and Trey are saying, I generally respect their ability to make points in a humorous, resonant fashion. This time around, they missed a chance to take on a serious political movement so they could make a bunch of silly puns without actually saying anything. I would’ve loved a staunch defense of the 99 percent, but I would’ve settled for something that had anything at all to say.