The “South Park” season 20 premiere kicked off with a promising start. The episode dealt with hot-button issues like the National Anthem protests and the presidential race.
The episode begins with PC Principal advising a group of girls’ volleyball players after a protest during a home game. The girls are upset over an internet troll who is targeting them and feel the school isn’t doing enough to stop it. They want to protest gender-targeted bullying by following in NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps and sitting down during the national anthem.
Also making a return is Mr. Garrison as the bigoted Republican presidential nominee. With only months away until the elections, the GOP candidate is eating his xenophobic words. Last season, Garrison promised to “fuck them all to death” – “them” being a blanket term for gays, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, etc. – and is now forced to follow through on said promise or face the consequences of looking like “a jackass” of all things.
Mr. Garrison is perplexed that he’s actually leading in the polls. Not shocking considering the town is serving as an anecdote for most of America’s ideals, including a hunger for controversy. This is evident at the beginning of the episode where the majority of the crowd leaves after the volleyball players’ protests before the game even starts. The protest has become the event.
But neither Mr. Garrison nor his group of advisors, which include Gov. Chris Christie and his vice presidential pick, reality-star Caitlyn Jenner, know how to get out of Garrison’s PR nightmare.
Despite Garrison’s demagoguery, Sharon thinks he’s still a viable candidate. This upsets her husband Randy, who argues his personal opinions, “because America,” stating he’s voting for turd sandwich – the show’s affectionate label for Hillary Clinton.
“I just don’t understand why every four years you people freak out over whether to vote for a giant douche or a turd sandwich,” exclaims Stan, referring to an episode in season 8 where the elementary school held an election for a new school mascot.
The crude allegory could not have been recycled at a better time. Mr. Garrison, serving as the giant douche candidate, feels like he is doing everything in his power to make sure his rival wins – something many of us have surely considered as a possible conspiracy theory in the real elections. He decides to make one last attempt at self-sabotage, but more on that in a bit.
Politics makes another appearance elsewhere. Congress decides they must change the national anthem by hiring J.J. Abrams.
“He saved ‘Star Wars.’ Now we will ask him to save our country,” someone states.
Abrams agrees to reboot the anthem, because, surely, his vision will please everyone. His revision is simple: he asks people to choose between standing, sitting or taking a knee during the anthem.
This not only upsets the volleyball players, who feel their display of protest is being ignored, it also upsets Mr. Garrison who wanted to give the majority of Americans one last chance to vote for Hillary by sitting down during the Anthem.
Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone seem skeptical about such progressive steps. By attempting to not offend anyone, does anyone really win? When you’re TV’s most successful provocateurs, each with EGOTs to boot, you’re not going to take the safe way out.
They illustrate how toxic this concept of false progressivism can be via the adorableness that is ‘member berries – a bunch of violet-colored berries with a Chris Farley-like zeal of remembering favorite fanboy characters like Spock, Slime, Bionic Man and Chewbacca.
Soon, though, the cute superfruit begins integrating subtle supremacy ideals, like “’member when marriage was sacred” and other retrograde conservative views. This seems like an obvious jab at Trump’s “Make America Great Again” motto, something that’s reflective in Mr. Garrison’s own slogan: “Where My Country Gone?” – a reminder that the good ol’ times weren’t that good for everyone.
What the ‘member berries may also be teaching us is that not all things that are considered sacred should be exempt from a reboot from time to time.
This parallels another plot point in this episode where the girls are targeted by an anonymous cyber-bully who goes by the name “skankhunt 42.” The internet violator uses the school’s message board to target the girls using derogatory name calling.
Cartman takes advantage of this opportunity to passive-aggressively taunt the girls, offering them a chance to prove they are funny and cool and put the rumors to rest. This feels like a reference to the recent parade of online harassment towards famous women, from comedian Amy Schumer to the stars of the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot, particularly Leslie Jones. When prior male-dominated institutions – stand-up and cult-classic films – are threatened with progressive revisions, it’s much easier to rebel anonymously, as is the case with “skankhunt 42.”
It might seem as if Parker and Stone are against this J.J. Abrams attitude of rebooting beloved American staples with politically correct façades, but what they’re really arguing is for antiquated beliefs like those of the ‘member berries to retire or at least get an upgrade.
As Stan asked his dad about the whole election debate, “why are we doing this again?”
Because sometimes a reboot is necessary.