Many moons ago, when I was young and naïve, I didn’t like Comedy Central’s “South Park.” To be fair, I hadn’t really watched it – but the crude cut-out animation was unpleasant to my untrained eye, so I scoffed as all my friends got hooked. Then, one fateful evening, I watched the show while under the influence of marijuana. Finally, I understood: The vulgar humor fiercely lampooning celebrities and politics and pop culture trends; the criticisms of everything from Scientology to fraudulent psychics to branded content; the evil genius of Eric Cartman, a rotund third-grader. I loved it all.
“South Park” has just entered its 20th season. The show’s heart always belonged to Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Butters, kid characters who were wiser than all the adults in the town combined. “SP” children are cynical, but observe the world around them with keen and unclouded eyes. In the series’ later seasons, the adults are given more screen time, particularly the middle-aged, capricious Randy Marsh (Stan’s father), who acts as a kind of surrogate for Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show’s creators. Randy has the wary perspective of adulthood, but the reckless enthusiasm for new trends (like medical marijuana or metrosexuality) of a much younger man, and he’s a key character in the new season’s first episode “Member Berries.”
As with most “South Park” episodes, this one seamlessly incorporates varied topical themes into one surreal (but meaningful) storyline. The press comes to cover a girl’s volleyball game at South Park Elementary, eager to find out which athletes will sit during the national anthem (a nod to Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest). J.J. Abrams is asked to “reboot” our anthem with something even better and more patriotic (a nod to Abrams’ successful “Star Wars” reboot and America’s obsession with rebooting things). The 2016 presidential election is in full swing, featuring a Sophie’s choice between a Giant Douche (Mr. Garrison, spray-painted orange, an obvious stand-in for Trump) and the Turd Sandwich (Hillary Clinton). They’re both bad, but one is clearly worse. Mr. Garrison is desperately (and secretly) trying to lose the election by saying and doing outrageous things. He didn’t think he’d get this far. Imagine that.
The funniest invention of this episode is the “super fruit” recommended to American citizens to calm their politically-frenzied nerves. These purple “member berries” speak to their eater in drawling, trollish tones, reminiscing about how great things used to be. “’Member Ghostbusters? ’Member Chewbecca?” they chide. Randy is appeased, until the nostalgia takes a sinister turn. “’Member when there weren’t so many Mexicans?” the berries ask. “And ’member when marriage was just between a man and a woman? Remember feeling safe? ’Member no ISIS? ’Member Reagan?” Randy spits the berries out in disgust. But plenty of Americans are still enjoying them.
Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer