Fisking South Park, Season 1 Episode 2

cartmanbeefcake

The second episode of South Park, entitled “Weight Gain 4000” deals with many issues: fitness products, gun control, entitlement, cheating and revenge.

The episode revolves around Cartman, who wins a national essay contest, which sends the town into a tizzy when they realize that Kathy Lee Gifford is coming into town to present the Award. The plot then splits; the townspeople and mayor are feverishly preparing the best way to welcome Mrs. Gifford, meanwhile Mr. Garrison is trying to plan a revenge on Cathy for a talent show title she won away from him in grade school, and Cartman doing his best to get ready for a tv appearance.

However, after getting home from school, Cartman sees a commercial for “Weight Gain 4000”, an energy elixir that obviously a parody of “get slim quick” products. Cartman is convinced by the commercial that eating the product will gain him muscle and turn him into a “beefcake” but in reality, it only makes him gain more fat.Kathy Lee Gifford is used throughout the episode as a representative of entitlement. We see a flashback of little Kathy Lee winning a talent contest because she has a group of backup singers and dancers. She is rich, and in real life at this time she was promoting cruise lines and Slim Fast, so its no wonder she was chosen as the example of excess. When she finally arrives in town, she is escorted in a bullet proof bubble (like the pope).
This episode also deals with race relations, as the town mayor decides that the best way to greet a television crew is to have the only black man in the city sing a song, regardless of how inappropriate a choice he is as a person. They only can see him as a representative of his race, and assume that he understands his part in the social contract.The thing that gets me about this social contract is that it hasn’t changed. August 20th, 1997 was when this episode aired. Its 16 years later, and a white woman (or rather, her brand) has made a blatant and obvious point that seeing persons of color as props is perfectly acceptable. Miley Cyrus started her descent into tokenism when she claimed that she hadn’t even listened to a Jay-Z song before singing lyrics written for her about how Jay-Z songs were her favorite. Her music videos have ascribed to tokenism, and then they just went all out.

“it is…worth commenting upon when in the pop culture circus the white woman is the ringleader and the (black) women who look like you are the dancing elephants.”

Another plotline shows Mr. Garrison having his first mental breakdown (of many to come). Mr. Hat initially seems like one of those “oddball teachers” who thinks he can get children to listen to him better if they use puppets. In Mr Garrison’s case, he seems to have had Mr. Hat around for years, and so Mr Hat is an indication of a split personality. That part of his personality is jealous of fame, upset for being passed over for accolades, and spiteful towards the way he perceives people as treating him. This episode opens up the discussion that is still ongoing about gun control (Mr. Garrison easily obtains a gun despite acting very oddly and angrily) and mental health. However, I feel like the mental health commentary is heavy and pointed in the wrong direction (as usual).

People with mental illness are rarely violent; I feel comfortable calling Jared Lee Loughner a tragic one-off, but that doesn’t mean the wholesale abandonment of our neediest citizens is OK. To say that this issue only matters because of the 20 people who were shot is to say that people who suffer from mental illness don’t matter. If you believe that, I suggest you not say it in my presence.

BEST JOKE IMHO:

Kyle: Hey Stan, did you see that rainbow this morning?
Stan: Yeah, it was huge.
Cartman: Heh, I hate those things.
Kyle: Nobody hates rainbows.
Stan: Yeah, what’s there to hate about rainbows?
Cartman: Well, you know, you’ll just be sitting there, minding your own business, and they’ll come, marching in and crawl up your leg and start biting the inside of your ass. And you’ll be all like, “hey, get out of my ass you stupid rainbows” [Silence]
Stan: Cartman, what the hell are you talking about?!?
Cartman: I’m talking about rainbows, I hate those frigging things!
Kyle: Rainbows are those little arches of color that show up during a rainstorm.
Cartman: Ohh, rainbows, oh Yeah, I like those, those are cool.
Stan: What were you talking about?
Cartman: Heh, oh, nothing, forget it.
Kyle: No, what marches in, crawls up your leg and bites the inside of your ass?!?
Cartman: Nothing.

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Fisking South Park, Season 1, Ep 1

EricCartman

South Park is a foul mouthed, crude show on Comedy Central that has been running for 16 seasons. The show is set from a kid’s perspective, lambasting and commenting on everything. No, seriously, everything. And with that short but sweet intro, I’m launching into the abyss of reviewing/fisking every episode of South Park (that I possibly can, without going mad). I will start with the first episode aired, entitled “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe”.

 
The story is simple enough. We are introduced to Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick, who are 8 year olds waiting at a school bus stop in snowy Colorado. Kyle’s little brother, Ike, is trying to follow him to school, so he plays “Kick the Baby” and punts Ike back into the front yard. Eric tells the boys he had a dream about aliens abducting him, and the boys try to tell him that it was not a dream, it was really “Visitors”. Chef, the school lunchroom chef and the boy’s favorite grownup, comes by to tell them there was a UFO sighting last night. As the children board the bus, they watch Ike get kidnapped by the “Visitors”.

 
In school, Kyle tries to get his teacher, Mr Garrison, to release him from class so Kyle can go save his brother. But when Cartman starts farting balls of flame from a probe the aliens left in his ass, they realize they have bigger problems.

 
From the opening, the show makes it clear that it will deal with these issues with all the tact and care that the creators believed they had when they were 8 year old boys. I was going to make a joke here about the level of that tact and care being absolutely none, but I realized how ageist and sexist this would be. I’ve met many eight year old boys, and many younger boys, and they have all the capacity for empathy and caring just the same as girls of that age do, and as much as any individual does at that time. They really are mirrors of the world around them, and that’s actually why I feel this show often works so well. The cruelty, or selfishness, or selflessness of the kids in response to the insanity of the world around them shows the issues that often are much less complicated than we make them out to be, and at the same time, have a more complex impact than we imagine.

 
Throughout the first episode, we have a few running jokes, some of which continue through the rest of the series, the first being Cartman’s refusal to admit that he is fat and eats too much. This starts as teasing from the boys, but its not aggressive in the context, because they are obviously concerned when Cartman seems to have lost sleep. Stan, Kyle and Kenny are not painted as bullies by the script, but more choose to push Cartman’s buttons as much as he does the same.

 
What’s interesting is that Cartman’s oft repeated defense of just being “big boned” is not his own invention, it’s what his absentminded, overindulgent mother tells him to say. The narrative actually makes a point to show that from the beginning, Mrs Cartman is shown offering him completely ridiculously unwholesome food (powder doughnut pancake surprise, chocolate chicken potpie, and the now infamous cheesy poofs).
Cartman, however, makes the connection between his weight and his food, and says

“I don’t want powder doughnut pancake surprise! All the kids at school call
me fat!”

Mrs Cartman immediately starts to baby talk to him and infantilize him. His frustration at this mounts, until he finally give in. This leads to him abusing his cat later, which is a very common way that children try to gain control of their environment when they are feeling upset.

 
The second joke is the very idea of an anal probe. The boys all think the idea sounds hilarious, and as soon as Cartman expresses fear of the idea, they tease him about it. The anal probe makes Cartman fart fireballs, set things and people on fire, walk funny, and eventually sprout a giant satellite dish.

 

However, it is obvious that Cartman is scared, and at the end of the episode, he yells out:

“Why is it that everything today has involved things either going in or coming out of MY ASS?! I’m sick of it!”

The entire episode, he has denied that anything was done to him, and that it would have had any lasting impact. Oddly enough, it lines up with how some men handle rape/assault. Denial, then acceptance that it happened, but denial that there are any lasting effects, then utter anger that things keep happening to them that are not part of the normal narrative.

The third running joke is of Stan vomiting on himself every time he tries to talk to his crush, Wendy. This is both grotesque and very effective. Stan literally sabotages his own efforts to be nice to Wendy as the gender narrative usually dictates, but this works out as a wonderful reversal at the end of the episode, where Wendy is vomited on by Stan, and instead of running away, she and Stan bond over trying to identify the foods in the vomit, silhouetted romantically against a full moon.

3 BEST JOKES IMHO:

CARTMAN

No kitty! Bad Kitty!! No Kitty, this is MY pot pie!!! MOMM!!! Kitty’sbeing a dildo!!

CARTMAN’S MOM

Well then I know a certain kitty kitty who’s sleeping with mommy tonight!

CARTMAN

What?

KYLE
Yeah! Check this one out!
(to Ike)
Ready Ike? Kick the baby
IKE
Don’t kick the baby.
KYLE
Kick the baby.
Kyle kicks his brother down the icy road.
IKE
Wahhhhh!

KYLE
Can I PLEASE be excused from class?
MR. GARRISON
I don’t know, Kyle. Did you ask Mr.
Hat?
KYLE
I don’t want to ask Mr. Hat, I’m
asking YOU!
MR. GARRISON
Oh, I think you should ask Mr. Hat.
KYLE
(SIGHING)
Mr. Hat, may I please be excused from
class?…
MR.HAT
Well Kyle, NO! You hear me? You go
to hell, you go to hell and you die!
MR. GARRISON
Hmm, guess you’ll have to take your
seat, Kyle.
KYLE
Dammit!

BEST KENNY JOKE:

KYLE
Whoa, maybe you can kiss her.
CARTMAN
Or slip her the tongue.
KENNY
Mmmph mrrr mff Mrmmph
STAN
What? How do you know she has a cat?