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
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:
No kitty! Bad Kitty!! No Kitty, this is MY pot pie!!! MOMM!!! Kitty’sbeing a dildo!!
Well then I know a certain kitty kitty who’s sleeping with mommy tonight!
Yeah! Check this one out!
Ready Ike? Kick the baby
Don’t kick the baby.
Kick the baby.
Kyle kicks his brother down the icy road.
Can I PLEASE be excused from class?
I don’t know, Kyle. Did you ask Mr.
I don’t want to ask Mr. Hat, I’m
Oh, I think you should ask Mr. Hat.
Mr. Hat, may I please be excused from
Well Kyle, NO! You hear me? You go
to hell, you go to hell and you die!
Hmm, guess you’ll have to take your
BEST KENNY JOKE:
Whoa, maybe you can kiss her.
Or slip her the tongue.
Mmmph mrrr mff Mrmmph
What? How do you know she has a cat?