south-park-20-years

Everything I Need To Know About Charlottesville I Learned on ‘South Park’

Earlier this week, South Park celebrated its 20th anniversary as its debut episode aired on August 13, 1997. Across 20 seasons and 277 episodes, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s crude animated comedy guided millions of viewers through their teenage years and into adulthood. For me personally, I remember staying up after my mom fell asleep to catch the reruns along with Chappelle’s Show deep into early mornings of my adolescence. Those early mornings were what informed me about what jacking off was and about abortions—but also about race relations and how shitty of a leader President Bush was.

Starting in 2000, three years after the inception of the show, South Park began to stray away from any crude humor they could get their hands on and started relating the adventures of these four kids (Stan, Kyle, Eric & Kenny) to the real world. Every four years since then, South Park has gone on to make some sort of commentary on the presidential election and how it impacts the quiet little mountain town in Colorado. The 2004 episode “Douche and Turd” was a reference to the election between George Bush and John Kerry. The episode highlighted the fact that Presidential candidates are usually absolute trash and most of the time we have to choose between a douchebag and a piece of shit. The subplot to that episode features Stan uninterested in voting for either and being chased by Diddy who takes his “Vote or Die” campaign very seriously. Even by the end of the episode, Stan finally votes for the turd but then realizes his vote doesn’t really matter as the turd loses 1410 to 36. The terms douche and turd were used again 12 years later for the episode reflecting the 2016 Election. The sentiment that candidates are either a douche or turd sandwich was somehow still appropriate.

The Season 4 episode “Chef Goes Nanners,” is based around Chef, one of the only main black characters on the show, having an issue with the town flag. The flag features four white figures cheering while a black figure is hanged. However, two other townspeople, Jimbo and Ned, disagree and think that the flag is history so it shouldn’t be changed. During a City Hall debate, members of the Ku Klux Klan show up in favor of Jimbo’s side stating that the flag is history and a symbol of white power. Jimbo and Ned weren’t white supremacists, they just wanted to uphold history. However, the history they were attempting to uphold was a history that bred white supremacy and flourished off of racism.

Sadly, this episode, which aired way back 2000 is even more relevant today than it was back then. The Confederate statue that was taken down earlier this week in North Carolina was a symbol of hate and prejudice from a past era. However, many people who have pride in where they’re from consider it a part of history. You know who also considers it history? Nazis and white supremacists. If you find yourself agreeing with them on something that could be considered racist, then you might have to check yourself. You might not be a white supremacist or a member of the KKK, but by tolerating their ideas, you place yourself on their side. And yes, I’m talking directly to the President right now.

Speaking of that Cheeto, South Park even low-key predicted how he would get into office, albeit reluctantly. The 2015 episode “Where My Country Gone?” shows Mr. Garrison getting so outraged at Canadian immigrants that he attempts to build a wall around Canada before realizing they’ve already built one to keep us out. Fully enraged, Garrison gets into Canada to meet their President, who according to Canadian citizens, “said outrageous things and never really talked about any actual solutions to the country’s problems.” No one took him seriously so he continued to build momentum until he got into office. Sound familiar? It should, because when Mr. Garrison confronts the Canadian President, he looks exactly like Donald Trump. The “brash asshole who just spoke his mind,” turned Canada into a barren wasteland and mainly told people to “suck his balls.”

 

This episode dropped in 2015, in the run-up to the election when we all thought for sure Hillary had no chance of losing. Fast forward to 2017 and exactly what happened in the episode, happened in real life. Despite Matt and Trey originally planning to base the first episode after the election off of a Hillary victory, this episode shows that there was always a part of their mind that feared the worst. Somehow, a whole year before the election, South Park told us what was going to happen—and we let it happen anyway.

Perhaps the most important thing anyone can learn from South Park in terms of race relations comes from the 2007 episode, “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson.” In the episode, Stan’s father Randy says the word “nigger” on live television and Stan takes it upon himself to apologize to Token, his black friend. After countless attempts to get Token to understand that he’s sorry, Stan says “I don’t get it.” After repeating the phrase he finally understands where he’s gone wrong. Stan realizes that he’ll never understand what it’s like to be black and be offended by terms like that, so he can’t understand why Token would be mad. If you’re white, you’ll never understand what it’s like to have racial slurs thrown at you. If you’re straight you’ll never understand the impact of homophobic slurs. But not understanding the impact doesn’t mean you should ignore said impact. By realizing the fact that you’ll never understand how hard a group of people has it, you can attempt to be allied with them instead of playing victim.

South Park’s 21st season begins in less than a month on September 13th. With the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots still playing out and Donald Trump not getting any better, it sure will be interesting to see what visions of the future South Park‘s creators will bring to us next.

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