Some shows have been on the air for so long, they’ve become television furniture. It’s there, present in the corner of the schedule, like that big armchair you forgot about years ago. The cat likes it and you don’t look forward to the hassle of taking it off its spot, moving it across the room, through the door, hallway and out on the street. So it’s collecting dust and cat hair. That used to be Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s christmas card gone completely out of hand; their infamous tales of snow-covered South Park.
Parker and Stone admitted in the past they had a hard time dealing with a lack of inspiration, and it showed. For a few years, somewhere around season 12, South Park suffered from writer’s block. There were good episodes here and there, but overall, the animation series wasn’t edgy anymore. Couldn’t grab the zeitgeist. Failed to do more than shaming celebrities. Seasons became shorter; the writing on the wall? Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny were cut down to just 10 episodes a year. Had South Park run its course? Were Parker and Stone – on the heels of their big musical success The Book of Mormom – going to fulltime shakeup Broadway?
No, they were not. In September 2015, the 19th season of their paper cut characters premiered, which introduced P.C. Principal and not just the town of South Park, but also the show South Park changed. Parker and Stone had rediscovered their ability to put their finger precisely where it hurts. The trend of political correctness, taking over the media by storm, proved the perfect hatrack to hang a season-long story arc from. South Park turned into a serialized show, more or less. Each episode still had a standalone plot, though.
Season 19 starts with a legion of broad shoulders, sunglasses and correctness to the extreme. The PC guys roll into town, second-guessing everyone they meet. In true South Park style, it quickly becomes a social pandemic and Randy Marsh easily falls victim to it. P.C. Principal takes over South Park Elementary and even manages to completely discourage Eric Cartman. It’s Kyle who’s trying to stand up to him, but he doesn’t get any support.
The only one who’s able to disrupt the political correctness, to some extent, is Jimmy, head of the school paper. When his articles become subject to censorship, he dupes P.C. Principal by delivering the paper directly to everybody’s home. Meanwhile, Randy’s on a mission to get WholeFoods to open a store in South Park, to class up the town, but everything just goes from bad to worse. And there’s more. Mr. Garrison becomes a hugely popular politician, whose ideas are not that far removed from the promises made by the new-fangled politician whose name ends on ‘Rump’. Also the gun control issue is being addressed. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny realize there’s only one solution: they have to get guns. Where in the world are they going to get guns, they ask themselves. Cut to: the boys each holding a firearm in their hands.
The real enemy, however, isn’t the political correctness, but something far more dangerous: ads. Parker and Stone hit the nail right on the head. Ads are everywhere and they’re often disguised as news stories. Or as people (this is South Park, remember?). They do have a point, though. Everything we watch and read, whether it’s the news, email, video, social media or other information on the internet, it’s all accompanied by ads. You can say, well, it’s just an ad. It’s not that bad, but you know why ads exist, don’t you? They work. They are legal manipulators and you may think you forget about them once you look away, but you don’t. Marketing is booming, it’s a trillion dollar industry. Companies don’t make commercials for their artistic value. They don’t put pop-up ads out there just to inform you. It’s manipulation, but such a soft type and wrapped in sparkling colors, so no one seems too bothered or worried about it. South Park, underneath all the silliness, is. Trey Parker and Matt Stone had become nothing more but two faces in the crowded television world, but they’re marching ahead of the troops again.