Liam Hoofe reviews the ninth episode of South Park season 21…
After another hiatus, South Park returned to our TV’s this week with, as many had predicted, the first part in what is going to be a two-part season finale.
‘Super Hard PCness’ is, in many ways, a very strange beast to tackle. There could be an argument that the episode was slightly incoherent, and that the two main storylines failed to mash as well as they could have done, something which has been a recurring theme this season, especially when President Garrison is involved. And, there is another argument, one that argues that the episode was actually a very smart meta-comment on the state of not only the show but also, of its audience.
Let’s address the first one, shall we? Super Hard PCness had two main stories this episode. The first focused around the boys gathering at Stan’s house to watch Terrence and Phillip, which was finally getting the Netflix reboot treatment, causing Kyle to realise that he had changed his opinion on the show. Kyle, feeling sympathetic for the person being farted on in the show, decided to create an action group – MAC, Millennials against Canada.
The second plot focus on the bullying that is taking place at the school. PC Principal, feeling like something needs to be done, hires a brand new Vice Principal, the subtlety named ‘Strong Woman’. What PC Principal didn’t count on, though, was falling in love with his new colleague, forcing him to have to question his own ethics and workplace conduct.
Both stories, self-contained, were fairly amusing, if not slightly repetitive, but the episode never felt like it could bring them together coherently. PC Principal is always amusing when he is given some focus and he was definitely the funniest character in the episode. Kyle’s transformation into his mother was also amusing, as were Cartman and Heidi’s attacks on him, but the two stories never felt like they connected with each other logically.
Which brings me to the second argument. Super Hard PCness was basically a sequel to South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Kyle’s slow transformation into his mother and his war against Canada were about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but I suspect that Parker and Stone were trying to say a lot more than it would first appear.
The show has previous with this kind of self-awareness – go back to the exceptional ‘You’re getting Old’ in season 15, where the show basically questioned whether there was a place for it in the world anymore. ‘Super Hard PCness’ was, in my opinion, a comment not only on the state of the show but also a direct question to the fans watching at home. Those who’ve been around since the beginning of the show, myself included, are, for want of a better word, millennials, and it was no accident that Kyle’s group ‘Millennials against Canada’ shared the same acronym as Kyle’s Mom’s group in the movie, which was initially released back in 2000.
Was Kyle’s transformation a reflection of our own? South Park prided itself on its vulgarity and its willingness to offend back in the day, and while that still exists to some degree, it has definitely taken things down a few notches. Would we now, in this age of oversensitivity, be offended by a show that we once loved, if we reverted back to its old self? Fans, myself included, have been quick to complain that the show needs to return to its roots, but how would we react if we saw a man on South Park running around fucking chickens in 2017? Or if Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride arrived on the screen now? Are we all turning into Kyle’s Mom?
The show didn’t just ask this question of us, though, it also asked questions of itself. Terrence and Phillip have often been used as a metaphor in this show, and I have to wonder, have South Park poked fun at Netflix so much this season, because the show is scared that, like so many other old sitcoms, it will inevitably find itself a new home on there? In the episode, Terrence and Phillip are old and haggard, their jokes are no longer funny, and it was no small coincidence that they are now on a farm – the pair has been out to pasture. Maybe this was their way of telling that, look, while we would all love to do it, a return to the glory days would probably signal the end of the show. It was basically telling us that the show has had to adapt to survive and that if it hadn’t, it would find itself in the same shoes as a lot of beloved 90’s/2000’s sitcoms.
If South Park really wants to capitalise on this next week, which I expect they will, then you can definitely expect the member-berries to make an appearance in the next episode.
Super Hard PCness definitely offered much food for thought, and in many ways, it was the season’s most insightful to date. Next week’s episode will likely focus on the war with Canada, and they will likely tie that into the toxic relationship of Cartman and Heidi somehow, but Super Hard PCness was both a nice reminder of how intelligent the show can be, and a subtle warning that we have to be careful what we wish for.
What did you think of ‘Super Hard PCness?’ Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe