South Park – “Cock Magic”

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There were a million tiny moments in this episode that summed up what South Park does best. What does South Park do best, you ask? Everything. It’s at times biting satire, at times silly grade-school humor, at times strong commentary, and at times emotionally resonant. The beauty of the show is that it can play all of these different cards at any time, depending on what move they think is best. And yes, that’s a Magic The Gathering reference. Boom.

I don’t play Magic, I have never played it, and probably never will. But it’s clear that someone on the writing staff does. Maybe it’s Matt and Trey themselves (if I remember, Matt has talked about it in interviews, but that’s if I remember). Either way, there’s a fondness for the intricacies of RPG-style mechanics. Mana, spells, hit points, fantastical creatures. The depth and knowledge they showcased here reminded me of “Make Love, Not Warcraft” and the boys constant prattling of terms and phrases that sounded real, but could have been made up. After this episode, I’m 100% positive they were not made up, and neither was anything that happened in this episode. I’ll have to ask a nerd for confirmation (NEERRDDSS!!!) but my gut says, it was spot on.

And what a weird subject to focus on. Yes, what was really at heart here was the idea of “fighting” being a manly thing. So manly, in fact, that seeing two roosters (cocks) do it is the pinnacle of manliness. In typical South Park fashion, they made a brutal practice seem almost benign by adding in a very “un-manly” thing such as Magic The Gathering, adding a layer to the commentary to show just where they stand. This mixed with the fact that the boys, in a very accurate representation of grade-school immaturity, refuse to see the girl’s volleyball team play because they are girls. Does the episode say a lot about gender inequality in sports? Not terribly. But it scratches it enough at the end, when it all culminates in combing the two things, that we start to wonder why we have such an objection to women’s sports, yet find card battles perfectly acceptable. Us men can be dumb.

Case in point: Randy. He hears that “cock magic” is making a comeback and instantly goes into his old routine from college where he performs, well, cock magic. This felt like a great wink at the audience, as surely when everyone saw the episode title “Cock Magic” that is naturally where the mind might go. Randy, often being a surrogate for that sort of overreaction from the audience, instead goes into cock magic mode with aplomb. Apparently, he got kicked out of college because of his old routines. And it’s not surprising to see why: aside from the fact that, well, it all revolves around his penis, we also get some pretty clear shots of what look like a penis doing acrobatics, being sawed in half, frozen, and shot off with a gun. This reminded me a lot of those old “Puppetry of the Penis” commercials they used to run in the Bay Area, for some off-off-off Broadway show where two well-endowed dudes make puppets and marionettes out of their penises. How that ad used to run on TV I have no clue.

Not surprisingly, the cock magic routines that Randy performs are a laugh riot. Not just because of how absurd they are, but because of how true to magic they are. The forced smile, the miming, the wait for audience reaction. He really was putting on a magic show. With his cock. The best part are the reactions to this: a woman is grossed out when newly-created flowers fly into her face. A child’s birthday party is scarred when Randy makes his penis appear behind a girl’s ear after supposedly cutting it off (the one angry, sad child yelling “I hate you!” made me laugh very, very hard). And Sharon, disappointed that Randy is taking this up again, wondering why there are drums coming from the bathroom. (The answer, in a quick, albeit hilarious shot, is that there is in fact a full drum kit with drummer stationed behind Randy in the bathroom, helping him practice his routine)

Everything with the boys is pretty funny, too, though I wish I was a Magic expert and could relate to that stuff a bit more. But they had some funny lines here and there, and I liked that out of all of the kids, Kenny was the most sympathetic towards the roosters (seeing as how Stan once tried to save baby veal, Kyle tried to save a caged whale, and Cartman has a weird affinity for cats). Lots of funny “cock” puns, and good ribbing between Cartman and Kenny, were much appreciated.

The storylines have a nice way of intersecting at the end as well: Randy saves the day by performing cock magic at the underground cock Magic ring, thereby distracting the police. And Stan, realizing he needs to “do something good for a change” gets the girls’ volleyball the audience they wanted (nay, needed) by incorporating cock Magic into their game. It doesn’t make sense logistically, and Wendy doesn’t seem too happy about it, but it’s a bittersweet ending. It also caps off the wonderful emotional moment, that elicited a genuine “aww!” from me, when we learn that Wendy is the captain of the team, much to Stan’s surprise. The way she defeatedly asks people to come to their games is heartbreaking. Stand does show up, but he spends the whole game on his phone getting the play-by-play of the cock fight, so it’s nice that he finally does the right thing, even if it’s still a bit of a backhanded compliment to the girls.

A very solid episode with a lot of gags and one-liners that made me laugh, I’ve enjoyed how tight this season has been. They’ve really gotten back to what makes the show what it is, and focused on their strengths as opposed to trying to break new ground (the continuity seems to be gone from earlier, but that’s okay, it was a fun bit while it lasted). I think this is one of the strongest seasons of South Park in a long time, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

The only complaint I had about the episode was a weird commercial break just as Kenny walks towards the stage to fight a chicken. Felt out of place took me out of the great pacing. I also think his story didn’t get too resolved, but maybe we’ll see more of him soon. Either way, a very solid, entertaining episode, from which I couldn’t ask for much more.

Review Grade: A-