South Park – “The Magic Bush”

I think I’ve discovered that when people started reviewing South Park it was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the show often needs an outside vantage point, a third eye if you will, to explain the subtle jabs the episodes take, and try to explain just what exactly Trey and Matt are trying to say about a topic. On the other hand, it also means reading too much into it, and not enjoying the show for what it is: a silly, stupid comedy.

An episode like this brings this duality to the forefront: on the one hand, Matt and Trey make a good point about the celebrity nude scandal, insofar as that we should not be shaming the women that were a victim of it, but rather should be shaming the people who leaked the photos for being such blatant assholes. They’re naked women for fuck’s sake; there’s nothing shameful about it. On the other hand, we also start to look for more meaning, more commentary on the other topics the episode may address (such as the references to Ferguson, national security, drones becoming sentient, etc.) and therefore we lose sight of the funny stuff they’re doing.

It actually affects us as viewers. I know that, because it affects me. I’m waiting to see what they say, to see if they’re the voice of reason (they usually are) and in the process I’m not paying attention to how much I’m laughing, or even worse, I’m paying more attention to what I’m laughing at. Last night is no exception, even if I was buzzed and tired after the Giants won the World Series (woo!) and had trouble focusing. I was also texting. Look, I don’t get paid to do this, or else maybe I’d take it more seriously.

So the easy way for me to break down the episode is what worked: all of the jokes about Craig’s mom’s bush were pretty hilarious and juvenile, Jimmy’s “oh really?” bit in the school, Cartman’s general assholery about the whole situation, the way the drones started to take on “characters” of their own, Butters’ panic as his dad tries to ask him about the drone, Mr. Stauch’s insistence that his son couldn’t have used it because he’s “not allowed to without my permission”, and the townsfolk all denying that they’d seen the pictures.

In fact, a strong part of this episode is that willful denial of wrongdoing. Like, come on, who hasn’t seen Jennifer Lawrence’s nude pics? They were everywhere. And people wanted to see them. Why wouldn’t they? She’s attractive and she’s naked. Easy deal. Sure, it’s an invasion of privacy, and we should all be ashamed for ourselves for looking, but we can’t deny that we did. It sucks that they were released without her permission, but the people saying “this is such an invasion of justice!” surely snuck a peek. South Park nailed that hypocritical denial perfectly.

Even better, though, was Craig’s mom’s defense: not that she should be ashamed for having what is, like, a gargantuan amount of pubic bush, but that the perpetrators who stole the photos should be the ones who should be ashamed. In the episode’s framework, that’s Cartman. Who else? He snapped the video with Butters’ dad’s drone, then posted it online, and then posted a second video denying the existence of the first video. He blames “the chick from The Hunger Games” for taking the photos. “That photo of Jennifer Lawrence’s butthole didn’t take itself,” much like many people online did. That sort of backwards logic gets immediately trampled by Matt and Trey here, pointing out that a) we shouldn’t shame these women for being naked and horny, and b) we should stop pretending that we all didn’t look. It’s pretty spot on, if you ask me.

The misses come in with the stuff that ties into Ferguson. Sure, it actually tied into the episode well, as everyone starts using drones as part of a neighborhood watch” outfit, but when Randy’s drone gets shot by a police drone for what he claims is “doing nothing wrong” even though he is clearly spying on people having sex, things start to get murky. And frankly, I’m just done with that whole Ferguson thing, so maybe that’s why it felt a bit tacked on. Plus, it just wasn’t that funny. I wasn’t entirely sure why the town suddenly erupted into drones, but at least they found a way to resolve it (by flying a blow-up doll with a huge bush through town) that actually made sense.

Now, the big questions: did I laugh? Yes. I did. I enjoyed the episode throughout. But since they were tackling big topics, I got a bit distracted. Ya know, sometimes I just want to laugh. Usually for me the biggest laughs I get are from movie parodies. Hell, if they tie in with current events, even better. Parodies of zombie movies, The Shining, and The Day After Tomorrow have been some of the strongest South Park episodes in recent memory. I feel like Trey and Matt are at their best when they are taking those tropes and then spinning them with current topics. The homeless, old people driving, hippie infestations. These are the things South Park knows how to skewer.

It’s almost like adding new, exciting spices to old favorite dishes. When South Park tries to make its own new food, that’s when things start to get a bit….hairy? Oh god I went there.

Review Grade: B

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