The social critics at South Park take
aim this week at the too-easy target of daytime talk shows. Most people
even tangentially aware of American pop culture know about the spread
of sleaze TV, which includes talk shows, so-called "reality shows,"
and the recently-aired nadir of the genre, "Celebrity Boxing." Of course,
some might consider South Park's focus on scatological humor to be part
of this collective lowering of the American tastes into the toilet.
Others might argue that South Park uses that humor as a way of satirizing
it. And, finally, some might argue that it's just funny.
The episode starts with the boys watching
the Maury Povich show. The show features people with unusual physical
disabilities, and Maury not-so-gently questions them on their difficult
lives. When the guests receive a lovely parting gift at the end of the
show, the boys decide to create a "freak" to secure their own parting
gifts. Nobody is surprised when they choose Butters, but Carman's idea
of his physical issue is something only an eight and a half year old
boy (or the South Park writers) could imagine: Cartman tells the Maury
Povich show that Butters suffers from "chinballitis," or the heartbreaking
syndrome of having testes growing on one's chin.
Of particular interest to the fanboyplanet.com
readership is the appearance of the local sci-fi fanboys, complete with
their "Resistance is futile" t-shirts and suspiciously familiar speech
cadences. (For reference, see the bearded, comic book-selling guy on
The Simpsons.) Their reward for creating a chin prosthetic for Butters:
the original AVID cut of Episode 1, upon which they fall like hungry
In the Maury show green room Butters introduces
himself as "Napoleon Bonaparte" to several other guests with unusual
physical challenges. They are professionals on the talk show circuit
- a modern-day freak show. At the end of Butters' appearance with Maury,
he is sent directly to the world's largest putt-putt course as his prize.
The boys back in Colorado are enraged
that their plan resulted in Butters going alone to the putt-putt course.
Cartman decides to get himself on the Maury show, but they have switched
to that other staple topic of the daytime talk show: parents with out
of control children. Cartman talks his way onto the show, appearing
in drag and giving the most outrageous examples of bad behavior: "I
slaughtered four baby seals with my bare hands!" Leann Cartman, as usual,
remains happily oblivious.
In the meantime, the freaks go on strike
for better parting gifts, and Butters is forced to join the picket line
so the others don't discover his fraud. When the police break up their
demonstration because they're "not people," the freaks interrupt the
Maury show by sending a video feed into the show monitors. In a clever
sendup of pro-union television spots circa 1975, the freaks gather to
sing "Look for the True Freak Label." Maury is forced to negotiate when
his ratings start to plummet.
Chef was again MIA this week, no doubt
because he was in New York City for his induction into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame. Kenny, despite the misleading appearance of the beloved
orange parka on Butters, continues to be dead.
Who should be offended by this episode:
The physically challenged. The hosts and guests of sleazy daytime
talk shows deserve nothing better than this treatment, and given their
penchant for voluntary humiliation on national television, it is difficult
to imagine what could possibly offend them anyway.
This week's Worthy Message illuminates
how our culture exploits people with extreme physical or social problems
("freaks") because they are a source of pity and relief for most of
us: much like cars slowing down to view a wreck on the side of the road,
we are horrified, but cannot look away. While this might be true for
the normally-functioning members of society, one suspects that the deeply
damaged folk who most often populate the daytime talk show milieu serve
as a mirror for people whose lives are nearly as complicated and unpleasant
as theirs. Or, as the president of the TFU (True Freaks Union) says,
"they're stupid trailer trash from the South." (Although, to be fair,
stupidity can be found in any of the fifty states, and perhaps even
This episode had some nice moments, but
because I do not find genitalia by nature funny, the nature of Butters'
physical issue amused me less than, say, Kyle's mouth-breathing cousin
from Back East. However, Cartman in drag and his efforts to out-misbehave
the out-of-control teenager were truly excellent. It is true that anything
can be justified for the love of putt-putt.