South Park Gets Reflective

Man, last night’s South Park was sort of a bummer. Not that it wasn’t funny, but there was a definite undercurrent of sadness throughout, and the entire thing seemed to be a comment on the show itself, and its creators.

The episode, “You’re Getting Old,” focused on Stan’s 10th birthday and the changes he was going through as he got older. Mainly, that the things he used to enjoy started to sound and look like shit — literally. He was, as a doctor diagnosed him, becoming a cynic.

Meanwhile, Randy got it in his head that he wanted to force himself to like the Teen Wave music that sounded like literal shit to adults, so he started a Teen Wave act as “Steamy Ray Vaughn.” Unlike most crazy adventures that Randy goes on, this one actually had legit consequences: it ended up causing a fight that precipitated his (spoiler alert) divorce from Sharon. Her short monologue from their fight is worth excerpting:

I’m unhappy, too. We both are, obviously. How much longer can we keep doing this? It’s like the same shit just happens over and over, and then in a week it just resets until it happens again. Every week it’s kind of the same story in a different way, but it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous.

So at the end of the episode, Randy and Stan are both decidedly alone, with Randy moving out and Stan falling asleep in a new bed in his mom’s new apartment, his friends having deserted him. Ha…ha?

Clearly, the fight between Sharon and Randy might as well have been between Parker and Stone and the show itself, with them fatigued after 15 seasons of making the show, burned out on coming up with new situations for these same, never-aging, rarely-changing characters.

Stan’s plight could also be seen as representative of how they’re feeling about making the show these days.

The metaphor they chose, shit, has always been a favorite of theirs. It’s stood in for pretty much anything they’ve wanted to show as worthless over the years, so for Stan, a character who more often than any other acts as a mouthpiece for the show’s creators, to see everything as shit and have it make him miserable, well, it was telling. They’re sick of hating on everything, always looking for new targets for their scorn. It’s alienating and exhausting, even if the results, such as the shit-filled trailers for upcoming Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey movies in this episode, are cathartically hilarious to people with a similar outlook.

And the episode left us with no real answers; things were not wrapped up in a tidy little package. Although it’s certainly possible that the next episode will “reset” things and start fresh, I doubt it. This episode didn’t end with such ridiculous destruction, mayhem and ludicrousness that they would have no choice but to hit the reset button for the next episode. It was a quieter set of consequences, ones that were the result of a frustration with that reset button.

South Park has always been an outlet for for Parker and Stone to work out their feelings on various cultural and political phenomenon, so it’s only natural that it’s also an outlet for them working out their feelings on the show itself. And as the show heads towards what one can only assume is the end of its remarkable run in the next year or so, it’ll be interesting to see just how much they’re willing to change a show they’ve grown a little tired of in it’s waning days, just to keep things interesting and honest until the end.

South Park Gets Reflective