South Park has created four Presidential election episodes in its 16 seasons. In 2000, “Trapper Keeper” staged an election and a recount in Ike’s kindergarten class. In 2004, “Douche and Turd” had the students of South Park Elementary vote between two mascots - Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich. And in 2008, “About Last Night” showed a post-concession speech McCain teaming up with Barack, Michelle, and leather catsuit clad Sarah Palin to steal a valuable diamond. “About Last Night” was notably finished prior to the election, making scenes like this particularly impressive.
This year, South Park predicted the future again with “Obama Wins!” Though it was a pretty good way to get buzz, it wasn’t an attempt at voyeurism. The episode blurred the lines enough that it wouldn’t have mattered if Obama had lost.
At the outset, “Obama Wins!” looked like another spoof of a heist film, with Cartman coolly jetting to all the swing states and pretending to be a lost child (complete with lollipop and lederhosen) in order to dupe the elderly election day staff and steal the ballots. While it might have been fun to see South Park continue a version of the story that Obama and his rivals are really Ocean’s 11 style criminal masterminds, orchestrating national elections to distract the public from their thefts, that joke has been told. Besides, there are already a ton of callbacks in this episode already, including the Duck President from “You’re Getting Old.”
Cartman immediately shows Kyle all of the ballots stashed in his room, knowing that Kyle will be outraged and alert the authorities. By the time the police have arrived, though, Cartman has hidden the ballots, and Kyle is left to his own devices to figure out how to fix the situation. This involves guilting Butters to the point where he self-inflicts an almond allergy attack and ends up in the hospital.
Eventually we discover that General Tso of China has hired Cartman to jeopardize the election and ensure Obama’s victory so that Obama will give China the Star Wars franchise, protecting it from Disney. Cartman agreed to be involved on the condition that he gets to play Luke Skywalker’s son: Cartman Skywalker. And that there will be a character named “Jewbaca.” Got all that?
It all comes to a head when everyone discovers the stolen ballots at the most hidden place in town: the Hummer dealership. Morgan Freeman stops by to explain what’s going on, and asks: What’s more important? That the right man is elected president, or that Star Wars is with those who will protect it most?
When taken alongside the “Free Hat” episode from Season 6 where the boys went to great lengths to save the movies they love from being enhanced, re-edited, and re-released by Spielberg and Lucas, there’s really only one choice. Kyle loves democracy and fairness, but he loves Star Wars more. So he burns the stolen ballots ensuring that Star Wars will be handed over to China, and safe from the maniacal and crass Mickey.
Some weeks were just made for South Park.
Lindsey Bahr is a writer living in Los Angeles.