Trey Parker as President-elect Garrison.
In the past week, it’s become increasingly apparent that Donald Trump does not know what an American president does. His aides were “unaware” that they would need to hire an entirely new White House staff, and the president-elect himself has mistaken the process of assembling a presidential cabinet with all the grace of a reality-show competition. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Trump stated that he plans to appoint “pro-life” judges who would presumably overturn Roe v. Wade, but would not challenge statutes on gay and lesbian marriage because the Supreme Court had ruled on the matter. It’s not as if we didn’t already have an inkling, but it’s hard to deny these obvious red flags: Donald Trump has no real interest in being a politician. As this week’s episode of South Park suggests, he will instead wield the power of the executive branch to carry out an agenda of pettiness and revenge.
In “Members Only,” the plotlines involving Cartman and Heidi’s flight to Mars as well as Gerald Broflovski’s travails as an online troll both evolve. The episode’s satirical aims, however, all concern President-elect Mr. Garrison and his horror at finding that being commander-in-chief isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. His running mate Caitlyn Jenner impressed upon him the importance of some good plastic surgery before his reappearance in public, and we join Garrison as he emerges more radioactive orange and strangely coiffed than ever. The doctors apparently did a bang-up job with his “stank face,” as Garrison boasts while showing Trump’s unmistakable pout. (“Whenever I don’t know what anybody’s talking about,” he says. “I can just do this.”) The crinkling and mushing of his tiny mouth captures Trump’s signature tics surprisingly well for such a rudimentary form of animation; Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression already has healthy competition.
“Members Only” tracks Garrison’s first days as the president-elect, a cold shower in which he’s delighted to learn the fearsome totality of his office’s power and crestfallen when he realizes that he’ll be too busy to have fun with it. He may not understand the responsibilities of the job, but Garrison definitely knows that he’s in charge now, and his first order of business is punishing anyone who ever crossed him. The memory of his argument with PC Principal still fresh in his mind, Garrison storms into the office and carries himself like a Bond villain, holding back his malevolence until the time is just right. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about becoming president, it’s that your penis can get really dry,” he menacingly tells PC Principal.
At least in its early stages, there’s not much more to Garrison’s plan of retribution than getting his dick sucked by all enemies, real or imagined. This pattern continues during a visit at the grocery store, where he freaks out and exhorts everyone in his immediate proximity to tend to his dry penis. Of course, Trump’s ever-present undercurrent of xenophobia comes through, too: “I seem to remember Eduardo saying I couldn’t double bag my groceries, even though he’s from fucking Guatemala! Well, how about you double bag this?” All throughout, a recurring musical motif that combines “Hail to the Chief” with Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme from Star Wars underscores the rise of an evil empire.
In his first days of authority, Trump has made some disturbing overtures betraying his intentions: He has appointed Steve Bannon, a man who is praised by self-avowed white nationalists, he has dodged the free press, and he has floated his earliest plans for mass deportation and a possible database of Muslim citizens. South Park mines for laughs by cutting to the contemptuous core of Trump’s recent actions, all of which are aligned not by a set of political beliefs and stances, but by personal spite. When Garrison’s taken through what I assume is Government Underbelly Hall, he’s excited by the military secrets, the limitless power of drone warfare, a state of absolute surveillance, and state-sanctioned torture, but only insofar as it all allows him to further wet his willy.
Of course, Garrison is horrified when the Denmark government behind the privacy-eradicating TrollTrace hack launches an offensive against the U.S. and he’s called upon to lead in a time of crisis. He was under the impression that being president was all photo ops and glad-handing and decree-issuing and compulsory fellatio. He’s unprepared and uninterested in making political or military decisions. It’s only a matter of time until Trump realizes just how detail-oriented and involved the presidency really is, too. When that happens, if it hasn’t already, at least the likelihood of Trump losing his mind and demanding all of America service his member will be lower. Slightly.