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South Park: The Greatest Role Models

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I am a huge fan of South Park and have been for many years. In 1992 and 1995, the shows creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone created South Park shorts features. The second of the shorts became one of the first ever viral videos, in itself being quite an achievement, which led to the series debut in 1997. South Park has been running ever since, currently heading into its 15th season.

I vaguely remember the first time I saw South Park. I was a very young lad staying around an older cousin’s house; I was about 6 years old at the time. I enjoyed it and can still remember my first impression. Although there were a load of jokes I didn’t understand at the time, the storylines engaged me. I wasn’t allowed to watch it again after that, being only six; South Park is aimed at adults.

My next taste of South Park came when I was about 10. One night when I couldn’t sleep I meandered down the stairway and into the living room while my Mum and step-Dad were watching South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.  The title, which I now know was hilariously named as it might be better used to describe a very different movie genre found on the Internet, was used,- just to see if they could slip it past the censors. When I saw this movie, I officially fell in love with South Park.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is very enthralling, and quite unique as a musical. The music itself is all very jaunty and the songs themselves are very similar to songs from recognisable musicals. The movie’s opening song “Mountain Town” is sung by Stan and a tribute to “O What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma. Clearly, I didn’t know this when I was 10, but I think I enjoyed it back then for the idea of children uniting for a course they believed, always spoke to me and I still listen to the “La Resisténce” medley on my iPod; it’s the song the children sing about how they’re going to use their bravery to prevent the forthcoming war.

There are four main characters in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut – and the series. Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny. Stan tends to be the voice of reason most of the time, pointing out faults in idiotic plans, accusing Tom Cruise of being “Trapped in the Closet”, trying to find the connection between bunnies and the resurrection of Christ; the list goes on. Kyle is more deadpan and is usually shown as the smart guy of the group – whether that’s because he’s Jewish I’m uncertain but they sure had fun subverting that stereotype in the episode “The Losing Edge” in which his classically Jewish cousin Kyle (they have the same name which makes the comparison blatantly obvious) points out that in trying so hard not to be stereotypically Jewish, he’s become a stereotypical jock.

Most of the show’s humour comes from the rivalry between Kyle and Cartman. In the earlier seasons, this was as simple as Cartman mocking Kyle’s religion and Kyle calling Cartman fat – however, creators Parker and Stone have really run with this over the years and for me, the peak of the rivalry is in the episode “Tonsil Trouble”. Cartman has his tonsils removed and during the operation he needs a blood transfusion; turns out the blood was contaminated with AIDS virus and rather than being sympathetic, Kyle finds this utterly hilarious (as you would). To teach him a lesson about AIDS not being funny, Cartman sneaks into Kyle’s room when he’s asleep and injects Kyle with his blood – giving him the disease too. Bravo!

In the first few seasons, Kenny was killed off in every episode, which became a bit of a gimmick. A fair portion of the fanbase would just tune in to see how they’d choose to kill off the kid in the parker. Kenny is slightly more rebellious than the others and seems more educated in the adult word. In the earlier seasons, Kenny was the one to explain most sexual innuendos that occurs were explained to the other three characters.

In the most recent season however, Kenny has received a whole heap more depth. In the episode “Mysterion Rises”, all the kids around South Park are play superheroes, and it is revealed that Kenny has an actual superpower – the ability never to die. He explains how he feels and remembers every death but then just wakes up each morning in bed with no one having any recollection. Being a fan of South Park and seeing all the ways he has died, it’s a bit harsh and nightmarish to imagine that this 8-year old has legitimately died all those times – it’s really no wonder why he’s the kid that does all the drugs (and, cat pee, in the episode “Major Boobage”).

There are two other characters who have really come into their own in recent seasons. Butters Stotch and Randy Marsh. Butters is a loveable person; he’s just so gosh darn cute and by far my favourite character. His little nervous quirks and innocent naiveté makes you want to give him a hug; however, these mannerisms certainly don’t stop him being the subject of numerous practically jokes. In “AWESOM-O”, Butters is convinced throughout the entire episode that Cartman is a gift robot mailed to him from Japan. Oh, loveable Butters.

Randy Marsh has become a very hilarious character in the South Park universe. He’s melodramatic about everything taking anything we may see as minor and playing it out like it’s soon to be a global catastrophe. My favourite example of this is in “Make Love, Not Warcraft” when he learns that anyone playing World of Warcraft will lose their character – true to form, he gasps and yell “My Son’s Playing World of Warcraft!” as though his son’s life were in danger. Later in the episode, he hands Stan “the sword of a thousand truths” (from a USB storage device within the gamescape), his online character is killed and we hear dying sounds. We assume it’s just a default for the characters of World of Warcraft until we see Randy making these dying sound into his microphone. Brilliant.

South Park is a fantastic programme and still one of the highest rated on Comedy Central. Really, I don’t see what’s not to like about it, it’s humourous, it’s simple and the characters have evolved well over the years. Anyone that hasn’t seen it, give it a chance and anyone who has I’m certain would agree with me.

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About Kane J. Harrison