Season twelve of South Park continues to hit high notes with “Canada On Strike!”
This is what South Park does best — lining up the confluence of power and self-righteousness and gleefully hanging it with its own rope. Trey Parker and Matt Stone despise the arrogance of authority and privilege. One of the most common satirical motifs in South Park is an authority figure imposing a politically correct theory in blind defiance of common sense.
In an open swipe at the Writers Guild’s recent strike over Internet royalties, Parker and Stone make their contempt for the WGA clear. In their view, the writers' strike was an ego-fueled vendetta driven by the Writers Guild leadership that cost far more than it gained. Here the WGA (that’s the World Canadian Bureau for those with acronym problems) decides to go on strike for respect! And for more money… from the Internet!
The head of the WGA (again, that’s the World Canadian Bureau) is a venal spokes-hole, calling for a Pyrrhic strike over perceived slights and an over-inflated sense of self-importance. Predictably – both in real life and in South Park – the strike goes poorly. While the rank and file Canadians start starving to death, they get replaced with the Danish, the self-styled Canadians of Europe.
Desperate to get the Canadians back to work, the South Park boys decide to make millions off the Internet in order to pay them off. This is where the satire goes from the obvious to the sublime. Not content with mocking the self-serving idiocy that started the strike, South Park hollows out the core issues the WGA is striking over. Viral Internet videos might be popular, but they’re silly and generate no income. The boys’ viral video offering is Butters, sweet naïve Butters, doing a Gwen Stefani inspired hip-hop dance.
The video of Butter’s dancing to “What What In the Butt?” is TiVo rewind worthy, and will get stuck in your head immediately. How catchy is it? A half-hour after the episode ended, my girlfriend was yearning for me to switch back to the “Taco Taco” faux-Jennifer Lopez song that I usually sing to torment her.
After their video takes off, the boys have to collect the millions they think they should earn. Unfortunately, they’re stuck waiting to collect behind all these other superstars:
- Chocolate Rain
- Sneezing Panda
- Tron Guy
- Star Wars Kid
- Fat Dancing Techno Kid
- Chris Crocker
- Dramatic Look Gopher
It’s a brilliant merging of current events, cultural trends, and South Park's sense of the absurd. The final minute is a tour de force of pointed satire. Kyle’s adopted younger brother stands forlornly with the worthless bubblegum and Bennigan’s gift certificate that the strike resulted in. Kyle then launches into a pompous oration, using South Park’s satirical gold standard “I think I’ve learned something today”, taking dead aim at the banal commentary that television offers.
It’s too topical to play well in two or three years, and only time will tell if their economic read on the strike is correct, but their rhetoric is hard to argue with. Long after the episode ages poorly, I’ll still be humming, “What what, in the butt!”