How ‘South Park’ Perfectly Captures Our Era of Outrage

check-your-privilege

by James Poniewozik

If “South Park” were a person, it would be old enough to vote, though it probably wouldn’t. That scabrous cartoon has been a one-stop shop for anti-partisan satire and blasphemy on Comedy Central since 1997.

Few comedies can stay first-rate for that long. (Sorry, Homer.) Early in the current season, the show’s 19th, the creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone seem to wonder how well the show’s offend-at-all-costs ethos has aged. “It’s like I’m a relic,” a recurring character says. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve outstayed my welcome.”

The character in question is a white restaurant owner who believes he is Chinese and speaks in a grossly stereotyped Asian accent. Maybe, that meta-lament seemed to suggest, the show had started punching down in its later years.Yet this fall “South Park” has gone and revitalized itself, by telling a more ambitious, serialized story and by asserting that it takes an outrageous comedy to capture an era of outrage.

This season, which airs its finale on Wednesday, is built around an extended satire of political correctness. South Park, Colo., is taken over by a new school principal — named, aptly, P. C. Principal — and his crew of like-minded, jacked-up frat bros, who believe that being p.c. “means you love nothing more than beer, working out and the feeling that you get when you rhetorically defend a marginalized community from systems of oppression!” They meet microaggression with macroaggression, bullying kids and adults who, say, refer to the transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner as anything less than “stunning and brave.”

Read the rest of this entry »