10 Thoughts on South Park – Safe Space

Another week, another South Park. This week, we pick up right where we left off, with Cartman fresh off his Yelping experience. We start with him complaining to PC Principal that people on Yelp are making fun of him because his picture on the site is of him without a shirt (because he thought he looked buff. He did not) and so fat jokes are being bandied about. So PC Principal decides to put Butters in charge of screening out all the negative comments and reporting them to Cartman. Meanwhile, Randy is dealing with Whole Foods trying to shame him into giving money to charity at the check-out counter.

So here are some thoughts.


1. This is very delicate ground

We start the episode with Cartman complaining to PC Principal that he’s being “fat-shamed” by the people of Yelp. Of course, we all know that Cartman simply enjoys being in control and is actually more interested in “people being super stoked on him.” But fat-shaming is a problem. South Park is walking a very tricky line here between being aware of what a problem it is, and also acknowledging that sometimes the world sucks and we have to deal with that.

2. Cartman crying is hilarious

No other thoughts. Just thought I’d mention it.

3. The check-out charity gag is so specific

It’s something that would never occur to me to complain about, but is also something that bothers me every time I encounter it. This episode does a great job of covering all the bases when it comes to the experience of a cashier asking you to give money to charity. Randy of course feels terrible for not contributing, but then has to go through his own regimen of being shamed, including literally pulling a sandwich out of a starving kid’s mouth. Well down, South Park, for tackling something I didn’t even know I had a problem with.

4. There is actually an important message to be had here

That is, the dichotomy of protecting people from being attacked for no good reason, and also being aware that a thick skin is necessary for survival in this world. We see this when Butters begins filtering out all the negative comments about Cartman (“So much darkness in the world”) leading Cartman to believe that everyone is super stoked on him. Again, it’s a difficult line to walk. Parker and Stone, as people who are probably just as concerned about kindness and compassion as anyone else, understand that people who are easy targets for bullies need to be protected. But as America’s leading crusaders against PC culture, they also understand the need to give people a reality check. They seem to be grappling with it just as much as everyone else.


5. They’re really bringing it back to that Whole Foods

About half the episode takes place inside the Whole Foods, with Randy shopping there almost every day. I thought that it was going to be a one-off, but it really has become a centerpiece of the show. When they said it was going to change the town a couple episodes ago, they weren’t kidding. It’s a whole new environment for characters to interact in.

6. Steven Seagal!

Him crying was also hilarious. And such a left field pick to be an advocate for Cartman. Priceless.

7. Another Song!

This one is all about “Safe Spaces,” and how important it is for these characters to block out any sort of negative feelings or ideas about them. The only people allowed in Randy and Cartman and Steven Seagal’s “safe space” are people who like them. That is, until, Reality steps in.

8. Looks like David is here to stay

He doesn’t actually say anything during the episode, but he’s hanging out with Stan, Kyle and Kenny throughout the whole episode. It looks like my prediction is coming true.

9. The “reality” bit is inspired

Reality happens to be a man with a top hat, goatee, monocle and cloak; sort of a Victorian villain type of character. He tries to inject some reality into the situation by speak-singing that you’re not always going to hear everything you want to hear. But he is quickly banished by a bizarre dance number led by Randy. However, making Reality into a sniveling, annoying villain was brilliant. It perfectly encapsulates the way these sorts of people view the reality of the world.


10. Gluten-free Pabst

If you look carefully, Randy is buying gluten free Pabst Blue Ribbon beer at the end of the episode. This is a callback to last season when Randy learned about the “dangers of gluten,” and swore it off. It’s a nice little easter egg to long time viewers and a nod to the new emphasis on continuity for the series.

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