Well. There you have it. Possibly the best episode of South Park so far this season. I was wondering when Parker and Stone would get around to talking about police brutality. I guess it makes sense. After a lull of a couple months in the culture of shocking police actions, a video surfaced of a young woman being thrown to the ground and dragged out of her classroom. Now the country has dived back into a rousing discussion about the place of police in our society. And that’s precisely what South Park did this week. After Officer Barbrady accidentally shoots a Mexican kid (Latino-American, SHIT), he is fired and forced to live among the homeless who have congregated at the abandoned SoDoSoPa (i.e. Kenny’s house). To which Kenny and the other boys respond by dressing up as ninjas to scare away bums and drug addicts. And it works, but not for the reason they think.
Here are some thoughts.
1. Right off the bat, a timely reference
Like I said, the episode opens with a pretty obvious reference to the incident at Spring Valley High School. If you haven’t seen the video, I encourage you to click on the link in the intro. It will inform your viewing of this episode immensely. The South Park PD have been called in to deal with a student at South Park Elementary, so the entire force (including a SWAT team) converge on the school to subdue the assailant. South Park has always been very good about keeping on top of current events, both important and not so important. This opening did a great job of lampooning cops that have disproportionate responses to non-threats, like a student disrupting an assembly. Who did the disrupting you ask? Well…
My favorite running gag of this season strikes again. The entire South Park PD is called in to deal with… Leslie. Because PC Principal cannot deal with her running her fucking mouth during his assemblies. And it ends with…
…Barbrady shoots a Mexican kid. Oh WAIT SHIT, I meant Latino-American. It’s been awhile since Barbrady has been front and center in an episode. And this one was a real downer. First of all, seeing him without his glasses on was a shocker. I was half expecting him to have weird eyes or something. And then when he comes home to give the bad news to his dog… my god, I was actually really affected. That dog is old. And then watching him being forced onto the streets to live with his aging pooch… I gotta say, I’ve never felt so bad for a cop who shot a kid before.
4. “It’s the reason we joined the force.”
When Kenny’s dad calls the police to get rid of the homeless people harassing his family, they respond by saying they won’t help unless they can beat up minorities, which the town has decided to frown upon. “It’s the reason we joined the force,” says Sergeant Yates. It’s a pretty intense indictment of police culture, but one you can’t help but wonder if, on some level, is true. This episode gets into the dichotomy of police protecting and harassing citizens in a really big way. The conclusion that the show comes to is pretty bleak. I’ll get to that later.
The crux of this episode is that the boys have created a gang to protect Kenny’s house from bums and addicts by dressing up as ninjas. At first, I thought there was going to be some word play with the word “ninja” and a certain racial epithet that begins with the letter “n.” But instead, the comparison was much more straightforward. When we see the boys from the perspective of a bunch of drifters trying to get into SoDoSoPa, we understand what the show is getting at. Seeing the boys in black headscarfs with only their eyes showing and Middle Eastern music playing over the images, we get it: ISIS.
6. Ahh, the new boogeyman of the Western world: ISIS
Yes, the show has dealt with ISIS in the past, but never at this level. There are a few things going on here. First being the difference between ninjas and ISIS (gay, scary, gay, scary, gay, scary). Cartman helpfully points out that “ninjas are fucking gay, dude” and at first refuses to join. But then when he sees how scared people are of them, he totally got on board. But the reason they’re scared is because they think ISIS has infiltrated their small town. The second is the panic creeping into the Western world of kids joining ISIS because they’re unhappy with how their lives are going. So all the parents in the town, being idiots, assume their children have joined the Islamic terrorist group. It’s Randy that figures out what’s happening when Sharon mentions that Stan is playing ninjas at Kenny’s (Gay, scary, gay, scary, gay, scary OH MY GOD!!!). And he saves the day. But not before Barbrady accidentally shoots poor David (remember: da-VEED).
7. “Fuck tha police”
One of the best sequences of the episode is the montage of all the middle-aged white residents of South Park terrorizing the police over the song “Fuck Tha Police.” It was a very pointed rebuttal to the first half of the episode which criticized police for using too much force and holding racist tendencies. On the other side of that coin is the residents of South Park disrespecting police and generally fucking shit up, even though they’re not the ones being marginalized. It was a way to show that when it comes to endemic and institutionalized racism, we’re sort of all to blame.
8. Cartman’s subplot was hilarious
Cartman spends the whole episode trying convince everyone that it was actually Kyle that said ninjas were gay, not him. The running joke of Cartman taking the boys aside one by one and thinking he’s talking to somebody else was great. It eventually culminated in Cartman accidentally capturing Clyde and tying him up, thinking he was Kyle. It was a much needed through line of levity to the episode. A good ol’ fashioned Carman-is-a-terrible-person plot line. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cartman happier than when a leader of ISIS reaches out to the boys and confirms to him that Jews can’t be part of the group. Priceless.
9. That ending with the cops and townspeople is upsetting
The residents of South Park, led by Randy, eventually get the cops to come back and do their jobs. They come to the agreement that the townspeople will turn their backs when the cops want to beat up homeless minorities, in exchange for the cops keeping the town safe and appearing PC as possible. It’s a bleak outlook on the relationship between the two groups, but you have to admit that that’s what it feels like we’ve decided as a culture. It’s only just within the last year or so that we have begun to really question that set-up. Good on South Park for being bold in showing us that reality.
10. Oh my god, LESLIE
So it turns out PC Principal and Leslie have a relationship. What does this mean for the rest of the season? No fucking clue. I am so excited to find out.
Tags: ISIS, police brutality, south park, spring valley high school