South Park: bursting the PC bubble
The nineteenth season of South Park began this week with a first episode that will go down as an instant classic. Taking aim at modern PC culture, it proved that the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have not lost their iconoclastic spirit.
The episode introduced us to PC Principal, a politically correct and yet incredibly violent jock who ‘loves nothing more than beer, working out and that feeling you get when you rhetorically defend a marginalised community from systems of oppression’. PC Principal takes over the school and, along with his ‘PC Bros’, begins terrorising the townspeople over their microaggressions and incorrect words. At one point, in a hilarious send-up of the ultra-aggressive nature of modern PC crusaders, the PC bros beat up a well-known character while denouncing the ‘verbal violence’ he has committed against under-privileged groups.
The episode’s title, ‘Stunning and Brave’, is a nod to the Caitlyn Jenner fallout. Kyle, one of the show’s diminutive stars, is lambasted for refusing to hail Jenner as a hero. However, Parker and Stone don’t mock Jenner and her experiences. Instead, they use the intolerant reaction to those who didn’t instantly celebrate her transition as a way in to lampoon the kind of PC policing that has now engulfed the internet and public life.
The new episode summed up South Park as we know and love it. It used offensive humour to highlight the hypocrisies and absurdities of modern life, yet ended with a truly tolerant message. With a self-awareness and satirical eye that is still ahead of its time, South Park looks set to go from strength-to-strength this season, with PC Principal and his bros to be regular fixtures. If you missed it, watch the episode. It’s a shining example of how offensive material can make us laugh, think and reconsider the absurdities that surround us.
Rob Harries is a writer based in London.