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South Park Season 21, Episode 1: "White People Renovating Houses"

After an…interesting previous season, South Park is back bringing in the 21st season. After a previous season largely composed of comedic let-downs, fans of the series have been curious to see if the season 21 premier would indicate a return to form for the long-running series.

Well, let’s just say it’s still not clear how if this season will prove better than the last.

Image from South Park Studios

In “White People Renovating Houses”,  Cartman has a new Amazon Alexa device that he and his friends use crudely. The episode begins with the gang forcing Alexa to add inappropriate items to shopping carts and repeat childish humor. The kids are having a grand time. That is, until Cartman’s girlfriend Heidi shows up to her boyfriend’s displeasure. After some boring relationship issues, Cartman returns to fiddling with Alexa and praises the machine for being a “subordinate woman”, unlike Heidi.

Meanwhile, obviously parodying the oversaturation of home remodeling shows on HGTV, Randy Marsh and his wife  have taken up remodeling homes. His show titled, “White People Renovating Houses”, is interrupted by a loud group of white supremacists. They claim that devices such as Alexa and Google Home have put them out of work and so they must protest. This leads to further shenanigans and eventually Randy tries to (literally) break down the walls that keep the white supremacists so hateful.

The best part of the episode is that the show manages to prank viewers in real life. The children’s interactions with Alexa cause viewers’ actual Alexas to respond to the television’s hilariously crude requests. While that’s definitely a witty inclusion, the majority of the episode is pretty tame.

South Park is no stranger to social commentary. Trey Parker and Matt Stone have practically perfected the art of weaving commentary into seemingly pointless, distasteful humor. However, lately South Park has struggled to balance its humor and message in a way that is entertaining for the audience.

Instead of blending elements of humor with interesting social commentary, the show has started to stray from the crass humor which had made it a success in the first place. Now it is focused on more blatant messages and capitalizing off of current events.

Image from South Park Studios

“White People Renovating Houses” is a harsh criticism of the white supremacist movement. This is all well and good, but so what? This is South Park. Fans expect to laugh their hearts out. In fact, what has made South Park such a success is that many fans don’t even pick up on the political and social commentary of the show due to the incredible humor and execution.

Trey and Matt’s stances are far from subtle. This wouldn’t be a problem if they managed to implement some great schticks or visual humor, but this episode really doesn’t. It feels restrained.

Cartman’s subplot with Heidi is pretty boring, and the creators know this. Even though the meat of the episode is largely boring, it is promising to see Cartman beginning to revert to his original, horrible form. Hopefully in the next few episodes we will begin to see Cartman do and say the terrible things that make Cartman Cartman, not this strange iteration that arose last season.

Featured image from South Park Archives

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