South Park Review: Walking the Planking
Watching the promos for the latest episode of South Park, "Faith Hilling," it looked as if the target would be the 2012 Republican debates and the various candidates. And for the first minute, it seemed to be going in that direction.
However, the half hour then followed a different path altogether, much like the Tiger Woods episode back in 2010, "Sexual Healing." It started off seemingly satirizing an obvious target, before focusing on a different one entirely: people being photographed mimicking ridiculous poses.
Yes, the target were those silly Internet memes. In particular planking, Tebowing and other similar poses. The series, of course took, it to ridiculous new extremes, as the boys tried to keep their Faith Hilling meme of pulling your shirt out to pretend like you have breasts going, even as the world moved on to new ones. Such as Taylor Swifting, which for some bizarre reason is pulling your pants down and dragging your butt on the ground.
And cats wearing bread around their heads.
This episode wanted to come down on the ridiculousness of pretty much everything around this fad, how really it's silly to point out that being photographed laying down flat on a surface is somehow passé months after the fact, and doing some other physical action is somehow now cooler.
Of course, the increasingly ridiculous new memes that the sitcom created were probably the best parts. The fact that there were so many actual photographs of people Taylor Swifting (likely South Park Studios staff members) just added to the hilarity.
In what could almost function as a sort of meta-commentary from the writers, the memetic video of the cat saying "old long Johnson" became somewhat grating. In fact, the whole cat plot was kind of incomprehensible, and felt like a silly way to come to the eventual ending.
In fact, the presence of the Republican candidates at all felt like just window dressing, something juicy for the promos to have, or a way to shoehorn them in to an episode. There probably isn't much more that South Park can say that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report haven't, and given that the debates have been over for weeks now, it's hardly timely either. They were just there for the purpose of being there.
Of course, even the episode itself seemed to get caught up in its own memes. I have never seen so many people hit by trains in one single episode of a cartoon. Much like the way that Faith Hilling came back around at the end, there was a reporter there to get hit by a train coming out of nowhere. "Faith Hilling" developed its own memes, repeated them until they were no longer entertaining, then let them come back around.
The idea? It's all ridiculous, and perhaps we shouldn't let ridiculous things get old because of the inherent silliness of it. Laying down on a flat surface like a plank should never get old. Watching cartoon people get hit by trains and explore into gory bits should always be entertaining.
I am curious as to how this episode plays in the future. Perhaps if we someday look back at Tebowing, and at silly pictures of cats as a confusing relic of our past times, it will be the piece of media that speaks for our era like many episodes have done. But otherwise, it fits into the pantheon of recent episodes: modern and amusing, but not timeless.