Oh dear, South Park, what happened this week?
Confession: I missed last week’s “Member Berries” and still need to get caught up on it, so I’m lacking some of the context of the season-long plot. “Skank Hunt” opens with a confirmation that Kyle’s dad Gerald is, in fact, the online troll “SkankHunt42,” who bullies women on the internet with mean comments and photoshopping pictures of them with dicks in their mouths. Gerald apparently gets a sexual thrill from this behavior, illustrated by an impressive montage of him trolling on two computers at once while a Boston album plays. But South Park is suffering under the trolling, with one girl committing an on-the-nose allegory for suicide by quitting social media altogether. South Park’s girls are planning a revolt, and the boys–believing SkankHunt is Cartman–conspire to take him out to the woods to hurt him.
Look, South Park has always been clever with the allegory, but usually the curtain isn’t fully drawn back until the final act and we can really appreciate what Parker and Stone are going for. With “Skank Hunt,” the jokes become a little too obvious up front. They’re teased in a sort of “they’re not really going to do this?” sort of way, followed by a limp climax of “of course they didn’t.”
Take, for example, the suicide imagery used early in the episode. A young girl, pushed to the breaking point after her mom has been dickified, stands on a bridge by herself. The camera pulls away and shows a white bird flying off. Did South Park actually just show a non-humorous suicide? Of course not–the follow-on joke is that the girl just deleted all her social media accounts, with the obvious pun that follows being that the town is now mourning a girl who’s still sitting right there in the room with them. A like joke follows with Mr. Mackie having to counsel a kid who’s constantly threatening to do the same thing, but never does. At this point, the show is beating a horse who seemingly died long before the episode started.
“SkankHunt” certainly had its share of laughs, to include the kids’ pained stares at an oblivious Cartman when they’re convinced that he’s doing it. But the overall point of this episode seemed to fall short of what we’ve come to expect. Certainly, I was expecting some kind of commentary on Hillary Clinton’s “pneumoniagate” or some other heavy media topic. Instead, we’re getting a vague commentary on online trolling, and perhaps a reflection on how the behavior of some is an indictment on everyone? The episode’s conclusion–with every girl in South Park permanently breaking up with their boyfriends–seem to suggest that’s what they’re going for, but it doesn’t seem to be the issue du jour right now and it’s weird.
The story certainly ends on a “to be continued note,” with it very clear that Stone and Parker are playing another long game. It’s just that in this long game, the creators seem to have made a bad play.
Rating: Two Cheesy Poofs out of five.