It’s not clear if “Douche and a Danish” is going for open self-parody in this week’s South Park. The show presents one of its classic moral punchlines: a serious social commentary in the form of a total joke. The problem of the joke–or maybe this is a feature–is that South Park itself is guilty of the same moral failing at least a few times this episode, and it’s hard to tell if Stone and Parker were conscious of this or not. Or maybe they’re just trolling us, the audience.
But we’ll get back to that in a bit. The great aspect of tonight’s episode is that the multiple plotlines of the show are starting to coalesce into…something. It’s not clear what the show’s final moral statement is going to be, but “Douche and a Danish” reverses the problem we had back in the earlier Season 20 episodes where there were too many plots without any focus. Tonight, some merger starts to happen: Garrison’s presidential run rolls into the ‘member berries plot, and Cartman and Heidi’s nauseatingly cute relationship feeds into the growing strife between the internet trolls and the nation of Denmark.
On the plot with South Park elementary’s continued gender wars: there’s no progress made as the kids continue to be divided along gender lines, or at least Butters’ penis, which he continues to openly flaunt as a symbol of his oppression. (Even P.C. Principal has to tell him to put it away at one point.) There’s an attempt at reconciliation when Cartman and Heidi take on the role of the kind of lame-ass motivational speakers we all had in elementary school. Their idea? For the kids to sell “danishes for Denmark” in a massive fundraiser which will help the country finally pay for TrollTrace.com. The pained, baffled looks on the kids’ faces throughout the episode easily resemble any other real-world fundraiser: wait, why are we doing this again?
Not that TrollTrace is going anywhere. Gerald and the trolls (operating out of a local hotel under the auspices of a rape survivors’ group) plan to take down TrollTrace by trolling the entire nation of Denmark. Gerald is forced to educate his fellow trolls that trolling isn’t about hitting one person, but about provoking a reaction in thousands. Why does Gerald do this? The episode never gets beneath his surface–he continues to present a “shits and giggles” reasoning for why he does it. Of all people, “Dildo Schwaggins” suspects that Gerald has deeper reasons for this, as he touchingly opens up about how his dwarfish mother married a man with gigantism in the hopes of having a baby who was normal-sized.
No, wait, that’s actually funny. If you didn’t laugh at that, it’s because you were probably holding it in like Gerald was.
But we’ll have to find out Gerald’s motivations later. For now, he, Dildo, and the other trolls launch a Star Wars-style assault on Denmark via Twitter (parodying this classic scene, only with cheesy internet handles) and convince the entire world that Lego is affiliated with ISIS. Which results in Denmark’s popularity tanking. Which destroys the kids’ “Danishes for Denmark” fundraiser. Which seemingly eliminates TrollTrace. But Gerald gets some shits and giggles out of it.
The other side of the episode–which doesn’t quite bridge to the other plots–is Garrison’s presidential campaign, still an open parody of Trump. If you’ve thought Trump has been throwing the campaign on purpose–because who the hell campaigns this badly without doing it on purpose?–Garrison gets the same idea by openly talking about molesting women. Naturally, Garrison’s numbers tank, and both his staff and his followers are pissed. Now he’s out of the race, but also, people are out to kill him. Donald Trump at least hasn’t been lynched by his own supporters yet.
But here’s where the social commentary comes in: Garrison finds solace in Randy Marsh’s ‘member berries support group that formed last week. Turns out that ‘member berries are an ancient plague going back to Roman times. When a society peaks, it becomes lazy and begins looking backwards, taking solace in things of the past. Does this explain why everyone’s turning to Garrison and American greatness?
Well, sure, probably. Except that Randy’s bigger concern is that the ‘member berries are responsible for The Force Awakens, which was nothing but repackaged nostalgia. Garrison’s presidency is symptomatic of the same thing, but really, this is all a plot by J.J. Abrams to revitalize an old film franchise.
It’s hilarious, but it may also be an intentional self-swipe at South Park and us the viewers for enjoying it so much. Commenting on Star Wars nostalgia is funny until you remember that “Douche and a Danish” had Gerald’s Yavin 4 assault scene a few minutes earlier. And the episode title recalls a specific infamous episode from 2004. And Cartman’s been pleasant all season, and fans keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and for all of this to turn out to be a giant Cartman plot.
In criticizing nostalgia, is South Park guilty of the same thing this season? Or do Stone and Parker want to move onto something else? Five years ago, the episode “You’re Getting Old” frightened people into thinking that the show had been stealth cancelled, with the show having serious overtones that Stone and Parker were done with all this. If the world needs to keep moving forward, where does a show like South Park go?
We’ll find out soon. These plots aren’t done yet–as Denmark is getting ready to quit, they receive a message from Cartman and Heidi suggesting a plan for revenge on the trolls. Let’s see where this takes us–forward or back.
Rating: Four cheesy poofs out of five.