South Park: “Holiday Special” Season 21 Episode 3 Review

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“Holiday Special” is the rare tough episode to read of South Park. On one hand, there are definitely clear socio-political overtones present throughout. On the other, Randy’s handling of them is really overblown to the point where he doesn’t really lean on one side of the issue being explored here. He’s really just out for himself this time.

The concept of white people using services like and then using the results to claim they are oppressed is a really fun one to have Randy take the lead on. But the episode seems to be much more about Randy being silly than an entire larger cultural movement. That’s honestly kind of boring.

“Holiday Special” gets its name from Randy raising a big stink in town over the recognition of Columbus Day as a national holiday, which celebrates the man society has targeted as the cause of the Native American genocide. It’s admittedly funny to see Randy blow pretty much anything out of proportion, but then the episode starts to equate Randy’s quest to those of liberals taking down the statues of Confederate generals. While the meaning behind such actions is just in both Randy’s case and of those tired of seeing Confederate flags proudly waving on their local government buildings, the script here adds a lightness to the whole issue that, for one, doesn’t really allow for proper examination. Secondly, call me oversensitive, but I don’t know if I’m ready to laugh at the people fighting for oppressive symbols to fall. There’s just…so much hate residing in the people on the other side, and it still scares me just how many of them there are. It’s a hard thought to shake, but I couldn’t help watching this episode thinking about conservative South Park fans watching and having a laugh at those silly liberals fighting for equality.

The episode thus works a little better when it’s not towing this line and is just letting Randy take things way too far. But even that’s a little too hollow for the show. As he continuously makes out with a caricature of a Native American, hoping he’ll get the results back and be able to claim he’s Native American, it’s easy to laugh at Randy. But the mood of the scene always gets a little awkward when his would-be lover comes on an exhibits blatant Native American stereotypes. It seems South Park wants to make jokes about white people feeling left out in fighting for PC culture while also making jokes about Native Americans. The latter ends up canceling out the former, rendering the episode not only flat, but a little bit racist.

This is a line South Park has crossed before, even as recently as 2013, Randy points out. Sometimes watching South Park can be like watching a drunk family member who you know has a good heart slip up on and do a really horrible impression of another race. “Holiday Special” is like if right before that impression, they tried to make a genuine statement about the shortcomings of white people’s understandings of other cultures. Oddly, the impression stings a little more here than if it was just part of a random drunken stupor. Grade: C-

By Matt Dougherty

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