South Park: “Skank Hunt” Season 20 Episode 2 Review

Photo Credit:http://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s20e02-skank-hunt

In almost a direct response to the mad dash of last week’s season premiere to get every possible idea for season 20 out there, “Skank Hunt” was a much smaller episode, dealing only with online bullying. While this renewed focus was certainly welcome, the episode really only had one major punchline. The episode was pretty much devoid of laughs and genuine commentary.

The big joke here is that people are treating people quitting social media after being bullied as if they’re committing suicide. The scene with the little girl alone on the bridge at the top of the episode was genuinely disturbing. It was framed to be taken seriously for us to learn moments later that she only quit Twitter. Then there’s Mr. Mackey counseling a young student who says “no one will miss me on social media.” This feels like South Park blowing a microcosm of today’s society way out of proportion and pairing it with a real issue that’s sort of related.

Of course, the most notable place online bullying has been in the news lately is surrounding Leslie Jones, an easy reference the episode smartly avoids. And sure, maybe the media scarfed down a few extra page views with articles titled “Leslie Jones Taking a Break From Twitter,” but even the tone there is very different. The fact is, kids do commit actual suicide thanks at least in part to online bullying. Now, I’m not one to get uptight about South Park tackling issues in as offensive a manner is it can get away with, but the leap here is problematic. The seriousness of the bridge scene was done unironically in the moment, to the point where I thought South Park might get a little dramatic on us. The ruse was where “Skank Hunt” felt like it was taking the easy route on the issue it was discussing. South Park has found ways to comment on bullying hilariously in the past (see Season 16’s excellent “Butterballs”), but here it just felt ignorant to the larger picture.

As the plot moves along, it becomes a bit more obvious what is happening. “Skank Hunt” is a set-up episode for the future. Considering this is only the second real season South Park has been serialized, it’s understandable that they might not have nailed exactly how to do set-up and still make it hilarious. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is just a bad episode. In a desperate plea to make peace with the girls, the boys conspire to seemingly murder, but instead destroy all his devices so the suspected Skank Hunt can’t get on the Internet. But when Gerald still goes online and does his thing, the girls come in the next day and break up with every boy in the school. It’s another moment that plays awkwardly seriously, especially when it comes time for Wendy to hand Stan her note. The episode ends right there, which clearly indicates that this story thread isn’t over yet. I’m interested to see exactly how all this plays into the rest of the season. That said, I also hope the methods of exploring all the stories teased in “Member Berries” are a lot more sound. This episode was unfunny and unlikably and unjustifiably disturbing at times. South Park is better than that. Grade: D

By Matt Dougherty

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