South Park: “Super Hard PCness” Season 21 Episode 9 Review

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Six seasons ago, South Park put out one of the most fascinating episodes they’ve done in the last decade. “You’re Getting Old” explored themes of growing out of the things you once loved, and the repetition of life and art. When it aired, back when the series had a midseason finale in the spring before resuming in the fall, some thought the episode was signifying that Trey Parker and Matt Stone wanted to end South Park. That of course wasn’t the case, as here we are six seasons later with “Super Hard PCness,” an episode that borrows heavily from that season 15 entry’s themes, but brings them into a 2017 context.

Within, Kyle becomes the only kid in the group to start having problems with Terrance & Phillip. He suddenly sees that the humor is mean, entirely at the expense of others. South Park can obviously be accused of the same, but taking the time to write an arc where Kyle matures into a more empathetic person proves that the series still has some ideas on its mind. But Kyle’s maturation takes a detour that many of us take, redirecting his anger to a singular issue, and raising a whole cause along with it (okay, so most of us don’t quite get as far as the second part). Kyle is starting to care about people and the issues they face—told through the lens of being farted on—but in the process he’s come to hate Canada.

And that’s only half of his ironic failings, the other being how everyone from Cartman to the media compare Kyle to a stereotypical Jewish mother. Whether intentionally or not, “Super Hard PCness” pretty accurately captures the precise moment and young mind experiences an attitude shift that leads to the most opinionated of adults. Raised in a town he believes to be behind his views, Kyle doesn’t know any better than to take the issue he’s found and make sweeping generalizations about the culture that built it. He’s trapped, damned if he stays quiet, damned if he makes a fuss, as South Park’s broader culture hasn’t provided him with the tools while growing up to fight for a cause he believes in without stirring up a little hate. It’s honestly quite fascinating, and this being the first of a two-parter to end the season, I’m hopeful that Kyle’s arc here can redeem some of season 21’s major misfires.

The other major story thread throughout the episode is PC Principal finding love in Vice Principal Strong Woman, the type of figure who shuts him down for speaking out of turn when she’s speaking. PC Principal is easily the show’s greatest creation in years, so giving him an actual storyline to work with is exciting. But again, we won’t know entirely where this is going until the season finale airs next week.

It also has to be considered that, with all this talk of PC culture and Kyle questioning the ethics of a show he’s been watching for years amidst a changing world, whether “Super Hard PCness” is intended to be a commentary on the reception of South Park itself. Comedy Central’s flagship series has struggled this year to adjust itself to the Trump era, where audiences are turning their backs on shows that don’t meet today’s new high standard for political correctness. How’s a show like South Park, which has been on for over two decades, to respond? Well, writing an episode that tries to think through this aloud with its audience is a good start. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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