South Park “Safe Space” Review
Season 19, Episode 5
He’s not fat, he’s big boned.
It’s a phrase that has followed Cartman through almost the entirety of the show. It’s somewhat fitting then, that it’s none other than Cartman who becomes the target when “South Park” takes on body shaming.
The episode kicked off with Cartman, in tears, in PC Principal’s office, after he was made fun of for being fat when he posted a picture of himself in his underwear online. Mr. Mackey quipped in – maybe Cartman shouldn’t have put such a picture online – before PC Principal decided that somebody should be required to filter every single comment Cartman gets, reporting only the positive ones back to him.
None of the other kids (duh) wanted to help out Cartman, and both Kyle and Wendy took detention over getting involved. This means the task, of course, fell to poor Butters, who ended up not only filtering social media for Cartman, but more and more celebrities as word started to get around that what he was doing was helping Eric, including Steven Segal, who seemed like an odd choice here, unless there’s something I’m missing.
The B plot fell to Randy…and Whole Foods. It’s an interesting bit for the show; by setting up and serializing plots and locations, the show is starting a bit to have more ‘normal’ plots based on reoccurring locations, more a la a traditional sitcom. But it was funny — and gave some of the best jokes this week — so I’ll allow it, even if it did seem weird to hang an entire B plot on what could have been a very one note joke about being asked to donate at the grocery store.
But Randy having to pull the change literally out of the little girl’s mouth? Hilarious. Break-out laughing hilarious.
I was waiting to see how the show would tie everything together, and it did with Randy’s #SafeSpace mock ad to try to get stores to stop asking for donations at the checkout line. It was a way to tie together all types of shaming, donation shaming included.
Everything culminated in another song, “In My Safe Space.” It’s a little interesting that we’ve now gotten two solid songs from the show two weeks in a row, in what might be a bit of YouTube culture rubbing off on Matt and Trey. This one also introduced Reality, a mischievous character that was hell bent on trying to ruin the safe space. It’s a little ridiculous of a characterization, but it works for the point the show is trying to make.
Really, it was Randy’s B plot with Whole Foods that ended up overshadowing everything else going on — both in terms of laughs — but also by hosting a charity dinner, that Reality tried to crash. I was a little worried that the show wouldn’t be able to bring this full circle, but it turned the point against the celebrities, not a new target for Matt and Trey, but one they are well used to pointing out the hypocrisies of.
“Safe Space” ended up being a decently strong episode, and one of the more cohesive we’ve seen yet this season. It did seem to miss the point that body shaming can have actual negative effects on people; using Cartman as one of the prime examples kind of shields away from this, as did the show’s targeting of mostly celebrities. There’s some other targets that could be misinterpreted to be caught in the crossfire here (like young children), and I feel that does hold back some of what the show was trying to say. “South Park” might not always take the high road, but it does tend to pick the appropriate targets.
It’s also kind of a dark resolution, even for a show like “South Park.” The world isn’t a perfect place, and that feeling shame is OK, especially when not feeling shame is rooted in the greed and ego that they seem to feel celebrity culture is based upon. Again, it’s not necessarily a new point of view for the show, but one it managed to hit home pretty successfully.
Notes & Quotes
-“I’m sorry, you don’t want to give a dollar to help hungry kids?”
-“Just pull the sandwich out of the little girls mouth”
-“it’s a pretty brutal job sifting through all that darkness.”
-“Because charity shaming hurts everyone.”
-“Oh no, not Reality. Somebody stop him.”
-“Tell the little hamster he’s not going to college.”
-David was back!
-“The world is darkness, the man is coming.”
-“”I’m sorry, the world isn’t one big liberal arts college campus.”