Friday, October 7, 2011

South Park serves up some "Ass Burgers"

     Comedy Central's South Park ended their spring run earlier this year with Stan (Trey Parker) growing cynical, losing his friends, and his parents were divorcing. South Park returned this week with "Ass Burgers," and Stan is still in the same state that he was last seen in. Thinking this means he has Asperger's Syndrome, he is sent to a support group, which is actually a secret organization who wants to expose just how crappy the real world is to the general population. It's a play on The Matrix. Their solution to 're-enter' the false reality where things are cool? Drink lots of alcohol.

     Also, Kyle (Matt Stone) unknowingly eats a hamburger that Cartman (also Parker) kept in his underwear, misunderstanding what Asperger's is. The two go into business selling the delicious sandwiches, setting the fast food companies on edge. Cartman's own body forms a Dutch oven, combining the gases from those places' addictive chemicals that seeps into the burgers. Of course, his secret is exposed, everyone is disgusted, and the business falls apart.

     All of this is pretty funny. In the humor department, it's a fine episode. Sure, one can do without seeing everyone eat hamburgers that came from Cartman's butt. But not actually seeing that process happen explicitly keeps it from being too gross to stomach. And Stan's secret organization is pretty good, as well as the assertion that alcohol makes the world better. That's something many can relate to.

     What's really a shame is that a wonderful opportunity, taking Stan and the show in a completely different direction, is missed. Stan realizes by the end of the episode, and comments on in one of the series's trademark "lesson" speeches, that this is so. It's an exciting new direction for the show. Yet, then Stan's parents get back together, and he realizes things are going to go back to status quo. To be able to handle this, Stan becomes a secret alcoholic, sipping booze from his dresser drawer. Stan's drinking problem could be an interesting, ongoing plot, but more likely, he will just seem like his old self, and the balance will be restored. Which is too bad, since fifteen years in, making substantial changes would go far in keeping the show fresh and new all over again.

     Also not great is the implication that Asperger's is not a real disease. Of course it is, and a serious one that affects many people. While the riffing on the delusion that vaccinations can cause harm is cool, picking on a real condition is not. South Park can go after religion and celebrities, because they chose to be what they are. But people suffering from Asperger's do not, making it offensive that they would go after it.

    Thus, "Ass Burgers" is a mixed bag of funny and disappointing. Let's see what next week brings. Watch South Park at 10 p.m. ET Wednesdays on Comedy Central.

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