Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Cartman Find Love" on South Park

In the mid-season finale of Comedy Central's South Park, a new African American girl named Nichole moves to town. At first, Nichole is smitten with Kyle (Matt Stone). But Cartman (Trey Parker) decides that Token (Adrien Beard) is the natural and perfect match for Nichole, their skin being the same color and all. So Cartman tells Nichole that he and Kyle are gay lovers, a rumor that spreads like wildfire through the school, then locks Token and Nichole in a locker room together overnight. Love blossoms, but will it last?

Leave it to South Park to remind everyone about racism in a new and interesting way. Sure, other shows still go after race relations, though the fervor has died down in the last couples of years, but it's hard to think of another series that takes quite the same angle as South Park does in "Cartman Finds Love." By casting Cartman, already known to be a loathsome child, as a crazy racist bent on keeping the ethnicities separate, the animated comedy goes wild with stereotypes without risking offending too deeply.

When the audience learns that Cartman recently accomplished a similar pairing with a couple of Latino children, it evokes a disturbing pattern. Cartman is violent and full of hate, even becoming a serial killer of stuffed animals in the past. Just why does he go to such lengths, and what kind of adult does this set him up to be?

Perhaps Cartman is filled with self-loathing, and just takes it out on others. He shamelessly sells his romance with Kyle to the point that one begins to wonder if it isn't Cartman's fantasy. His Jew-bashing and taunting of Kyle all of these years could be a coping mechanism for strong homosexual tendencies he is in denial of. Maybe when Cartman comes to grips with that reality, it will calm him down, and his irrational anger will begin to subside.

Then again, maybe South Park is just a funny, filthy cartoon that is brilliant at social commentary. It has proven its ability to hit these notes in the past, and "Cartman Finds Love" does so again.

Humor is very present in this episode. From Cartman arguing and fighting with 'Cupid Me,' to Mr. Garrison (also Parker) teaching Game of Thrones as history, to repeat playings of the song "I Swear," "Cartman Find Love" hits all the right notes of funny. If one wants to watch the series without thinking of the deeper issues involved, this episode succeeds. But they're there for those who like to dissect.

South Park will return next fall to Comedy Central.

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