Creme Fraiche (14.14) – FAIL
Plot: Randy Marsh has become obsessed with the Food Network, staying up all night masturbating to cooking shows, and spending the day cooking gourmet meals that fail to satisfy his family. Cooking becomes such a passion, that he quits his job as a geologist to work as South Park Elementary’s new chef. His cooking is tearing the family apart, and Sharon Marsh searches for satisfaction elsewhere, exercising with the ShakeWeight. In the end, she discovers that the way to save her marriage is simply by giving her husband “the old-fashioned” (performing manual sex on him).
Analysis: This episode is an utter social justice failure, as it carries with it a powerful sexist message. The failure of Randy’s and Sharon’s relationship is blamed entirely on the woman – specifically, on her sexual performance. This completely ignores other factors that can contribute to a failing relationship, and places absolutely no value on a woman’s need to be sexually satisfied. In essence, it showcases a powerful rape-culture narrative in which a woman is responsible for sexually satisfying a man without regard to her own needs or interests.
The ShakeWeight is lampooned for its resemblance to a handjob. Thus, it plays the role of a sex partner, flattering Sharon, having a relationship with Sharon, and asking Sharon for sex. It’s interest in her, however, is entirely falsified: the ShakeWeight is, indeed, a machine, so everything it says has been pre-programed into it. Thus, neither it’s compliments or it’s inquiries about Sharon’s life are sincere. That Sharon is pleased with these hollow phrases constructs her as a one-dimensional, naive character, looking only for certain types of satisfaction, rather than an actual relationship. Additionally, the ShakeWeight begins to urge Sharon to work out when she does not want to, such as on the beach, or in the middle of the night. Specifically, in the middle of the night, the ShakeWeight convinces her to exercise because it’s unable to go into “Sleep Mode”. While the ShakeWeight is a machine, it serves as an analogy to male sexuality. Thus, male sexuality is shown to be uncontrollable programing and the male need for sex is illustrated as essential and un-tamable. This discourse uses biological essentialism to excuse men for rape and coercion, and promotes a powerful rape culture message. Effectively, the ShakeWeight rapes Sharon twice during this episode.
Randy’s interest in housework is constructed in a negative light in this episode. His interest in cooking angers his family, and no one is really interested in the food he makes. The episode barely mentions why the family is frustrated with Randy’s obsession with cooking. He shows no interest in his family’s personal needs, such is the food they want to eat, and rather copies recipes from the television. Additionally, his “helpful” cooking actually results in more work for the family, who are forced to clean up the huge messes his cooking leaves behind. This is a great parody of men’s self-congratulating nature. After cooking a meal, Randy seeks congratulations for helping out with the family, but never bothers to look at the effect his cooking actually has on the family. This selfish reaction highlights the male sense of entitlement that gets them to seek congratulations from their actions, and to center their own needs and wants before those of others. However, the episode barely touches on this issue, and rather than having Randy realize what he did wrong, the solution is to get him away from housework all together: Sharon blocks the Food Network on the TV, and, in the end, Randy chooses to quit his cooking and instead go to bed. Thus the housework and cooking is left to the woman, and men are shown as incapable of doing this work successfully by nature. Instead, this episode should have said that it’s necessary for men to put aside their sense of entitlement when doing housework, and to communicate with their spouces and their families in order to improve the family situation.
For is powerful sexist undertones and rape-culture messages, this episode is an utter FAIL.