It’s a Jersey Thing (14.9) – FAIL
Plot: New Jersey is expanding in size, reaching all the way to Denver, and South Park is put on the front lines of fighting the oncoming Jersey invasion. But can New Jersey be defeated when no one can understand anyone from New Jersey? The worst of these is a creature known as the Snooki, a small orange animal with enormous slippers looking to smoosh. South Park can find no allies, so Randy Marsh calls their enemies – Al Quaeda – for help in this desperate situation. Meanwhile, Sheila Broflovski reveals that she is originally from New Jersey, and Kyle struggles with his personal identity.
Analysis: The purpose of this episode is to lampoon the popularity of mindless reality TV shows, specifically and most recently The Jersey Shore. The popularity of rampant materialism, casual hate, bigotry, and violence, and myriad problems in our society may well be considered disgusting, especially when so many choose this entertainment over more intellectual pursuits. While personally I completely agree with this critique and applaud South Park for criticizing this cultural characteristics, I hesitate to give this lesson any value from a social justice perspective. While our fascination with the drama of the rich and spoiled may distract us from real societal problems, I wouldn’t blame the TV shows themselves for these problems. While this episode may carry a good moral lesson, for the purposes of this blog, I will look at this theme as neutral in the social justice sphere.
However, I am giving this episode a failing score due to its representation of female sexuality. Snooki is depicted as a wild untamed animal, exaggerating her seemingly uncontrollable personality. But, rather than illustrating her as an animal for her unearned wealth, selfishness, lack of regard for others, or cruelty towards those around her, she is depicted as an animal for her promiscuity. Snooki runs wild, screaming that she wants to “smoosh”, and raping most men who get in her way, including children such as Eric Cartman. This comparison of female promiscuity to violent rape is absolutely disgusting. Such a degree of slut-shaming promotes rape culture attitudes such as victim-blaming and rape-apologism, and it enhances society’s sexual subjugation of women. It’s for this slut-shaming attitude that this episode fails at social justice.
One way in which I thought this episode did give a great message was in the killing of Osama Bin Lauden at the end of the episode. After saving South Park – and the rest of the US – from New Jersey, bin Lauden is congratulated and celebrated by the citizens of South Park. Randy Marsh even says, “It’s important to remember that in the end we’re not enemies, we’re just people with differences”. A moment later, bin Lauden is murdered by the US government, and the citizens of South Park celebrate his death. This is a great depiction of the United States’ relentless and unforgiving attitude towards its enemies, especially at the expense of owning up to our own violence and excessive use of force.