Crippeled Summer (14.7) – So/So
Plot: Towelie is struggling with drug addiction, failing at his job, separated from his family, and having sex for money, so his concerned friends hold an Intervention. Meanwhile, Jimmy Valmer and Timmy are at Lake Tardicaca Camp for the Handicapped, where the captain of the red team – Nathan – and his buddy Mimsy plot to sabotage the captain of the Blue team – Jimmy – to keep them from winning.
Analysis: Might I say I was rather disappointed with this episode? I found it only mildly entertaining, although I was thrilled to see Towlie, and rather enjoyed the parody of Intervention. While the episode might seem to mock drug addicts, I felt that the joke was actually the overly dramatic style of a rather impersonal reality TV show, not the subjects of the show itself.
Much of the show focuses on the events of Lake Tardicaca, thus putting children of disabilities in the line of fire of South Park’s rather cruel humor. However, I felt this episode was neither especially insulting, nor exceptionally enlightening, which is why I give the show a so-so rating. In many ways, the episode poked fun at children with disabilities in the way they look, the way they talk, and the way they act. Many of them resembled specific Looney Toones characters, thus appearing comical. However, such a comparison also reveals that humorous representations of people with disabilities are not new to South Park, but have been around for a long time. In fact, for a TV show revered for its satire, this exaggerated similarity is more to criticize an ableist society than to laugh at the children in question. In fact, the children do are not stupid, crazy, or wrong, but are rather shown as loving, independent, and intelligent. Jimmy and Timmy are thrilled to come back to camp because they get to see their old friends, and the blue team proudly works together and supports each other in the competition. Nathan’s downfall comes not because he is disabled, but because he is villanous and jealous. Jimmy’s success, on the other hand, comes from his goodwill and friendly attitude. Nathan and Mimsy hide their plans because Counselor Steve fails to take them seriously, and they are able to “play dumb” to get their way. This shed light on the way folks with disabilities are often treated childishly even by their abled caretakers, such as doctors, counselors, etc. Instead they should be taken as seriously as temporarily able-bodied and neurotypical individuals.
Overall, I felt this episode had both some good and some negative messages, and I wasn’t too impressed by any of them.