City Sushi (15.6) – Pass (Barelly)

Plot: When City Sushi opens next door to City Wok, the town’s white residents  confuse the Chinese and the Japanese, incapable of telling the difference. The Chinese and the Japanese restaurant owners team up to teach the townspeople the difference, but are enable to quell their own historic feud which escalates into violent fighting. Meanwhile, Butters is diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. As he struggles to understand himself, he discovers that the individual who really has MPS is his own psychiatrist.

Analysis: This episode carries with it two very important lessons.

The first is the way white people fail to know of any difference between various Asian countries. Such a tendency comes not from difficulty or even careless stupidity, but from outright superiority and privilege. While few would go uncriticized for confusing Spain and France, all nations with Asian inhabitants are seen as a monolith by most, remaining oblivious to cultural uniqueness and differences.  This is especially prominent given the historical and present-day qualms between most Chinese and Japanese individuals. While the fistfights and murderous intentions depicted in this episode are definitely an exaggeration, most Japanese people will be insulted if you call them Chinese, and vise-versa. Even despite the efforts of the Asian Diversity Assembly and Asian Diversity Festival, as well as the obvious fighting visible to all of South Park, the white residents fail to learn the difference between China and Japan even at the end of the episode, as their privilege allows them to look right through all the Asian men’s efforts.

The other lessons is one of failing psychiatric practices, especially with children. While the episode implies that Butters does not actually have Multiple Personality Disorder, it is beside the point if he actually does. What matters is the rushed diagnosis based not on actual symptoms, but on typical childhood play-pretend. The psychiatrist shows absolutely no understanding of children and their medical and psychiatric needs.  Additionally, his immediate response is to treat Butters with heavy medication. While this is not to imply that medication is inherently wrong, it is clearly incorrect for that to be the first and only solution, especially without further thought or discussion. Furthermore, the doctor or Butters’ parents do not work with Butters to help him, but go completely against him, determined to treat his condition to get him back. For instance, the parents are brought to tears when they see Butters playing truck driver, and are desperate for him to stop, despite the fact that this truck drivers is doing nothing to hurt Butters or anyone around him.  This illustrates the ableism in our society, in which neuroatypical individuals are seen as “wrong” and needing to be “cured”, even if its against their will or even well-being. That’s not to say that all psychiatrists are bad, but this does highlight the common problems in the psychiatric treatment of children.

Despite this positive points, this episode passes only barely for several reasons:

  1. Rampant stereotypes against asian individuals. While the differences between the two are emphasized, the way they are presented discourages the audience from taking them seriously.
  2. The assumption that individuals with mental conditions are in some way evil. While it seems absurd when the doctor immediately accuses one of Butters’ personalities of being evil, he himself does turn out to be evil because of his condition. Also, the assumption that multiples must have a cause like abuse, leading to…
  3. Casual treatment of child abuse and rape, both when the doctor abuses Butters, or when he discusses his own abuse. The episode treats it as a joke, even when it does have serious consequences.

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