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.
Plot: Stan and Mr. Macky find out that they have a hoarding disorder, and they, as well as a local sheep herder, go under dream psychotherapy with a hoarding expert. However, the therapy goes wrong when Mr. Macky’s memory turns out to be so intense, he pulls Stan and the sheep herder into it. Randy Marsh, the characters from the film Inseption, a pizza delivery guy, the local fire department, and Freddy Krueger must all go into the dream to pull them out, as Mr. Macky remembers the day in his childhood when he was raped by Woodsey Owl.
Analysis: Much of this episode lampoons current cultural phenomenons, such as the absurd complexity and unnecessary gun violence of the popular film Inception, the popularity of television shows about herding, and the hilarity of psychotherapy, specifically dream therapy. All of these are social-justice neutral topics, and are very entertaining parodies of popular culture. The latter (making fun of psychotherapy) can be seen in either a positive or a negative way, as such procedures have been both criticized and congratulated by patients. In general, the message about psychotherapy and hoarding as a disease is a positive one: hoarding, while shown as humorous, is seen as serious, and psychotherapy fails with Stan not because treatment should be disfavored all together, but because of the doctor’s impersonal and hierarchical approach to the very sensitive process.
This episode fails at social justice because of it’s careless use of rape as a plot devise and comedy. While childhood rape is very serious, Mr Macky’s rape appears not serious and funny. No concern is given towards the issues of childhood rape, and Macky receives no pity or even attention after remembering this childhood trauma. Instead, it’s simply a plot devise to further the story, holding no weight on its own. The mentions of rape are rampant throughout the episode, taking no account to the feelings of victims that may watch South Park, as well as the attitudes towards victims such treatment of rape promotes. Due to this failure (common to South Park), this episode is a failure.
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.