Plot: Stan refuses to fall victim to the most recent trend, Facebook, but when his friends make him a profile, he must get involved to appease those around him. Soon, his profile veers out of control and becomes one of the most powerful on Facebook. Stan gets sucked into Facebook and must defeat his profile in a game of Yahtzee in order to regain his freedom. Meanwhile, Kyle befriends Kip Droardy on Facebook, a lonely third grader with no Facebook friends. While Kip (and his parents, unaware that this friendship is on facebook) celebrate his new-found friend, Kyle suffers as his friend count decreases. On his podcast Mad Friends, Cartman compares the “stocks” of various profiles, and explains that people now see Kyle’s friendship a liability, deleting
him off their friend list.
Analysis: I personally loved this episode, and would highly recommend it. It did a great job of exaggerating the absurdity that is online social networking, especially how ridiculously seriously everyone seems to take it. While the issues the characters are dealing with online are only small and superficial, they respond to everything in dramatic, passionate ways, interfering in their everyday lives. The omnipresence of Facebook makes it impossible for Stan to avoid the phenomenon, no matter how hard he tries. Even the game of Yahtzee Stan must play with his profile symbolizes how the issues these boys face online are not as serious as they make them out to be. If you’ve ever actually seen someone have Facebook Drama, I’m sure you’d agree with me that the whole facebook phenomenon can appear absolutely -ridiculous-.
I also loved the side-story of Kip Droardy, and I thought it had a great way of indicating the arbitrariness of popularity. He is stigmatized and sidelined, so that no one wants to be his friend, and everyone backs away from Kyle when he befriends Kip. Thus, social forces keep Kip lonely, creating a sad, pitiful character. but this popularity is also extremely arbitrary: when Stan sends his friends away at the end of the episode, they all go to Kip, presumably making him popular at last. There may be some rational for Kip being unpopular at first (eg his appearance), but, in the end, it’s all random. I also absolutely adored Kip’s parents, who reminded me a lot of parents I’ve known in my life: I went to senior prom with a close friend who asked me only because his mom insisted he should.
Despite how much I enjoyed the episode, it had very few actual social justice messages. It didn’t address any issues concerning the internet – such as how it’s a great social resource for neuroatypical individuals, like those on the autism spectrum or those with social and other anxiety, or how the social networking excludes individuals without reliable internet access or unable to use computers, which is extremely detrimental as the internet grows as an important tool in networking, employment, school work, and job performance. Nor does it look at issues that dictate popularity – such as how neuroatypical, queer, gender non-conforming, and other marginalized children are often made unpopular, and the amount of dangerous and scary bullying that these children often suffer with. Thus, I give this episode a so-so for its failure to address any social justice issues in its humorous parody.
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.