I love South Park. I always have. I’ve written a book on South Park called The Zen of South Park, and I’ve written multiple blog posts and papers on South Park, including one on South Park’s treatment of “fat,” which I delivered at 2010’s Popular Culture of America conference.
But last night, South Park outdid themselves in an episode called TMI.
For those of you who might be squeamish or know that South Park regularly offends you, I encourage you to stop reading, or at least say beep! wherever you see language that offends you.
Weight Measurements in School! Might as Well Measure Penis Size!
In this episode, the school posts the fourth grade boys’ growth chart, which angers Eric Cartman, a fat child (you’ll see why that’s relevant shortly) because he believes that they have posted the length of all the boys penises – and his is the smallest.
When the boys decide to remeasure and post their real penis lengths – not the school’s botched measurements – Cartman learns that the numbers represented the boys’ height differential from the previous year, not their penis lengths. Due to his anger management problem and inability to think when he’s mad, Cartman is sent to therapy. To test what sets him off, the doctor immediately starts calling him fat and making fun of his size and weight – in case we weren’t already aware of what this was about.
In the meantime, made aware of this public penis measuring, Randy Marsh, a local father, goes to school to explain to the children how a penis should really be measured, presenting them with a complicated formula detailing a variety of related penile measurements. It’s convoluted and ridiculous and reminds one of how BMI is calculated.
When the Surgeon General presents her own way of measuring penis size – seemingly just as silly – making Randy’s penis seem smaller, Randy is outraged. He, in turn, is sentenced to anger management, where Cartman’s therapist starts to recognize the relationship between penis size and anger issues. That is, people emphasize penis size and that makes people with small penises angry.
A Tea Party-like group rises out of these angry people who hate the government’s inadequate understanding of penis size, making numerous and outrageous demands. In response the Surgeon General declares TMI flawless science that cannot be changed yet lowers the length a penis needs to be to make it above average.
What the Penis Size!?
You may have read that and thought to yourself, what the hell is Jay talking about? Why does he keep talking about angry people and their penises? You might be thinking that even if you are familiar with BMI and the government’s ridiculous means of measuring people’s weights, its involvement in school weight-based programs, and the unjust discrimination fat people face every day for being different under an arbitrary standard – and even if you get really angry about these things.
For however muddled this episode was and however haphazardly I summarized it, South Park just laid down a scathing indictment of the ridiculousness of Body Mass Index, or BMI, the government’s absurdity at propagating and changing elements of BMI to suit its own agenda, and the inanity of government-based programs that isolates fat children and sanction discrimination against them.
I always knew that South Park had a knack like no other satire for seeing through bull crap, but I always worried that when it really counted – like the ability to see that our weight-based obsessions were ridiculous and had gone way too far – South Park would let me down.
But they didn’t.
They saw this nonsense for what it is – bologna . . . bologna that our government wants to ban from school lunches and prevent fat people from eating so that we can all be so pretty again! No wait, that’s b.s., too.
I encourage everyone to seek out this episode on Comedy Central and use it as a means of reaching friends and family with whom you’ve argued about your own ability to be happy and fat and left alone just the way you are. And, of course, the silliness of the BMI scale.
Did you see the episode? What did you think? Want to learn more about unjust weight-based discrimination? Then check out, More of Me to Love.