South Park Rails Against BMI and Government Involvement in Silly Weight-Based Matters

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.

Cartman Becomes The Coon in Order to Save South Park in Episode 1302, “Mysterion”

Episode Summary

Cartman, in an attempt to rid the town of crime in the augmenting crime during such tough times, adopts an alterego superhero identity known as The Coon. He dresses like a racoon, and it’s not entirely clear whether there’s an inappropriate slur being insinuated here. In any case, Cartman wants to spread the word about this new character and tries to draw attention to the Coon however he can, including throwing an unsuccessful event called Coonicon 2009.

All of Cartman’s efforts are for nought, however, because another superhero, Mysterion, has captured everyone’s attention. Pissed that his spotlight is shining on Mysterion, Cartman teams up with Professor Chaos and General Disarray (Butters and Dougie) in order to get rid of his primary competitor. By threatening to blow up a hospital (Cartman’s idea) if Mysterion doesn’t reveal his true identity, Professor Chaos forces a confrontation between himself and Mysterion.

A battle ensues, which the whole town watches, and when it’s over, Cartman convinces Mysterion to unmask himself in order to prevent threats on the public in the future.

They really screw us good by showing us the kid’s face, which, as a South Park face, is totally indistinguishable. Then they make some jokes about stuff we already knew without narrowing the identity down. Cartman, it seems, will remain the town’s superhero.

And then…

This episode nailed a number of things, particularly all of the superhero movies that have come out recently, like Batman, Watchmen and The Spirit.

I also appreciated the knocks against all of the obnoxious people who think that in 2 months Barack Obama should have changed everything. It takes a very long time for the effects of a president’s specific work to be felt in the general public and for people to assume that Obama could have changed anything by now is pure foolishness. Give the man time.

Good episode – pretty silly, and not fixated on some larger issue like many are. Cartman getting pissed off and cursing so much was surprisingly funny.

What did you think of the episode? How do you feel about Season 13 so far?

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read about other South Park episodes.

A Review of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice-Presidential Debate

Last night I watched the entire VP debate, and I’d love to take a moment of your time to tell you a few thoughts I had and hear about anything that you observed.

1. The Moderator

I liked the moderator. Now, Biden and Palin made it easy for her because the arguing was minimal, but I thought her questions were good and she wasn’t afraid to call someone out for not answering the question she asked.

2. Demeanor

Palin was ner-er-vous. She put herself in this situation so I couldn’t feel bad for her, but she seemed downright terrified when the debate began. Her anxiety didn’t seem to diminish drastically over the night, perhaps in contrast to how confident Biden seemed. I don’t know if that made Palin seem endearing or week or Biden competent or patronizing. What did you think?

3. Talking Points v. Points to Talk About

Biden knows his stuff, but of course, this makes sense. He’s been in Congress for decades, and when Palin would bring up a bill that he, Obama or McCain voted one way or another on, he could talk about that bill and the reasons in far more detail than she ever could because he was involved. This was in stark contrast to the Obama-McCain debate when both candidates intimately knew the details of these bills and could – and did! – argue back and forth about what was what. With Biden-Palin, there was little back and forth and I wonder if it’s because she simply didn’t know what to talk about. I don’t mean this as a criticism (that’s left up to how you take her pride about not being of the Washington bunch) but merely as an observation. It seemed that Palin had been seriously prepped with canned lines and points and told to avoid all sorts of other things for fear of a huge mistake. How did you feel?

4. Gaffes

Speaking of huge mistakes, let’s talk about the one thing that all the political pundits really wanted to see – a gaffe. Now, I don’t know that there were any huge gaffes that can’t be undone. Palin did call Joe Biden “O-Biden” and she also told the moderator and Biden that she wasn’t there to answer the questions she was asked but to say what she wanted. Palin also referred to her ticket as a “team of mavericks” which is a bit oximoronic – a fact I think was lost on her. Biden was probably advised to say less than he wanted to because the more active he is the more patronizing he appears. In 90 minutes, though, these were not the big things that came out. Did you notice anything particularly outrageous that slipped by me?

5. Summary

It’s unclear to me what will come out of this. I don’t really want to give you my opinion of the particular political positions as the VP candidates stated them last night – I’d rather discuss the importance of this debate and how the candidates appeared to Americans and the world. However, as an aside, I will mention that I thought it was funny when the moderator established that the two agreed about gay marriage (despite my own disagreement with their mutual opinion). Everyone had a nice chuckle.

Pundits, as they are want to do, said that this debate could be a make-it-or-break-it moment in the political process, but I didn’t notice anything happen that would have been so swaying. I know who appeared more competent, more capable and more knowledgable and I know who appeared more presidential (mentally, not physically or genderally), but I also know that a lot of Americans are looking for something else and appreciate the different image that is being provided for them in this race.

What did you think? I’d love to hear all of your opinions, whether issue-related, debate-related, political or otherwise.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more Religion in the News posts.