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.

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Randy and Stan Make Alien Contact in South Park Episode 1306, “Pinewood Derby”

For the Pinewood Derby, father-son teams build cars with official Pinewood Derby kits and then race them against each other. Randy, unable to bear Stan’s potential loss, steals an experimental magnetic semi-conductor and cheats by including it in the car to make it heavier on the front end. During the race, Stan’s car bends space and time and travels at warp speed all the way to space. When an alien ship makes contact and says that it wants to meet the people that designed the warp drive, the whole world watches.

Unfortunately it’s a gangster alien that takes the world hostage and forces Randy to build him another warp drive to escape from the alien cops that are chasing him for stealing a bunch of space cash. Oh my!

When the alien cops follow this alien gangster to earth the alien gangster takes Stan hostage and makes Randy lie about him being there. However, when Randy finishes the car and shows the alien, he has Stan shank the alien, killing him and allowing all the countries of earth to take and divide up the stolen space cash. The cops return, but the earthlings deny knowing about the cash so that the cops leave.

After the rest of earth nukes the Fins for threatening to tell on them all, the alien cops return again and the whole world continues denying any knowledge of the money. Stan, however, comes forward, and returns his Pinewood Derby trophy, confessing that he cheated and emphasizing that the longer he lies the more he has to maintain and perpetuate the lie. That doesn’t get the rest of the people to admit how they’re lying to the alien cops, though.

It’s at this point that we learn that these aliens were just testing earth – something they do to every planet after its inhabitants discover warp speed in order to decide if that planet should be admitted to the Intergalactic Federation of Planets. Because the people of earth lied and cheated they are forever banned from this Intergalactic Federation.

That sucks.

What’d you think of this episode? Did you like the message about lying or was it a little bit basic for South Park.

I think it was an interestingly constructed lesson and there were some good chuckles in the episode, but I also think it was the weakest episode of season 13 so far.

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The Male v. Female Battle About Farting v. Queefing Rages in South Park Episode 1304, “Eat, Pray, Queef”

This was definitely the first totally asinine episode of the season, all about farting and queefing. The incredible part was the degree to which it played on South Park lore and history.

The episode begins with the boys’ excitement of the second in a two part Terrance and Philip episode. However, as today is April 1st (i.e. the air date of South Park episode 1304), as an April Fool’s joke, the continuation of the Terrance and Philip episode is not aired. Why is this awesome?

Because 12 years ago on April 1st, instead of showing South Park fans the much-desired first episode of season 2, which would have answered the season finale cliff hanger of season 1’s “Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut” episode – i.e. who is Cartman’s father? – Trey Parker and Matt Stone aired a totally bogus episode all about Terrance and Philip doing some pointless stuff. Fans were insanely furious and protested vehemently.

And that’s exactly what the boys did in this episode 12 years later when their episode of Terrance and Phillip was replaced with an episode of The Queef Sisters – a show about two women who do the female version of farting, queefing!

The entire episode – which is very funny, filthy and silly – is about men being grossed out by women’s queefs and fighting to stop women from queefing. Of course, women defend their queefs and protest men’s farts. And that’s where we see the strong divide between the sexes.

After the men succeed in banning women’s farts, Sharon Marsh makes an impassioned speech about how far women have come and how queefing was the one little thing they had to gross out men with – and how men took that away from them. Realizing their mistake, the men record a strong about how strong women are and how they deserve to queef. As a backdrop during the song we see pictures of women doing various things, including one of Hilary Clinton with an air poof coming out form between her legs.

Other hilarious part: Martha Stewart having festive queefs. Recalls episode 608, “Red Hot Catholic Love,” when interoretrogestion has her shoving an entire turkey up there.

Ridiculous episode! What did you think? Leave your comments below.

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Kyle, as Jesus, Preaches Faith in the Economy and Saves South Park in “Margaritaville,” Episode 1303

We haven’t stopped hearing about the economy ever since it, well, started crapping all over our heads. But for some reason, I’ve only seen two intelligent pieces on the economy. The first was from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show and comes from his extended debate with Jim Cramer (of Fast Money). Indeed, Stewart had Cramer admitting that he had to change the terrible way he’d been treating the public through his ridiculous show. The second is this episode of South Park.

As the economy begins crashing all around us, everyone angrily points fingers at everyone else. The only person people start listening to, however, is Randy Marsh. He preaches an end to spending and a return to constant savings and old ways (sheets for clothes, llamas for transportation, squirrels for toys, etc.). The whole town follows his advice and nobody gets anything at all.

When Cartman blames the Jews for the problems of the economy, Kyle denies his baseless accusations and rebels against this no-spending spree that has overtaken South Park. He becomes a renegade Jew, or as it were, the Jesus of the economy. The economy only exists because we have faith in it, he tells people. It’s not some powerful and vengeful, angry god. This position is much akin to that uttered by the Wise One in episode 1004. Fascinating that this would be the position taken by the Jesus figure of the episode, causing us once again to recognize that South Park‘s thought on the existence of God, inferentially, is that God is most powerful as a human idea rather than an actual divine being.

Randy and his ruling council decide to stop Kyle and his blasphemous preaching and do so with the aid of Cartman (who is Judas in this biblical reenactment). The theological jokes abound, especially when someone on Randy’s council proposes that Kyle could be the only son of the economy. Father Maxi insists that this idea is totally retarded since any omnipotent being could have more than one son. Hmm…

At a Last Supper of pizza with his friend, Kyle vows to do something he always knew he’d have to do in order to restore people’s faith in the economy: he pays off everyone’s debt on his no limit platinum American Express, ultimately sacrificing himself (i.e. his economic future) for the sake of humanity and the economy.

All the while, we’re learning what’s actually going on in the economy as Stan runs from person to person trying to return a Margaritaville blender. Everybody keeps sending him to the institition above that’s now responsible for his return. Eventually he winds up at the Department of the Treasury and learns that the government makes its decisions in a totally random fashion: by sacrificing, as it were, chickens, and then letting them run around with their heads cut off until they land on some point of a grid that determines what action the government should take.

As a blog about South Park and religion, you can imagine that this was an episode that had me squirming with delight the entire time. For me, this will go down as one of the classics.

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The Boys Battle Over Bebe’s Budding Breasts in South Park episode 610, “Bebe’s Boobs Destroy Society”

Bebe begins getting breasts and chaos ensues in fourth grade. Suddenly all the boys think she’s cool and they all want to hang out with her. She loves the attention, but it’s making Wendy jealous. All the boys start turning into primitive monkeys and hanging around her house, asking her mother if she can come out to play.

Bebe becomes increasingly dismayed as she realizes that it’s only her early maturation that’s inspiring attention from the boys; she says:

“If I grow up getting everything I want and having things made easy for me because I have hot knockers, then I’m going to grow up to be a lame person. If I’m handed everything in life then my chances of becoming a lawyer or a marine-biologist are zero.”

As the boys start warring amongst themselves for Bebe’s affection and attention they have to learn that sometimes there are more important things in life. Randy tells Stan:

“You can’t let them get in the way of your friends. There are a lot of boobs out there, son. But they’re just boobs; your friends are forever….I know you think this set of boobs is important now, but those boobs will be replaced by another set of boobs. Boobs will come and go, and then, someday you’ll meet a pair of boobs that you want to marry. And those become the boobs that matter the most.”

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The Obama and McCain Election was a Front to Steal the Hope Diamond in “About Last Night,” South Park Episode 1212

We Got Jacked

The premise of the entire election, we learn, was that John McCain and Barack Obama are part of the world’s greatest thief syndicate. They both decided to run for president – a plan 10 years in the works – so that one of them had to win. Why president? Because an emergency escape tunnel runs from the Oval Office and under the Smithsonian, where the Hope Diamond – the current object of their thieving affections – is housed.

The rest of the episode goes down like an Ocean’s Eleven movie – and everybody’s in on it. Michelle is a computer whiz. Palin speaks stupidly to reporters about running for vice-president in ’09, but when talking to McCain and the team has a British accent and speaks about complicated, technical jargon (Elektra). They even all fake their own deaths at the end so that no one comes looking for them.

Some Meat and Potatoes

As hilarious as this context is, the actual portrayal of America is where the meat and potatoes of the episode really are. Obama supporters are ecstatic with their candidate’s win and Randy Marsh is ‘jumping the couch’ in his state of excitement. People are partying and wasted in the streets, overturning Barbrady’s cop-car, fighting, drinking, cursing out bosses, and insisting that everything is going to be different from that moment forward. They’re chanting “Yes we can,” and “Change!”

This is the delusion: that everything is going to be different with the simple election of Barack Obama – that we would wake up to CHANGE. There’s nothing wrong with the hope and excitement of this new presidency. It’s just that people seemed to think that it meant something immediate rather than long-term. This episode throws that in America’s face.

And not just on the Obama side either. The McCain supporters look like idiots, too. They build a bunker to start hiding in and fighting people off and insisting that it’s the collapse of society.

One line sums this up excellently. After Ike jumps out the window and is taken to the hospital the nurse asks, “Was he a McCain supporter or an Obama supporter.” The boys have no idea why this is relevant and she says, Because I need to know if he partied too hard or if he tried to kill himself.

Summary

This episode was classic and amazing South Park. Extreme satire and ridiculous situations reflected and distorted America’s experience last night and the feelings across the country. In the meantime it made profound points about what the reality was, as evidenced by McCain supporters going outside and seeing that the world was still standing the next day and Randy waking up hungover, unemployed and with fewer luxury goods (no tv or pants) and realizing that nothing had changed the night Obama was elected president.

Is that to say that nothing has really changed? No, plenty has and last night was a momentous night in American history. However, Obama put it best in his speech. Nothing is over. It’s only just begun. If we want real change we’re going to have to work a lot harder – and together – than anybody did to get Obama elected president.

What did you think of this episode? Did you like the plot? Did you like the points?

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Randy Says the N-Word on National Television in South Park Episode 1101, “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson”

Puzzle: N-_-G-G-E-R-S

Clue: People who annoy you.

Honestly, what did you think when you first saw this episode? I thought “Noggers” – you know, people who constantly knock you on the noggin? I’m sure you did too.

In any case, this episode begins with this hilarious Wheel of Fortune bit and proceeds to a problem arising between Stan and Token, the latter insisting that the incident was, in fact, a big deal and that his friend Stan cannot understand why.

A midget comes to South Park Elementary to talk to the children about how he overcome the odds and became a motivational speaker. Cartman can’t stop laughing at him for his diminutive stature and the little suit they put on him. It’s hilarious watching Cartman laugh at this guy and even more hilarious when Cartman gets to him and in the end they actually wrestle.

Plus, Stan learns a valuable lesson.

What did you think?

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