originally posted on Medium.com
Not What You Think
I kind of don’t know how to feel right now. Yesterday morning, I posted an essay on the creators of ‘South Park,” specifically their cynicism and unwillingness to take firm stances. I really did not think that would be resolved within 24 hours.
But they did, and it was brilliant.
To detail it just a bit further, my essay had two main points: that 99% of the time, ‘South Park’ generally doesn’t assert what “it” thinks for real and therefore has no ideology at all (making it not reactionary as neoreaction is an ideology) and when they do say what they think, they obfuscate it behind layers of “how do we piss as many people off as possible” and often come off as harmful rather than helpful. I also talked about a (fantastic) analysis video that put forward a reading that Season 19, which was widely taken as anti-social justice, was actually anti-neoliberalism. In essence, this video asserts that ‘South Park’s point arching over the season was not far off from a book that I like to recommend a bit too much.
Ultimately, if that analysis was correct, I think the real point of the season was not necessarily obvious enough to even confirm that it is actually the point and I think the video is more useful than the season itself. That changes with the Season 20 premiere.
There’s quite a few things that happen throughout the episode that make implications that Matt Stone and Trey Parker are pushing back against a large swath of reactionaries that claimed them last year. There’s also plenty of stuff that runs contrary to their supposedly libertarian leanings. The contextual implication that Hillary Clinton, although boring and not necessarily morally “what we need,” is probably who should win the election because the other guy has literally been making horrible promises and has no plans — but also that it would be really nice if we had a system that would allow third parties. They also, very subtly, implied Bernie Sanders would have been a better candidate — something that will likely go unnoticed, but it’s there.
There’s something specific I want to talk about, though: Memberberries. These little guys have cute little voices, cute little faces, and appear to be totally random. At first, I wasn’t sure why they looked like grapes, but I figured out they are actual sour grapes. Using structure and context, the Memberberries link obsessive fans’ nostalgia with bigotry (which is actually a big problem) and pretty much repudiate the entire movement that attempted to take ownership of the idea of liking ‘South Park’ itself last year.
They set up context that begins with the need to “reboot” the national anthem (because of Colin Kaepernick, of course). The country believes that J.J. Abrams is so good at rebooting things, so they need him to do it — keeping the best parts of the anthem intact, though.
Then, at an assembly, Cartman (now a Woke White Male Feminist™ — side note: he functions as a pretty good criticism of that type of person) talks about internet harassment and that he overheard some other male students saying the new ‘Ghostbusters’ “sucked balls.” This is important because it’s mentioned specifically to remind you that on the internet, there was a very male backlash over the new ‘Ghostbusters’ — which was also a reboot.
Then the Memberberries make their first on-screen appearance. Their schtick is comprised essentially of remembering how wonderful ‘Star Wars’ and other pop culture touchstones were. So J.J. Abrams has been established as “so good at encapsulating what makes things great,” Cartman has reminded us that there was a sexist backlash regarding the ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot, and the Memberberries exist to talk about the good ol’ days.
The berries then ‘member ‘Ghostbusters’. In this context, because ‘Ghostbusters’ has also been rebooted but was not received well when compared to ‘’Star Wars — the implication is that these grapes probably don’t like the new ‘Ghostbusters’; what is the point of reminiscing about it if they are satisfied with the version that came out a month ago?
They are both literally and figuratively sour grapes.
In the final Memberberries segment of the episode, the berries expose themselves to truly be nostalgic for the good ol’ days by exposing themselves as racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. The berries ‘member “being safe,” implying that liking the old ‘Star Wars’ (without the black people), remembering the old ‘Ghostbusters’ (without the ladies), disliking the fact there are so many people of color around these days, disliking gay people’s right to marry, and fear of ISIS and Islam all make a certain group of people feel “safe” — and that this group of people is pretty forward about their tastes in all of these categories of belief, most likely because it makes them feel (again) safe.
Couple this with the “dark room, lights off, middle-aged man with wine glass harasses women online” gag (that I did first, albiet not as well) that implies these weird adult internet harassers consider themselves connoisseurs of… whatever they think they are connoisseurs of. I mean, all this stuff is pointed directly at that sect of “internet man.”
I’m not saying Matt Stone and Trey Parker have suddenly become progressive. I sincerely doubt that, but it does seem as though they have found a backbone in regards to criticizing people who like them. As I said in my previous essay, they are clearly not reactionaries. Contradicting what I said yesterday, they actually do seem willing to take real stances now.
The way the Memberberries were set up came off as expository. They were certainly painted as negative and bad, but they didn’t have an arc nor did they really take part in anyone’s arc — though their idea and execution were brilliant. However, I think they’re probably going to be part of the overarching arc of this season, which I think is probably going to be pointed directly at the Alt Right if I’ve read all my cues correctly.
The tacit implication in roasting them through some cutely-drawn sour grapes reminiscing about how “safe” they used to be back when Ghostbusters was good and gays couldn’t marry is that 'South Park' is not their safe space.
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