‘South Park’ Satirizes School Shootings in Season Premiere “Dead Kids”
22nd season opens with a bang and a whimper
Last night, the new season of South Park premiered on Comedy Central. The episode titled “Dead Kids” was literally about that… dead kids. For a show that’s known for outrageous moments mixed with political satire, the season premiere did not disappoint.
Yes, South Park decided to tackle the issue of school shootings in their season opener, which is something that I’m sure Trey Parker and Matt Stone planned ever since the Parkland shooting occurred in February of this year. Shootings have remained a constant mainstay in the political environment of 2018, and have been a divisive source of political discourse. In fact, the marketing campaign for this season, #cancelsouthpark, may be South Park‘s preemptive response to the expected backlash about the episode, as well as a jab to movement of culture directly responding to James Gunn’s firing from Disney and the Nike Colin Kaepernick ad controversy.
There are numerous school shootings that take place at South Park elementary in the episode, and most students, teachers, and even parents don’t react to an active shooter in the hallways. Instead, they just continue as if their lives are normal. Yet, this is not normal and the only person who seems to understand that this is wrong is Sharon (Stan’s mom).
“Why are you all acting like this is normal? What is wrong with you people?” – Sharon Marsh
Throughout the episode she is outraged and desperate to find a solution to the problem at hand. However, she is mocked by her husband Randy who fears that it’s her time of the month. Here is where the episode loses some shine for me as Randy acts out charades in order to communicate to the townspeople around her that Sharon is on her period and is therefore crazy. I feel as if this character downplays women’s emotional response, and the only explanation South Park gives is that women can be irrational. I feel as though the larger notion here is that people don’t care about gun violence in America, and that the creators could have come up with a better marker for this than “bitches be crazy.”
That being said, the episode otherwise tackles the issue of school shootings throughly and with care. Rather than making a mockery of gun violence, the episode makes fun of how people react and deal with violence. Firstly, we do not see the shooters in the episode, which was a smart play as the focus should not be on who the shooters are, but on the children suffering. Secondly, we do not see any children get shot in the episode, which was tactfully done considering the show has no problem showing blood and gore. Just think about how the “Black Friday” trilogy ended with the kids walking through South Park mall surrounded by the dead bodies of black Friday shoppers. Finally, for a show that’s one running gag is killing off one of their main characters, Kenny, it was smart not the play that out in this episode.
There were two moments in the episode that left me speechless by the end. The first being how hilarious and depressing it was to see Butters wield an assault rifle in school as hall monitor—something that was actually suggested by President Trump that we should arm teachers in order to protect our schools because the more guns inside the school system is the only safe bet. This was even mocked on Sacha Baron Cohen’s Showtime show, Who is America?
The last moments of the episode also left me feeling uneasy. In the final segment, Sharon and Randy’s stories intertwine, and Sharon begins to admit she was being irrational. Then, she receives a phone call from the school informing her that her son, Stan, has been shot. Only for Randy to ask, “Should we get down there?,” and for Sharon to respond “No, it’s not the end of the world.” OMG, what a heartbreaking ending for the episode; a brutal coercion of the only character in the show who was right.
This ending was brutally bleak for me. I have to hope that this country will continue to talk about gun safety and control, and I hope that this season of South Park isn’t done with the issue either. Recently, South Park has become more serialized in its storytelling and I want this arc to play out, and I pray that Sharon gets some of her voice back as a character. We shall see, but I’m onboard continuing with the journey of this season, and you should check it out too.