Societal issues addressed in new South Park season


By Karli Coleman

South Park has been entertaining, baffling, and offending its audience for 19 seasons now. With over 250 episodes and a variety of protagonists everyone loves to hate, along with a feature film and a variety of collectors’ merchandise and video games, South Park continues to be one of the most beloved animated comedies in the world, winning over viewers with its clever satire and offensive humor.

I have been a dedicated South Park fan for as long as I can remember. The show has never failed to put a smile on my face while I was going through rough times in my childhood. South Park and its characters were always there when I was happy, sad, or anything in between. It has evoked tears as a result of such intense laughter, and the animated series will always be a favorite of mine.

The 19th season of South Park aired on Sept. 16. Similar to last season, this season features an episode-to-episode consistency, with social justice and political-correctness as a recurring theme. This season introduced the PC “Politically Correct” Principal, a jacked-up frat boy who considers himself a social justice warrior. The PC Principal is a new major character that emphasizes social justice and the importance of being politically aware and correct in the modern world.

So far this season, South Park has touched on a variety of social justice topics, such as transgender awareness, immigration, ableist slurs, and the importance of voting for a good president, along with gay rights and the harm done by negative propaganda of marginalized minorities.

The most recent episode is a new personal favorite of mine among the hundreds of episodes that have been aired up to date. This episode’s main focus is two characters, Craig and Tweek, who face rumors regarding their sexuality after pieces of art are created by students depicting the two boys together romantically. The form of art is called “yaoi.”

South Park character Wendy Testaburger described yaoi as a blend of emotion and beauty, involving two people whose love is looked down upon. Yaoi depicts love as something beautiful no matter what form it takes.

I am not yet sure on how I feel about South Park touching on the subject of yaoi. Yaoi has become a very important subcultural art for both anime fans and the LGBT community alike. I know that South Park meant no harm, but it concerns me that such a mainstream sitcom is what introduces yaoi to the general public because I do not want yaoi to be seen in a negative connotation.

However, there are several aspects of this episode that are extremely well-written and well-intentioned.

In this episode, Craig and Tweek face rumors of being  homosexual. The two characters adamantly deny the rumors about being gay, while they face both support and homophobia throughout the episode. Craig was particularly aggressive in his claims about not being gay. Part of Craig’s behavior and feelings in this episode are a direct result of his father and his apparent homophobia. South Park intentionally brings to light the harm of homophobia and the effect it has on LGBT children.

The episode also emphasizes on the importance of consent in relationships, demonstrated by the PC Principal. The PC Principal demonstrates how to ask for consent and how to express consent, which is a very important tool for a general audience to understand.

Additionally, the episode explains through the words of Eric Cartman that being gay is okay. In the episode, Cartman questions homosexuality and even thinks of it as weird. Cartman admitted to not understanding homosexuality when his imaginary friend “Cupid Me” convinced him that love is love and that it comes in all shapes and forms. Cartman later states, “Just because I don’t understand [homosexuality] doesn’t mean I shouldn’t support it.”

At the end of the episode, the way I interpreted it, Craig and Tweek eventually accept their sexuality and move on with their lives.

This episode is important because it explores sexuality and addresses homophobia, particularly homophobia that comes from the parent(s) of the subjected child.

Homophobia that students face is often ignored, but in this episode, it is addressed in a very adequate way.

This is not the only South Park episode that has addressed societal issues. South Park has been a consistent reflection of today’s society for almost 20 years now, and the 19th season does a good job of emphasizing social justice issues that exist in today’s society.

Another episode featured in season 19 that addresses societal issues is the episode “Where My Country Gone?” This episode focuses primarily on undocumented immigration.

Mr. Garrison complains about the immigration of Canadians coming into America and begins a protest. Mr. Garrison later travels to Canada, and soon realizes why Canadians are immigrating in the first place. There is a new president in Canada who has ruined the country, causing people to immigrate to America as refugees.

This episode focuses on how little understanding people have of immigration and addresses the problems with the propaganda against immigration. The Canadians in the episode describe that they love their native country, but that they had to leave when a new president took control and ruined the foundation the country was built on. They left because they desired safety.

This episode not only addresses the issues with immigration propaganda, but also addresses the importance of voting and how crucial it is to take voting seriously. In the episode, the Canadians voted for a bad candidate as a joke, and they explained that they are now facing the consequences of that decision by watching the downfall of their country.

South Park is addressing real issues in America while coating it with a layer of humor in the most brilliant of ways.

When people think of South Park, they often think of a racist cartoon with egg shaped protagonists, filled with dry humor and offensive language. Not many people take South Park for the genius that it truly is. There is a lot to learn from satire, and South Park displays a perfect example of that.

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