South Park Review: “The Magic Bush”

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Last night’s episode of South Park was not the funniest episode in the world, but it could not have been more on point with the several parodies and satirical points it was making. Ferguson, nude celeb leaks, #GamerGate, and even South Park‘s own weird continuity in season 18 were woven together perfectly during the episode. But that doesn’t necessarily make it entertaining.

Story wise, there wasn’t much to it outside of setting up what needed to be set up to get to the layers of satire. Cartman convinces Butters to use his dad’s drone to fly around and spy on their neighbors which remains mostly innocent until they arrive at Craig’s house. After flying by his window and floating over to his parents window, the boys spot Craig’s mom taking off her clothes through the eyes of the drone while it simultaneously records everything.

That leads to the video eventually being posted online when Kyle finds the video on Cartman’s phone.  Cartman “had no choice” but to upload the video to the internet to make Kyle think he just downloaded it from somewhere else and wasn’t the person who recorded it. This whole first section is pretty openly parodying the nude celebrity leaks that Jennifer Lawrence (they reference her specifically) and others fell victim to last month.

With the entire town outraged that they are being spied on, they decide to hold a town meeting where it is decided that, in order to stop them from being spied on by drones, they would all fly drones to watch out for drones. Another pretty spot-on layer of satire about the domino effect showing how losing privacy for the sake of security can get out of hand quickly.

During the town meeting, and throughout the rest of the episode there is also a layer of denial about watching the nude video in question. Just like with the nude celebrity leaks, everyone in the town is denying that they would ever dare look at a nude picture or video illegally obtained but they obviously did, and do a terrible job at hiding it.

The episode also does a quick take on the Ferguson protest by having all the drones that the neighbors are flying being assaulted by police drones and eventually have to stop in place and “raise their hands” so they don’t get shot down. It wasn’t much, but it felt natural in the episode and was relatively funny and extremely on point.

While all this is happening, Butter’s dad, Stephen Stotch, is in complete denial that his son used his drone without permission, despite overwhelming evidence that he used it. Instead of accepting that someone in his hobby (or in this case family) did something terrible, he makes out-of-nowhere connections to try and place the blame on someone else entirely. Throughout the episode he devolves into borderline crazyness as he tries to pin the blame on imaginary boogeymen instead of accepting the truth. Perhaps the best hidden satire of them, but this is pretty obviously a take on #GamerGate when you really think about it. He continually mentions that his “hobby is being ruined” by ghosts, which is a common phrase within that movement.

South Park Review

A discheveled Stephen desperately tries to explains his insane theories to anyone who will listen in order to defend his drone flying hobby.

There is no way I’m touching or recapping that subject with a ten foot pole, but for anyone who knows what #GamerGate is, Stephen very clearly represents those in the movement that are in denial about other gamers doing terrible stuff to other people, particularly women. South Park, as always, does a great job toeing the line with the satirization. They keep Butters (who represents the ones actually doing the harassment and threatening) looking innocent, and hide what side of the argument they are on pretty well, never flat out saying that Stephen is stupid or insane but just lightly poking fun at the strange and outlandish connections he is making by keeping him a secondary character in the episode.

Overall, not an episode that provided many laughs (the only time I laughed out loud was when Craig’s mom was describing how natural her large amount of pubic hair was and Randy blurted out “ew” in the background. I love you, Randy), but the points it made were brilliantly done. Whether or not you agree with what they were saying, this is one of the few times where South Park got it’s message across without feeling too pushy. That doesn’t make a great episode by any means, but the great writing saved what would otherwise have been a complete downer.

Continuity Watch 2014. Ok, so if you’ve been watching season 18 of South Park you may have noticed that they have been keeping up a continuity throughout all of their episodes. There is always a reference to the events of the previous week’s episode. In ‘The Magic Bush’ they went a step further and acknowledged in a way why they are doing the continuity in an extremely subtle and well done way. When Stan and Kyle are walking in off screen at the bus stop, we hear the end of a conversation between the two. Stan says, “There’s not a real thing to hold on to,” to which Kyle replies, “I don’t know if I’m going to watch anymore.” It’s a pretty clear commentary on this season’s continuity and why they are doing it. In recent seasons the show has just gotten too bizarre and far away from the little town of South Park that it starts being hard to care what is happening on screen. While it’s kind of disappointing they didn’t actually reference last week’s episode, it was really cool how they did implement it into the episode. 

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