After a Thanksgiving hiatus, South Park returned with an episode that bridged the generation gap in entertainment with a mix of Tupac holograms and PewDiePie. Sadly, after a wholly original and downright funny episode two weeks ago, the show seems to be back on its pushy message path with #REHASH.
The big draw of the episode, as anyone who follows South Park on social media knows, was the fact that it had a small cameo from YouTube star PewDiePie. He himself was only in the episode for a few minutes at most, but Cartman eventually takes up his persona and begins “commenting on people commenting on things.” All the jokes, and the aim of the satire, sprung from the fact that watching other people play games is becoming increasingly popular with younger kids – in this case represented by Kyle’s brother, Ike. After Kyle buys Call of Duty: Advance Warfare and wants to play it with his brother he is immediately shot down as Ike instead wants to watch his favorite YouTuber play it.
At first, the episode looked tragically like South Park was aging itself by just pointing out how weird it is that people like watching Let’s Play videos. There’s an argument to be made that it’s stupid, sure, but the jokes at first felt like a tone-deaf shot directly at younger kids who happen to like something different. As it eventually turns out, the episode is instead mocking those people that automatically assume that “kids these days” like stupid things just because they don’t understand them.
One of my favorite things about the parody is that it wasn’t just the “older generation” as in Baby Boomers or anyone over 40 that were being called out. It was also teens and young adults who are starting to experience the generation gap in the episode’s satirical crosshairs. Kyle and the other kids of South Park most often representing these age groups – despite the fact that they are only kids on the show – and Kyle was clearly being satirized for how he just didn’t understand what these darn kids were into these days. To him, playing in the livingroom is the only way to play video games, but that is clearly changing and he just doesn’t understand it – the same way some members of older generations don’t understand why kids like playing video games in the first place.
Commentary wise, #REHASH succeeded in balancing the parody between the inherently dumb parts of video game streaming personalities, and mocking the people who dislike them as well. When Cartman began to imitate PewDiePie his commentary was full of pointless and frequent quick cuts, high pitched voices, and just being generally obnoxious. It really hit on all the things that can make a YouTube video bad, and as always the parody was straight on.
The job of mocking older generations who unfairly judge younger generations was mostly left to Randy and his performance as teenage singer Lorde on stage. His side story, which eventually took over about half way through the episode, revolved around him (as Lorde) not wanting to sell out when it came to live stage music. Being that Randy is in fact a 45-year-old male geologist and not a teenage singing sensation, he uses a heavy amount of auto tune as we learned in a previous episode and he sounded horrible on stage, and in the end resorted to the same type of tactics that Miley Cyrus and others resort to in order to gain attention. A group of new-age popstars like Iggy Azaela, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj all played alongside a hologram of Michael Jackson, nicely mirroring the fact that older generations can’t let go of their own forms of entertainment just like these “darn kids” have their own newer form of the same thing. It represented both Kyle’s generation with all the pop stars being horrible on stage, and older generations with the Michael Jackson hologram.
When Randy messed up on stage and released the Michael Jackson hologram, a shady organization that creates these celebrity holograms brought back their original Tupac hologram and sent him after the rogue Michael Jackson apparition. The final 10 minutes or so, which constited entirely of this scenario and stale Michael Jackson jokes, was just pure boredom. It stopped telling jokes altogether and was just setting up for a multi-episode series, but it left no interesting cliff hanger to make anyone care what they do next week. They could easily just pretend the whole thing didn’t exist and move on, and no one would know the difference.
I hate to say it, but the Randy Marsh joke well is really starting to run dry. He was featured prominently again in the episode like the previous dozen or so episodes, but nothing he did was even remotely funny. The idea that Lorde is a 45-year-old geologist was funny the first time, but that premise has been run way too many times this season as the crux of so many Randy jokes, and it is wearing extremely thin.
Like Randy being Lorde, references to other past episode are now just being lazily shoved into dialogue to remind us that things happened. Gluten free, cock magic, and freemium apps were all mentioned in the most jarring, pointless ways possible and I’m starting to lose faith that there is any end goal with all this continuity. I suppose they could be playing off of the #REHASH name by rehashing their own jokes, but if that was their goal it just fell completely flat.
All of these complaints aside, I have to concede that there were a few chuckle-worthy one liners that caught me off guard. Ike’s innocent little “meh” and Cartman “shooting for the D” both got a startled laugh out of me during an otherwise stale episode. A lot of the jokes and satire felt like they were going somewhere, but eventually fizzled out and were left unresolved. Partially a side effect of being part one of a two part series, I’m sure, but it made for a sub-par episode on its own.
Overall, the message of the episode was conveyed within the first 5 minutes, and the remaining time just felt like stretching and filling in to set up next week’s episode, whatever that may be. The only thing propping the episode up were some pretty great one-liner jokes, but none of the over arcing story or satire was all that worthwhile. This episode is going to be talked about for a while on the internet because PewDiePie was involved, and whichever side of loving him or hating him people fall on, they all have something loud and annoying to say about it.
It’s really hard to nail down season 17 of South Park so far. Some episodes have been great and full of original jokes reminiscent of the earlier years of the show, but too many others (like #REHASH), are all about surface-level social commentary and not at all about quality jokes.