I think that the Strongest plot of this episode, that carried it, was that Strong Woman was pregnant. I at first was hoping Mr. Hankey got her knocked up but it was PC Principal. The babies were so cute and fun. I liked how they had their own sunglasses and how they got upset at things not PC. It seems left to be brought up next episode or in the future too with the PC babies. Ike is usually the little one to get into trouble but now there are five PC babies that can who get mad when someone is un-PC. Seems like something refreshing to add to the show. I know if you add a baby a show is headed for cancelation but lets see where this thing goes.
The Ambien Roseanne Barr joke was nice but has gotten old. That one would have been great like two months ago but now Roseanne is up to new things like studying in Israel. It will be great to see her get into trouble soon as a save for using the plot. Still, It brought some laughs but was used too hard for an old joke.
Mr. Hankey tweeting was like lots of people who have gotten into trouble using twitter. James Gunn is one that is now maybe recovering as he may direct the new Suicide Squad 2 film. Now that I think of it, if Roseanne becomes popular ever again, Mr. Hankey may find himself back on the show.
I liked the lawyer blood joke that Mr. Hankey made to Kyle. The show had several puns and word plays of poop that were nice. Seeing Mr. Hankey get into a fight with Kyle and covering him in poo was nice. It had been done before though. Mr. Hankey never seemed to realize what a f*cking assh*le and a piece of sh*t he was being. I didn’t expect his character to basically be retired like this. He went through a character assassination. No one in town likes him now, not even the boy whose ass he came from. There is really no reason to have a hated character back on the show. So making Mr. Hankey never come across as sorry, killed the character for me.
I liked the episode. I think it was around the level of last week, so it would be like a 8/10. Sorry I didn’t like it more but for me I really only liked the PC babies.
Episode was depressing but for realistic reasons. This show can mirror the world as it is quite well.
so actually, i think south park is rather paying a homage to the simpsons. or at least this is what it appears to me.
kyle's dad was right: sometimes, kyle can be a pussy. when someone is such a piece of sh*t, there is nothing to do but to tell them: "f*ck you". and he couldn't.
in this episode, for whatever reason, the poo becomes the cartman of the episode. i guess because being a literal poo, he's the best example of "stinking".
the pc babies... well, their parents' story is just downright sad. by trying to appear the strongest possible, they deny themselves happiness. or at least that's what vice-principal strong woman is doing. but pc principal goes along with it, so he's in it,too.
all in all, i find this the best episode of the season so far, as it ridicules some behaviors and hypocrisies in society, while also making it clear that some people are jusat sh*t, period.
and it confirms the darker tone of the "new" south park.
it'd give it a 7.5 out of 10. but i also would like to see this actually going somewhere
Cartman: Line? Lines! I HATE LINES!!!
Kyle tries to stick by his old friend, but in the end, he can't cope with Mr. Hankey's bad behavior. So here we have the other side of the coin when it comes to "PC" issues. There are the jerks who just want to be jerks and cry about the PC Police when they get held accountable for being a jerk. No, it's not the PC Police, assh*le; you're an unhinged psychopath who needs to piss off. Quit trying to hide behind legitimate criticism of overly-sensitive standards some try to impose.
That means like Rosanne, you have to go away now, Mr. Hankey.
Which too bad, because he used to be a great character I recall fondly (kind of like Rosanne!) But sometimes people/characters change and become cringe-worthy and when that happens, it's time for them to fade away.
Even though the city council scenes were set up to be like the Supreme Court thing, it was much more of an observation about a celebrity falling from grace a la Rosanne Bar.
You read it! You can't unread it!
Look. I get that it's 2018...that times are changing. That everything we do or say is scruitinized. But even I have gotten tired at how "PC" this society has become...and even how this show envelops it.
Mr Hankey is a troubled character. But I don't think he deserved this. Yeah the whole "Blame it on Ambien" bullsh*t. If he's that troubled....send him to drug rehab like Towelie. (Speaking of which, Towelie is a MUCH more contreversial character!!) Yeah he celebrates Christmas too early. Yeah he alientates people. SO WHAT?!? If it bothers you that much just ignore him. So we have to can his ass and ruin it for everyone because everyone in today's society has to be conformists!! Which bothers me deeply that we cannot be different and one at the same time anymore.
The PC babies things I got a few chuckles out of. But I'm shocked they both haven't been fired yet for this whole "Sexual Misconduct" bullsh*t that's happening in the news. It's bound to hit somebody soon enough though.
This episode just felt like a debbie downer. idk. Maybe Mr Hankey will be better on the Simpsons. (PS: I cannot believe how long the Simpsons have been on. So maybe it finally has run its course)
It's his normal hat. He wore it when the boys found him in the sewers waaay back when, and he was playing an organ too. Trey began to draw him with the sailor's hat in high school.
City Council Trivia
Since the nineteenth season and Mayor McDaniels' comeback, we've seen much more of the City Council, and the City Hall's first floor, which seems to double as a meeting hall, with far less emphasis placed on McDaniels' heavily re-decorated office, which used to serve as a more formal meeting place.
The current makeup includes:
- McDaniels, Town Mayor
- Bob Johnson, Mayor's aide
- Janson, Mayor's aide (first identified in South Park: The Fractured but Whole)
- Dr. Randy Marsh (identified as City Planner in "Night of the Living Homeless")
- Linda Stotch (identified as City Clerk/Treasurer in "Night of the Living Homeless")
- Mrs. Testaburger (identified as City Planner in "Night of the Living Homeless")
- Ryan Valmer (identified as Chief of the Fire Department in "Night of the Living Homeless")
The two councilmen debuted (in this capacity) in "The City Part of Town", among otherwise recurring townspeople. The councilman previously spoke in "Margaritaville" (Orator 2 by Big-Will's script) where he suggests an angel told him not to listen to Wall Street brokers, while the councilwoman spoke in "Reverse Cowgirl" (Woman 5 by Big-Will) insisting a terrorist (Cartman) left a toilet seat up during Randy's speech. They appeared in McDaniels' office in the next episode, however, the councilman makes another appearance (see below) and both are present here.
That was obviously a special meeting, given the cameos by various additional characters, such as Dr. Gouache and Dr. Mephesto, but curiously, Linda and Mrs. Testaburger are the only mothers present (no Sharon, Sheila, etc.) suggesting they alongside the councilpeople are here in their official capacity, and Mrs. Testaburger appears alongside the Mayor, her aides, and Randy at the press conference, although Mrs. Testaburger's role as Planner is minimized when they invite an architect instead. Ryan and Mackey are also completely missing from this meeting, and Skeeter's role is more among the cameos.
In "Naughty Ninjas", we see the actual council firing Officer Barbrady, including the Mayor, her aides, Mrs. Testaburger, the Councilman, and Randy in the second instance. We don't get a full shot of the table, so others may be present. This is also where we seem to learn Johnson's first name is Bob. (I was going to use it for the councilman, but Johnson rolls his eyes when Barbrady addresses 'Bob'.)
This marks Ryan's return to the City Council, but I mark it a welcome one. The last few seasons seem to be positioning the Valmers a little closer to the main families' orbit, perhaps to match up with Jimmy's presence as the sixth main child character, similar to how Stephen and Linda were never prominent in the first five seasons before being gradually drawn into the main families (even being referenced as 'new friends') before being retroactively suggested as lifelong friends and longtime town leaders.
It's especially interesting to note though, that Mrs. Testaburger has been a consistent part of the city council since its earlier appearances, having acted as a voice of reason in "Night of the Living Homeless", which makes for an interesting connection to her civic-minded daughter, though this connection has never been fully underlined. It's also curious to note she and Randy are co-workers. Should Trey and Matt ever deliver upon the mythical hope for a fabled 'Stendy episode', this could provide an interesting angle to explore.
Mr. Hankey is Back
Despite only being used twice in the last fifteen years, Mr. Hankey is easily one of South Park's most iconic characters, a key focus in promotion and merchandising, and probably sharing one of the most complicated developments for any of the show's characters. I prepped for the episode by editing his wiki page and was surprised to be reminded how he was key to the show ending up with its home at Comedy Central... so the prospect of bringing the character back was exciting, even if the lore with "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls" might be a little tricky. We can work with that.
After the previous episode brought back Father Maxi in a way that felt true to the character but still reinvented him, I was hoping Mr. Hankey would be granted the same luck. There is a reference passed to his family, his relationship with Kyle remains closest, and he is openly referred to as the town's holiday mascot for the first time - as opposed to season 2, where he broke out into the mainstream. His more formal involvement with the holiday does feel like a natural extension of his involvement in "A Very Crappy Christmas"' festivities. We even get the familiar jingle behind his 'Howdy ho' back, twice. Those ingredients are organic and all remain in the mix.
This is not, however, any attempt at a character study. From the episode's second scene, it becomes clear that the ever cheerful Mr. Hankey's darker side is peeking through - and really, in that instance it's forgivable and humorous. It's an awkward attempt at a joke in universe, but the awkwardness is what makes it funnier for the viewer. A big strength in the episode's first act and much (but not quite all) of the second is that Mr. Hankey seems to be mostly fine and functional, which adds to a sense of comedy when he apologizes for his sh*tty tweets, and allows the viewer to root for him a little compared to characters like Cartman and Randy.
By the middle of the second act though, the narrative seems to become much more clearly Hankey as a manipulative character, who dismisses everything as a bad joke and insists Christmas is more important than anyone's concerns. I'm not going to pretend I didn't chuckle at some of these jokes, and you certainly feel for Kyle, but it feels a little more like a betrayal of the original character, and it becomes a little frustrating. As Hankey's genuine intentions fall further and further from visibility, his desire to cling to his position feels less sympathetic. Do we really care about his pageant succeeding? I didn't feel like I did. I didn't necessarily think his role in the show was at stake though.
There is a degree to which this is probably by intention. Hankey's goals seem modest and understandable, but as it becomes clear he has no interest in helping himself, not even out of concern for those who are still trying to help him, you lose sympathy for him. You don't really want him to succeed anymore. This is the better route satirically, and the best case for using him is that he is a clearly beloved character in and out of universe - so it makes for a strong showing of how even people we look up to can turn out to be worse than we imagined or feared. The satirical storytelling follows through.
On the opposite send of the scale, however, finding out Mr. Hankey has lost his family off-screen and is now being written out of the show likely for good though, feels like a waste of the character as he existed before the season. There was a lot of good humor in his selection as the focus character, and as I said, he played into the point to a small degree... at the same time, as South Park reinvents itself weekly, there's still a sense that while this episode's Mr. Hankey recieved what he deserved, that the old Mr. Hankey deserved better. A part of me keeps wondering if someone like Towelie might have been more appropriate, although that comes with disadvantages as well. (Coming from someone who likes Towelie more than most of the board's usual fans.)
I feel at a draw on this plot, in essence.
I really thought "SUPER HARD PCness" represented an interesting idea for PC Principal's character, and that challenging his way of life once more, and dealing with an internal struggle, could lead to some development for a character who had been defined by a rigid ideology. I took fault at the time with the character's on-the-nose nature and how it felt like a reversion to Principal Victoria, a strong woman in her own right, but it did position the new Vice Principal as a voice of reason. The cliffhanger was promising, but it was ignored in "Splatty Tomato", which kept the relationship development off-screen and fell upon much more typical and bland 'forbidden love' tropes, while watering down the satire.
Continuing a flaw from the last few seasons, Trey has examined multiple dangling plot threads including a possible war, and chosen instead to take a romantic storyline (which is valid in theory) and inject it with a further dose of cliche until it lost whatever charm it had in the first place. Like other women in South Park, as a wife and love interest, Vice Principal Strong Woman is stubborn to a point of fault and seeks to complicate things, leaving the male character befuddled no matter how hard he tries his best. Only Vice Principal Woman seems truly concerned about ignoring the fallout from their encounter and arguing that nobody can understand.
I'll admit I did manage to locate a few chuckles from the interactions between the townspeople and the PC babies, because a lot of the politically (in)correct humor was wrapped up so well in the context of people enjoying the adorable babies. Even though the humor involved is almost inherently political, the almost apolitical context made it much more amusing - there's no shots of the nurse in the inexplicable Speedy Gonzales shirt being hurt or upset, for example. If this is taken as a work of satire though, I'm not sure it succeeds - it's not terribly original to compare politically correct people to children, and the keg-drinking college guy bit was not only funnier and more creative, but drove home the same essential, common criticism of inexperience with the real world.
There's a potential contrast between the two characters' reactions - PC Principal is the one who seems prepared to ease up on his once rigid ideology for the sake of their relationship, eager to openly refer to himself as the children's father, while it's Vice Principal Woman who tries to double down hard. An ideological battle this does not prove to be, however, as Vice Principal Woman seems to quickly rest upon the most toxic brand of feminism possible, insisting that she's too strong to be taken advantage of by aother man (rather than saying anything about consent or her own will) and later suggesting having had children might affect her image as a strong woman in and of itself. The lack of consistency might be amusing if played as a joke, but it doesn't feel like one, so it undermines both character and any genuine satire of political correctness, imo
Still, you'd think having children would feel like a progression for the characters one way or another, but it doesn't, because so much of it is framed through a continued denial of a relationship that is already public knowledge to the entire town. There's hints of a deeper story, but in the long run, none of it does much to make their roles more interesting or stronger - they just felt tired and frustrated, which is probably how they felt after the episode's events. Save one or two lines, they don't seem to react much to the babies except as to whether or not they may blow the cover on their relationship. Only in their last scene is the relationship itself seen as a threat to the children, but without the build-up, it comes off wrong.
And for some reason they're keeping the crib in her office!?
I don't know. Let's not pretend I'm wild about the concept of the two having kids in the first place, but while the final draft doesn't feel like, offensive or outright bad, it still feels like Trey could have done ten times better with it than what he delivered.
Jack of All Trades, or Master of None?
This episode promised to tackle ''The Problem With Apu'' and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and managed to focus more than either on the Roseanne Bar controversy as well. It's an able reminder how South Park can not only rip stories from the headlines, or use them as a jumping point for a new story, but also at times assemble headlines into its own story, and these three elements all kept the story from weighing too heavily on one specific running joke, a problem many episodes have suffered from, such as "Dead Kids". Seeing them assembled into a different storyline as separate jokes is on one hand, something of a triumph.
The multiple targets results in a lack of focus, however -- the controversies surrounding Barr, Kavanaugh and Apu all have very different wrinkles, and in the end, these are all just part of one key plot in an episode with an almost entirely separate substory. Mingling these stories has already lead to distinct conclusions about what the episode's intended mesage was, with many suggesting the PC babies setting off Hankey being meant to signal that the episode is criticizing political correctness, while others suggesting Hankey's ruder behavior is all the more evidence Matt and Trey are taking the liberal side of these controversies.
Setting aside the episode's final meaning though, I'm not sure that connection was strong enough to justify keeping these plots together. I really feel like Mr. Hankey's return and exit, something supposedly affecting most of the town, was something momentous enough to sustain its own episode, with a more closely related subplot, and perhaps should have been its own story, and maybe Trey could have held off a week and did an episode with a better version of the PC babies story.
Metatext: Apu and a Poo
Is there a comparison between Mr. Hankey, beloved Christmas mascot, and Apu, convenience store manager?
Unlike other adult animated shows, Trey and Matt have been open about trying to keep South Park evolving over the years, while most animated long runners like The Simpsons or Family Guy might claim to maintain the same concept indefinitely, though seasoned fans can usually point out subtle style shifts. Mr. Hankey, like Officer Barbrady and Pip before him, among others, even debatably Chef given the unusual circumstances, is another key character that's been written out after a long absence. I think the show's evolution is sometimes just a hair too dispassionate, but it's usually the right long-term choice.
The best example for comparison is perhaps the portrayal of police. While The Simpsons has relied on Clancy Wiggum since the eighties, primarily a parody of the old school family-friendly country cop stereotype, similar tropes were used as a basis for Officer Barbrady on South Park, but within five seasons, Trey and Matt were already slowling replacing him with a fully-staffed department, which moved through two or three detectives before Det. Harrison Yates became fully established. Trey specifically referenced this as a passage of line in the DVD commentaries, saying Barbrady was "nineties" and that the "comedy line had moved".
I think, in a broader and apolitical sense, Trey and Matt are criticizing The Simpsons stagnation and contrasting it with what they see as their greater willingness to change - to say, look, we had this 'offensive' character who stopped being funny fifteen years ago, and we got rid of him, but you guys haven't changed since the eighties, everything's still the same exact thing. (All exagerration is based on reading of intention.)
Now, I'm not saying like 'this is absolutely 100% what the episode was about', not like some people and videos, I'm sort of speculating out loud here, but it would certainly help explain why Trey and Matt chose someone like Mr. Hankey instead of a more direct comparison, such as Mr. Lu Kim, another business proprieter mostly known for a silly accent and an implied political incorrectness, who could still have played out most of the same plot beats.
The episode opens on South Park Elementary, then pans over to the Community Center, which are both placed directly next to each other in both games... then pans to the right to City Hall, which a block or two away in the same games, and even further out in wide shots in the games themselves.
I do treat the games as a canonical approximation of the town's 'real' map, but I do still find it important and a little fun to point out that the show does not bind itself to these geographic rules... case and point, the Community Center was almost outright affirmed in the fifth season as being in a different part of the county, a far drive out, and while it did make appearances in succeeding seasons, it didn't become a key town center until probably the ninth season, replacing the town meetings held in the gymnasium and lunch room (which occasionally return) and the once frequent meetings in front of City Hall, which have pretty much disappeared.
On another interesting but odd hand, Hell's Pass Hospital is once again indicated to be somewhat further from town, as supported back in season 2's "Cartman's Mom is Still a Dirty Slut" and season 12's "About Last Night..."; this may have continued due to the location being skipped from the games in favor of Unplanned Parenthood. Still, other episodes show it closer to town, so we'll see what happens.
- During the assembly at South Park Elementary, Terrance Mephesto is present and fine.
... in fact, when Vice Principal Woman's water breaks, he's the only kid who looks not sad, but angry, with eyebrows close to his old ones!
- Mr. Hankey is supposed to only be able to come to the surface safely at Christmas time or when supplied with Chef's chocolate salty balls. This isn't addressed here (for the better mostly imo) so let's assume Kyle's been supplying them; or perhaps Hankey's returned to the sewers every night and the circumstances of that episode were more dire as the ecosystem was disrupted... (Yes, I'm thinking about this.)
- Craig, Tweek, Clyde, and Token are sitting together at Denny's and later at the Halloween Store; this is the first time these four have appeared as a full and exact unit since around season 7ish, but they've always been the preferred grouping among fans for Craig's friends, although Jimmy was a consistent member from season 8 all the way thru season 20ish.
- The doctor presiding over Vice Principal Woman's children is the same one who examined PC Principal last season. I'll stick with Dr. Bender for his name and treat the Gouache degree as a reused prop.
- The PC Babies all wear Oakleys, which the end of "Stunning and Brave" established as part of the full PC package.
- One of the shoppers complimenting the PC Babies seems to be either Mrs. Galtman from "Holiday Special" or a reuse of her model, though we weren't granted a great look in her debut.
- Tom Thompson returns for another newscast after being missing since mid-season 19; we'll see if this is a permanent reversion or a half-accidental reuse of a familiar model.
- Recent episodes involving lawyers have often skipped over Gerald for whatever reason, so all the more so after s20, it was nice to revisit his Law Office, if only for a second. I'm a little surprised we still haven't seen Broflovski & Jackson's exterior for a second (third?) time.
- Mr. Hankey's job as the planner for the Christmas pageant is initially under threat, but he's later fired as the 'Executive Planning Manager of the City Council'.
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