Why South Park’s Twentieth Season was “Not Funny”: A Critical Analysis

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Why South Park’s Twentieth Season was “Not Funny”: A Critical Analysis

Postby JVM » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:27 pm

A very lengthy analysis on South Park's twentieth season and its strengths, weaknesses and meanings, written mostly in response to the negative reception it received, and to propose a thesis as to how it ended the way it did. Much of this was written the December - January after the season ended, and languished for several months before being completed, with a few annotations about subsequent events.

Why South Park’s Twentieth Season was “Not Funny”: A Critical Analysis
Introduction wrote:It’s no secret that South Park has resonated with audiences for the last two decades based on its use of scatological and satirical humor as a vehicle for social commentary, against a backdrop of stories that have typically strive for emotional intelligence at their backbone. The show’s unmatched creative freedom and willingness to speak truth to power have attracted a uniquely diverse audience, from far-left liberals who appreciate its commitment to preserving social liberties, to on the opposite side, members of the alt-right movement who applaud its firm stance against political correctness.

It’s also no secret that South Park’s landmark twentieth season has failed to resonate with both casual audiences and dedicated fans alike, and the critical response hasn’t been kind either. After starting the season off with the cryptic “Member Berries”, a highly-rated premiere that showed a promising future, ratings slipped significantly towards the middle of the season, and only rebounded after the presidential election. So, what the hell happened? What derailed the season’s storyline? Where was it supposed to head, why didn’t audiences like it, and what did it all mean, anyway?

This analysis will begin by recapping elements of the preceding season that are relevant, before continuing through the events of the twentieth, with commentary on the development of the arcs before summarizing these themes and arcs, and drawing conclusions. The general tone and form of this article will work under the assumption the reader has a basic familiarity with South Park, but will try to cover the events of the recent seasons in enough detail that hopefully a non-viewer can still understand the analysis.

The majority of this article was written in advance of the release of the twentieth season on home video, and the availability of commentary from the creators, but these will be acknowledged down below after the main sections.
South Park is a platform for Matt and Trey's social commentary and satire; there is no canon and these characters only serve as tools for self-expression. Don't get attached.

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