jason stives makes ’em clap…
The best kind of South Park episodes tend to not be measured on how consistently funny it is through formula but through how the quickest jokes splice together well within a clever story. This season’s penultimate story returned the show to its soapbox ways and that is said in the best of light because “A Scause for Applause” had a lot to say and it did so very well.
The show sways us twice in the first five minutes as it starts out with the town standing in line to get their wristbands cut off, presumably “Live Strong” wristbands, in light of Lance Armstrong’s recent stripping of all of his Tour De France titles after testing positive for steroids. But wait! The wrist bands are actually “What Would Jesus Do?” wristbands being destroyed after it is proven that Jesus used HGH to do all his miracles back in the day. Once again, South Park is clearly still knocking Armstrong’s recent insistence that he didn’t take steroids despite not fighting it but the swerve made it less obvious and the idea really does stay fresh as the story continues. Only Stan refuses to keep his wristband on and suddenly becomes a talk of inspiration inspiring people to “STANd STRONG!” giving the young Marsh his own stance in social power as someone doing great things. Ultimately, the authentication of his insistence to keep wearing his wristband comes into question and Stan soon becomes a social pariah who must prove otherwise. He does so alongside the son of God himself.
“Scause” really doesn’t hide its true colors but it also does a damn good job of seeing both sides of the coin. Stan and Jesus are clearly guilty parties from the beginning and thankfully they are not afforded the chance to prove otherwise. They know they can’t hide what they did but they insist on proving otherwise because their fight should matter more than their actions. The funny thing is the show chooses to sway the pendulum back and create a balancing act with its themes. While merely mentioned briefly the whole point trying to be made by Stan and Jesus (despite their actual intent) doesn’t fall under their stance as an influence but the idea that their actions became bigger than what they were trying to do. In our culture we weigh so heavily on the people we deem influential that any action they make that goes against what they stood for is completely unacceptable. Basically, much like the scause wristbands, we weigh on the idea and not the action or intent. Still, Stan and Jesus’ actions are born far more out of ego than the ideas themselves especially the support of Belarusian farmers of which Jesus can’t even pronounce the name right.
Of course, with any theme the show does it always has to punch back in the face in reminding you it’s still a cartoon and the Dr. Seuss parody of the Scause making Factory was top notch. The absurdness of the scauses brain child matched with his exploiting of people’s beliefs was upfront and a great point considering I myself get annoyed by many of those wristbands. Not to build a platform for myself but I take great issue with people who are very passionate about causes but only go as far as to wear those stupid things instead of donating time and/or money to their specific gripe. Biased aside it was a great way of exploiting the stupidity of the town while getting a stance across. This is why South Park has always been able to underlie social commentary well without having to throw it in your face and you would have to be blind not to see what the episode was trying to convey. The Scause factory and its rhyming business model show how a ridiculous idea can penetrate the ideals of a town and rob them of their money.
Still there were some shaky moments that didn’t work too well like the Swedish official who kept berating his wife and as for the retarded fish? Well, it sounded amusing in context but it was a joke that was funny during the initial notion. Sometimes I feel South Park intentionally throws jokes into its stories to soften the moral end of the show by grounding their dim characters back in reality. While the reenactment of the Sermon on the Mount was a nice touch to wrap up the storyline the throw away “free Pussy Riot!” line that closed the episode was a bit unnecessary and a little outdated in light of recent developments. Even the lead up to this point which involved a roided up Jesus destroying the Scause factory seemed a bit ridiculous which is ironic in an episode that in itself is ridiculous.
The second half of this show relied very heavily on its own opinions and less on the humor and that definitely makes this a very polarizing story and I can understand why. For me, the well written story makes up for a lack of the over the top humor which if it featured more of probably would’ve elevated this to being one of the best stories of the show ever. Sometimes ideas work best when you don’t take it too far out of left field and despite these things not working it didn’t defer from what was overall a very entertaining and well written story. There was a lot of silly foam venom spat into tonight’s episode but it was well calculated and as far as originality driven by the headlines it was one of the best South Park has done in awhile despite not being a straight through chuckle fest.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)
All Images Credit: Comedy Central