TV

Top 10 Worst South Park Episodes

5. D-Yikes!

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At risk of being controversial, it must be said: Mr/Mrs Garrison is not a great character. He/she only works in small doses, and often as an antagonist. Any story centering on him/her being the hero rarely works because he/she is just too toxic to root for. Even Cartman, as monstrous as he can be, still has a touch of childhood innocence that can somewhat forgive his actions.

In any case, at this point in the show she was Mrs. Garrison, and this episode explored yet another aspect of her sexuality.  Any possible compelling dive into her sexual identity though is wasted, as her change basically stems from her decision that all men suck, so she might as well become a lesbian. That’s it.

To prop up the story, even though it starts with the boys outsourcing a school assignment to cheap Mexican labour, it suddenly becomes a parody of 300. It has a similar problem as “Human CentiPad,” feeling less like a purposeful parody/interpretation and more like a reference to something popular at the time. It’s not like they take especially clever turns with it, like in the classic “Return of the Fellowship of the Rings to the Two Towers.” They’re just fighting over a night club from would-be Persian buyers. One doesn’t even have to have seen 300 to see why this doesn’t work. In the movie, Leonidas had been defending Sparta his whole life, so he has true motivation to protect it. Meanwhile, Mrs. Garrison only found out about the night club a couple days ago. It’s also not hard to see that the crux of the story of 300 involves these brave warriors facing insurmountable odds, and while they all end up dying in battle, their sacrifice saves their way of life. There’s no such sacrifice in “D-Yikes” though, as the episode merely borrows iconic imagery from it, and ends with a cheap joke at Xerxes’ true gender.

South Park has ripped into other shows like Family Guy for relying on cheap referential humor, but this episode indicates that even they are not immune to it.

4.  A Million Little Fibers

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At the onset it was stated that for an episode to be considered among the worst, it had to create a strong emotional reaction. This episode is an exception though, and to be honest, its placement on this list is more out of pressure from the many South Park fans who see this as one of the worst. That said, it’s hard to argue against those claims.

While Towelie can be a fun side character, he was intentionally created to be the lamest character ever, and as such, can’t carry an episode on his own. Beyond that, there’s also the plot of (I can’t believe I’m writing this) Oprah Winfrey’s vagina and asshole plotting to get her fired from work and eventually hold up reporters at gunpoint.

Look, this episode is just too weird, okay?

Though “Toilet Paper” suffers a bit from having little grounded in reality, this episode is all the way out to Mars in how absurd it is. As Matt and Trey both admitted, they basically put weirdness on top of weirdness, and it makes the barrier to entry too impenetrable. Any interesting points to make regarding the “Million Little Pieces” controversy get buried in the oddness, and we’re left with an episode that just makes one scratch one’s head and wonder: “what were they thinking?”

3.  Ginger Kids

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South Park often gets labelled as hateful given some of the taboos they address, and while there’s some valid criticisms of their work to be had, it’s a disingenuous to lump them along with that unpleasant crowd. They just seem like two people doing whatever makes each other laugh, and likely don’t have any serious prejudices to be concerned about

That being said, this is an ugly, vile episode that has no reason to exist. While there are historical cases regarding discrimination towards people with red hair, it’s mostly obscure and not nearly as founded as other prejudices involving sexuality, race, or gender. If anything, one could argue that with this show’s wide reach, they actually brought to light that these negative preconceptions even existed in the first place.

The thing is, this could have still worked. It could have been used as a statement to harp on how arbitrary and absurd racial discrimination is, and at first it seems like they’re heading in that direction. After Cartman delivers a hate speech on Ginger kids for a class presentation, Kyle takes it upon himself to stand against his rhetoric and prove him wrong. Unfortunately for him he discovers parents who are ashamed and terrified of their ginger kids, while the kids are eventually swayed by Cartman (who’s been led to believe he “turned Ginger”) to be hateful themselves. This isn’t treated as a sad commentary on the state of our world, but just a natural, logical consequence. Ultimately, what dooms this episode is that the satire has no point to it at all.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, this episode inspired “kick a ginger day” at certain high schools, leading to actual discrimination in the real world. As far as lasting legacies the show will have, that is a shameful reputation to leave behind.

2.  Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina

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Another Mr. Garrison episode, albeit the one where he has his sex change and officially becomes Mrs. Garrison. Parker and Stone flat-out admitted they came into this episode with zero ideas, to the point where they nearly ended up using 5 minutes worth of footage from real sex changes to eat up time.

In any case, this episode is a sad relic from a time when transgender people got next to no recognition at best, and hate and scorn directed towards them at worst. And while equality is far from achieved at this stage, there have been prominent steps towards attaining that goal. Even season 18’s “The Cissy” shows Matt and Trey have matured on the issue and recognize the importance of accepting members of the community for who they are. Sadly, the nuance of that episode plot is nowhere to be found here.

Garrison’s transformation into Mrs. Garrison inspires both Kyle and his dad to have their own cosmetic surgeries. Specifically, Kyle wants to be made black and taller because it will apparently allow him to play basketball, while his dad sporadically decides he always wanted to be a dolphin. As offensive as that joke is in implying those various surgeries are comparable, the biggest problem, again, is the gag makes no sense.

 For all of his problems, having Mr. Garrison decide to have the surgery is not an out-of-left field choice. He’d been grappling with his sexual and personal identity for the bulk of the series, and has acted impulsively before. Kyle, meanwhile, has never displayed a hint of interest in basketball, and has seldom been shown acting like he was ashamed of who he was. If anything, he’s often touted as the voice of reason on the show, so taking him in this direction either feels out of character, or that the creators really thought the issues were similar.  At least Gerald’s sporadic desire to be a dolphin is so ridiculous that it can almost be forgiven, but it still makes light of an important issue in a sloppy and tasteless way.

Point being, even if you take away all the baggage of how it depicts transitioning, and the harm it can cause to the trans community, the situations being compared are too different, so the connection isn’t funny. It’s one thing to be edgy for the sake of comedy, but when you fail at the comedy aspect, all that’s left is an embarrassing show.

1.  ManBearPig

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Speaking of attempts at satire that make no sense, it’s time to unbox ManBearPig. South Park has done many takedowns of celebrities over the years, and while they’ve hit the bullseye more than a few times (“The Passion of the Jew”, “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset”, and “Fishsticks” to name a few), their lampooning of Al Gore misses the mark spectacularly.

In this episode, he comes to South Park (wearing a cape to save the day) to warn the children about the dangers of ManBearPig, an obvious stand-in for the real Al Gore’s crusade to raise awareness for climate change. The kids initially take pity on him (he seems to have no friends), and follow along with his delusions, but they soon turn against Gore as they realize exactly how delusional he is, and how far he’ll go to convince people that “ManBearPig” is real.

While in the past they’ve attacked celebrities for being bigoted, untalented or narcissistic, their main issue with Gore seems to be that he’s a loser who’s hungry for attention. That’s a joke’s that has not aged well, as Gore is seldom in the spotlight nowadays and never framed the fight against climate change as his claim to fame. He’s also owned the idea of being a bit of a boring loser (see his self-portrayal on Futurama for proof), so mocking him for that seems pointless. Hell, they do a better takedown of him in the DVD commentary of this episode when they state that An Inconvenient Truth wasn’t a movie; it was a PowerPoint presentation. That’s a topic they could easily do a whole episode on, but it’s never addressed. Fact is, if they took their Al Gore caricature and renamed him, there’d be nothing of recognition left.

Even if you make that disassociation, the character doesn’t generate many laughs, nor does his illusory boogeyman, “ManBearPig.”  They both fare far better in the “Imaginationland” Trilogy as well as The Stick of Truth, as those stories were absurd enough to make that distance work. Both of those were written far better too, and didn’t feel nearly as aimless and pointless as this does.

The key thing though that makes this the worst episode is the idea it communicates about climate change. To be clear, my personal issue isn’t that I disagree with their message. “Douche and Turd” advocated that John Kerry and George W. Bush were equally bad and that voting can be pointless; two ideas I reject whole heartedly. That’s still one of my favorite episodes though, as it’s tightly structured, presents its points in a challenging way, and whether you like it or not, speaks certain truths. “ManBearPig” has no thoughts about climate change to present, and has no interest in diving into it. It’s content to belittle those who believe in it and state those who are trying to improve things are losers.

What’s worse about it is it again proved influential. To this day, people still dismiss advocates for climate change as trying to fight against “ManBearPig.” It has become a symbol for people to snidely dismiss real issues, which has caused some people to see it as representative for the entire series, which is a real shame.

South Park at its best tackles subjects that others wouldn’t dare approach, and it forces you to think about them in a new way. They do this by being wickedly funny and surprisingly insightful, whether what they say matches with what you think or not. They do not just cheaply resort to smugly putting down other people.

If every episode was like “ManBearPig” though, it’d be hard pressed to deny otherwise.

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Disagree? Any episodes you felt should have made the list? Any entries here you feel are being unfairly picked on here? Let us know in the comments…

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2 comments

BLADE October 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Pip isn’t on the list?

Reply
Daniel Philion December 31, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Well, the list specifically said it wouldn’t be tackling early episodes like that, but yeah Pip is an odd one…

I totally get why some people wouldn’t like it; I’m not the biggest fan of it, but to me, being upset at it is like being upset at “Terrence and Phillip: Not Without My Anus”. The fact that the episode exists as all is kind of a joke, and looking back, it’s basically harmless

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