Friday, October 11, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: South Park, "World War Zimmerman"

Fry, piggy, fry.
(Photo source: South Park Archives)
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

South Park's handling of the George Zimmerman trial and the Stand Your Ground law was an episode I was dreading for the last few weeks because libertarians like Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren't exactly known for having the most progressive views on race (as exemplified by how Asians have been portrayed on South Park). Also, what is there to find funny about Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin and the emotional debate about racial profiling that the Zimmerman verdict intensified? Plus it's later-era South Park, which, much like later-era Simpsons, hasn't made me laugh out loud in years (the last time South Park was laugh-out-loud funny was when it ripped apart the writing on Family Guy) and has been stuck in a formula (storylines that parody the latest popular reality show or cable sensation, like Investigation Discovery programming in last week's "Informative Murder Porn").

This is how Mumia Abu-Jamal should break out of prison: a pile of inmates would crowdsurf him up to the prison roof.
But instead of making light of Martin's death, "World War Zimmerman" pokes fun at Zimmerman's paranoia about anyone with a dark complexion--this is clearly not a pro-Zimmerman episode--and racists' dumb reactions to, well, anything that's outside their extremely limited purview, particularly the Zimmerman verdict and African Americans' feelings about it. Cartman's always terrible treatment of Token (Adrien Beard), the show's sole black character after Chef was written out of the show in typically grisly South Park fashion, is a reliable laugh-getter. Both the poem and "I Was Not the Bullet" school assembly rap song that Token has to endure from Cartman, the king of racism in the town--as well as Cartman's silly World War Z-inspired nightmare about an outbreak of black rioters--automatically make this an above-average later-era South Park episode. The delightful visual of the detestable Zimmerman being fried on the electric chair--after he shoots a white kid, of course--also bumps this episode up.

I haven't seen World War Z, but the gags that reference the famously troubled Brad Pitt blockbuster still manage to be funny. I like the little detail of Cartman wearing that stupid-looking scarf that's wrapped around Pitt's neck in World War Z trailers and publicity shots. (By the way, it's called a shemagh--frequently pronounced "schmog"--and it's used by desert soldiers to shield their faces from dust and sand, but in scarf form, it's goofy-looking. Pitt looks like he's about to join Steven Tyler for a rendition of "Cryin'.") The running gag of Cartman repeatedly causing planes to crash (in order to stop what he thinks will be an outbreak of black rioters) killed me.

The pilot killed himself because he couldn't stand looking at that fucking scarf any longer.
Is the surprising number of genuine laughs in "World War Zimmerman" due to the involvement of former SNL cast member Bill Hader, whose Weekend Update nightlife reports as Stefon and dead-on impressions of the likes of Alan Alda and Judd Hirsch were recent (and sometimes deleted) highlights of SNL? For South Park's 17th and current season, Hader, who served as a creative consultant on South Park in the past, rejoined the animated series as a full-time writer. That's what I thought Conan O'Brien should have done after bouncing from NBC: return to The Simpsons as a staff writer to steer that leaky ship back to glory.

Memorable quotes:
* "We need to go somewhere the spread won't take hold, like Iceland."

* General: "We need you to shoot a young African American for us." Zimmerman: "I gave that up." Government agent: "You're the best, Zimmerman!"

* The general's reaction to a daytime attempt on Zimmerman's life by Cartman, who put himself in blackface: "My God, I didn't even see him!"

The uncensored cut of "World War Zimmerman" can be streamed in its entirety at South Park Studios.

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