Friday, December 13, 2013

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: South Park, "The Hobbit"

Jerome's in the hills. Shut your gills. Bound!
(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.

Of all the memeable and hashtaggable things Kanye West has said or done since the release of his latest album Yeezus--from "You don't got the answers, Sway!" to "Do I look like a motherfucking comedian? Don't fucking heckle me. I'm Kanye motherfucking West!"--the South Park 17th-season finale has chosen to zero in on Yeezy's bizarre remolding of Kim Kardashian into Beyoncé, something I never really noticed until South Park pointed it out. Kim's currently dyed blond hair makes a whole lot of sense now. (By the way, I like how Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn't give a shit about updating Yeezy's look, so 'Ye still looks the same as he did when he transformed into a gay fish at the end of South Park's 2009 "Fishsticks" episode: barefoot and rocking that 808s & Heartbreak-era mullet that made him look like Theo Huxtable, circa 1985.)

Parker brilliantly ties Yeezy's Vertigo-ing of Kim into recent headlines about women relying on Photoshop to remove imperfections in their selfies for an episode that's South Park at its most vicious in the celebrity parody department. Other than correctly predicting Time magazine's pick of Pope Francis as its Person of the Year and the gut-punch of an ending I'll get into in a moment, the most remarkable thing about "The Hobbit" is that outside of a few pinups of Kim on Butters' locker when Wendy Testaburger points out to Butters the cold, hard facts about his favorite pinup girl, Kim is never seen at all, not even during the show's descriptions of her as a short, fat and hairy Hobbit. Yeezy's bungled attempts to discredit his future wife's Hobbitness were amusing the first couple of times but got tiresome about halfway through the episode, even during the "Bound 2" video parody, which I actually like a little more than James Franco and Seth Rogen's overlong "Bound 3" parody. Then like a lot of Sideshow Bob rake scene-ish running gags, they somehow regained their funniness when the episode cycled through them for the final time.

So judging from the locker photos, I take it Butters is no longer infatuated with that waitress from the Hooters-ish restaurant.
(Photo source: South Park Archives)
'I'm talking with Wendy Testaburger, who's speaking to me live from the Strait of Ma-Jellin'.'
(Photo source: South Park Archives)
But what elevates "The Hobbit" from "B" territory to "A" territory aren't the jabs at Kanye and Kim (or Britney Spears' "Work Bitch" video or news anchors' strained attempts to look hip) but Wendy's arc--she attempts to take her anti-Photoshop crusade to the local news and the state Senate--and its downbeat conclusion. South Park rarely strives for genuine pathos. Some of those attempts at pathos have fallen flat, but then there are other times where the seriousness works, and the wordless final scene of "The Hobbit" is one of those times. Parker usually throws in one last comedic punchline before the end credits, but he opts instead for a dramatic punchline, and it's mad devastating.

Wendy, who inadvertently created a monster when her Photoshop skills led the other girls at school to Photoshop themselves, succumbs to pressure. With tears in her eyes, she doctors her own photo and e-mails it to everyone (compare this self-inflicted Photoshop makeover to the makeover Ally Sheedy's misfit character receives from Molly Ringwald's character at the end of The Breakfast Club, and the "Hobbit" conclusion drives home how much I hate that Breakfast Club scene where the Sheedy character loses everything that made her unique and likable--it's one of Reaganite filmmaker John Hughes' most Reagan-ish, pro-conformity moments). A typical South Park episode--particularly during the show's earlier years--would climax with an out-of-control situation being brought to an end by a speech from Stan or Kyle about the idiocy of the situation and what they've learned. That doesn't happen here. Instead, Stan and Kyle fall for the out-of-control bullshit in "The Hobbit," and--like what has often happened in real life with girls who struggle with their self-image--so does an anguished Wendy.

(Photo source: South Park Archives)
(Photo source: South Park Archives)
Memorable quotes:
* Wendy: "Are you just an asshole? Is that it?" Butters: "Am I just an asshole?" Wendy: "Yeah!" Butters: "Well, no. I've got arms and legs. I have everything."

* "Kim is not even in that movie. That movie is just loosely based on her television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which is a show about short, loud little people living in a fantasy world--hold up!"

* "And even though she still couldn't sing like Beyoncé or dance like Beyoncé or act like Beyoncé or be a decent human being like Beyoncé, the little Hobbit was looked up to and loved, just like Beyoncé. [sniffles]"

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

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