“The internet made fun of me”
South Park took a step in the right direction with ‘Safe Space.’ The previous two episodes, ‘The City Part of Town’ and ‘You’re Not Yelping’ were mediocre and intent on using the same joke over and over again. They also seemed to deal with issues that had gone out of date. ‘Safe Space,’ however, whilst not South Park at its peak, is not far below the peak. Funny, relevant, topical, and with another cracking song, this episode drags South Park into quality territory.
Fat-shaming, or shaming of any nature, was the topic of Safe Space. It’s not for lack of irony that the two main victims of shaming, Cartman and Randy, fully deserve it. Cartman posts a picture of him in his underpants, with the hashtag ‘ripped.’ Inevitably, he’s inundated by ‘fat’ comments. Now, I don’t mean to say that because he’s fat, that he should be called fat. However, Cartman is a stooge of cruelty; he has shamed and mocked tonnes of people in South Park. From that point of view, he deserves to be shamed and mocked. Randy is shamed about not giving one dollar to charity during his bi-daily trips to Whole Foods. Of course, this is the Whole Foods that Randy campaigned for to make himself look good. For such a selfish person like Randy, he deserves to be mocked for not giving one dollar for charity. Why does he need to go to Whole Foods twice a day?
“Body shaming isn’t cool”
Randy’s constant refusals to give one dollar to charity provide some of the funniest moments of the episode. Every time he refuses, the ludicrousness of the cashier’s response increases. At one point, Randy has to pull a sandwich out of a cardboard cut-out starving child’s mouth to get some change. When he finally cracks and gives one dollar, he gets a t-shirt and a picture on the wall, next to the many people who’ve given $20 or $50. The joke is almost over-played, but handled very well. It’s the same joke over and over again, but there’s enough difference to make it pertinent. Randy’s advert against charity shaming is simply hilarious, and increasingly devolves into the hashtag #shamlessamerica, both literally and metaphorically. I belly-laughed when the starving child said “because charity shaming hurts everyone.”
PC Principal, meanwhile, gets Butters to filter out the negative comments on Cartman’s social media and only produce the positive comments. Soon, Butters is doing the same thing for Demi Levarto, Steven Seagal, and plenty of others. Seagal is involved in and uneven part of the episode, where he dances in front of South Park Elementary in an overt example of fat shaming. Mixed messages?!?!? Another uneven part was the appearance of the character ‘Reality’ in, well, reality. He’d been part of the fantastic song ‘Safe Space,’ which depicted Cartman, Levarto et al in bulletproof glass rooms to protect them from ‘Reality.’ The song was a definite highlight of the episode. However, his appearance at Randy’s fundraiser for #shamelessamerica felt out of place. Surely he was a fictional character in the song? However, he does comes out with some great dialogue. He mentions that maybe you shouldn’t be having a fundraiser with an accompanying dinner that costs more than the fundraiser will raise! It’s a forgivable lapse in continuity.
“This little piggy was in Fast and Furious, and this little piggy goes straight to cable”
All in all, ‘Safe Space’ was a great example of what happens when South Park digs its claws in deep to an issue or subject. Essentially, if you put yourself out there (especially in the realms of social media), then you implicitly accept to being subject of criticism (positive or negative). If anyone deserves to be shamed in South Park, then it’s surely Cartman. Only in the previous episode, ‘You’re Not Helping,’ he was incredibly offensive to the Mexican David. He needed a taste of his own medicine! Randy’s also ripe for a bit of shaming. Of course, as Kyle says, if you don’t like what people say about you on Twitter, then why don’t you just leave it?!?!? Simple as that! ‘Safe Space’ explored the issue thoroughly and insensitively, which is what we want from South Park!
VERDICT: 8/10. A little uneven in places, but on the whole ‘Safe Space’ is essential South Park: funny, scathing, and hyper-critical!
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(Click here for my review of South Park, Season 19, Episode 2: Where My Country Gone?’)