Animation mostly does not get its due alongside high/serious culture. Yet it is nearly impossible to measure the significance of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park, not only as one of the great comedy series’ of all time, but also culturally, socially and politically.
For all the dirty jokes and trenchant critiques, however, some of our favorite South Park moments are those that reveal a tender sensitivity at the heart of Trey and Matt’s socio-political viewpoint. (like when poor kid Kenny decides to spend all of his meager wages on a doll for his little sister in “The City Part of Town”) And in the midst of the disgraceful parade of sexual harassment allegations and scandals currently cluttering our screens, we recently went back to the powerfully poignant 2013 episode titled “The Hobbit,” which exhibits a surprisingly earnest, touchy-feely brand of feminism.
In it, Butters rejects the offer of a date from awkward classmate Lisa Berger, bluntly telling her she’s “too fat.” Wendy, the self-described “biggest feminist at this school,” roundly castigates him for his cruelty and for his bizarre, misguided obsession with Kim Kardashian. What follows is a brilliantly incisive condemnation of things like Photoshop and their devastating effects on the body image of young girls. For laughs, there are also guest appearances by The Pope and Kayne West – and the latter is merciless depicted as the narcissistic buffoon that he arguably really is.
It is absolutely one of the most profound works of feminist television, period – very much worth revisiting as we sort through all this misogynistic fallout. And if you don’t get genuinely choked up at the final scene, well, there might just be no hope for you.