South Park brutally tackles school shooter epidemic
THE season premiere of long-running cartoon comedy South Park got serious in one of the most condemning episodes the series has produced in a while.
Dead Kids isn't just about the unprecedented rise of school shootings in America. It's a sickening take-down about the dangerous side of mass shooting fatigue.
A warning: Spoilers for South Park Season 22, Episode 1 ahead.
Right away Matt Stone and Trey Parker let us know what sort of game they're playing in this episode. An unidentified school shooter starts to attack the school while the boys are learning about fractions, but no one acknowledges the disturbance, least of all their teacher.
It's a biting portrayal of how normalised this behaviour has become for the children whose lives are now more at risk than ever. But the episode transforms from sad to scathing when it starts to focus on Stan's parents.
Stan's mother Sharon Marsh has always been one of South Park's lone voices of reason, but that character trait is amplified tenfold in Dead Kids.
Sharon and Randy's parent friends brush off the attacks, likening them to tiny problems like faulty playground equipment, but Sharon takes a different, sane approach. She embraces her emotions, crying, screaming, and reacting in the only logical way people should when children are being murdered in the institutions that are supposed to be safe.
Naturally while at least three different school shootings play out in the background, it's Randy and his miming about periods and menopause that takes the comedic cake this episode.
While Sharon desperately gets anyone to feel what she's feeling, Randy blames her perfectly reasonable reactions on hormones. She finally caves, leaning into the haze of mass shooter apathy that has infected her city.
Of course this being South Park, this dark acceptance comes just as she learns her son Stan has been shot. Because of its unflinching anger toward an uncaring society at large, the episode stands as one of the best takes on mass shootings television has produced in years.
South Park did an episode on school shooters and never showed the shooter. Seems like the media could learn a few things from Matt Stone and Trey Parker.— Nate Bayrd (@BeardlessWizard) September 27, 2018
Portraying mass shooter apathy to its ultimate disturbing final form is an intriguing premise, but it's an especially interesting take from this show. For years now South Park has been criticised for its apathetic, "everyone sucks" brand of comedy.
But this marks the second panicked and emotionally-conscious episode South Park has produced in a while. The first was last season's endless scream about Trump tweets, Put It Down. Maybe things have gotten so bad Stone and Parker can no longer find solace in gleeful indifference.
Regardless, Dead Kids is a chilling episode of television that ends with one of South Park's main characters getting shot and a society that just can't be bothered to care about dying children. Hopefully it will go down in history as capturing an odd part of 2018 rather than as embodying our new normal.