After taking on the NFL’s concussion controversy and Honey Boo Boo, this week’s South Park takes aim at psychological fears rather than current cultural hot topics. Sure, there’s an army of residents that don Bane masks, but by and large, the target of “Insecurity” lies in the episode’s title. It’s not the season’s strongest installment by any stretch, but it does build up a nice head of steam by the end of the episode. It never turns into more than the sum of its parts, but enough parts work to make it a solid outing.
Things are kicked off in an initially innocuous way: Rather than employing pharmaceutical enhancements to have sex with his wife, Sheila, Gerald Broflovski suggests the two engage in their favorite form of role play. Unfortunately, they leave the door open during “UPS Man Delivers A Package,” leaving poor Ike witness to the event. With the darkness of the room concealing Gerald’s identity, Ike mistakes his father for an actual UPS delivery man. Traumatized and unable to tell Kyle what happened, Ike instead draws a crude yet remarkably detailed depiction of the event in crayon.
That single drawing turns into a Pandora’s box, opening up latent (and not so latent) masculine fears throughout the town. “Insecurity” starts with an erectile dysfunction commercial for a reason. After all, the entire episode is one long meditation on the limits of virility and the emasculation that ensues when said limits are reached. (Also, Bane jokes!) Gerald and Sheila have actually found a way to overcome biological obstacles while maintaining a healthy relationship, but they are the exception to the rule with Ike’s picture spreading fear like a contagion among the men of South Park. The episode’s most pointed joke is just how many people are bewildered that anyone would have sex with Sheila. The notion that she and Gerald still have sex (and do so willingly) simply doesn’t occur to them. Their closed minds simply leap to the conclusion that this anonymous UPS man must be a sick, depraved soul. As such, everyone in town may be in danger.
Those fears are aided and abetted by a mysterious old man, who insists UPS delivery man Thad (whose sexual prowess gets exponentially larger as fears grow stronger) is just the latest in a never-ending cycle of mythical predators who feast on the sexual appetites of bored South Park housewives. In the old man’s day, this figure was “The Milkman.” Discussion of The Milkman takes on an almost mythic quality, almost as if he were a supernatural creature who hibernates for long periods of time until ready to feast again. The old man’s tale works, due to the inherent fear each man has about his own respective ability to please his wife. Suddenly, Sharon Marsh’s inability to remember what she ordered from Amazon isn’t short-term memory loss, but signs that she has been hypnotized and drawn into The Milkman’s web.
The logical step to defeat The Milkman is to keep him out of the men’s homes, and thus Wolf Home Security steps in to provide top-to-bottom coverage for each household. Of course, such “security” proves an illusion. On one hand, you have Cartman’s never-ending series of increasingly elaborate hypothetical situations for which Wolf Home Security would inevitably provide unsatisfactory service. On the other, you have the product that gave this episode its title. “Insecurity” is both a rather silly pun and also a great illustration of the ways people will sacrifice independence in the name of personal safety. Instead of simply protecting people inside their homes, Wolf Home Security takes things a step further by implanting people with alarm systems that activate based on heightened fear levels.
South Park somewhat explored this tension already this season in “Reverse Cowgirl.” But where “Cowgirl” explored the federal government’s intrusion on personal freedoms, “Insecurity” examines the way people voluntarily seek to curb their own autonomy for the illusion of protection. Rather than coming in handy during a burglary, the Insecurity system ends up overloading Wolf Home Security’s on-call staff due to an outburst of psychological shortcomings. While the frequent cutaways to the call center got old long before the episode ended, the idea that Insecurity only serves to augment people’s fears rather than quell them only feeds into The Milkman mythos. Rather than confront their fears, the citizens of South Park take out their aggression on Thad. When that doesn’t do the trick, the Bane wannabes have set their sights on the Wolf Home Security home installers as the latest iteration of this seemingly unkillable enemy. So long as they have someone else to blame other than themselves, the cycle will continue, and The Milkman will return in a new form.
Now, these themes are generally strong, if not exactly groundbreaking. But not everything really clicked tonight in terms of actual execution. Cartman’s increasingly shrill scenarios involving the rape of his mother went too far by half, and the puerile passwords he and Randy established to deactivate their alarms weren’t clever enough to transcend the weak setup. The constant fear of “white” criminals drives a lot of the jokes tonight, but it seemed more like a running gag from another episode rather than belonging to this one. I understood why Trey Parker and Matt Stone kept going to that well, but it never truly tied into the main plot in a way to justify its overwhelming presence as a go-to punch line.
“Insecurity” did its best to link up the fear of cuckoldry with the fear of home invasion, but the results themselves were mixed. Still, they worked enough to make the episode on the whole fun, if not as strong as the first two outings this fall. Having each man’s respective Insecurity alarms go off simultaneously at the mere mention of erectile dysfunction drugs tied everything back to its inauspicious beginnings. But the connective tissue between those two moments was frayed enough to keep it out of this season’s top-tier episodes.
- The Bane homage didn’t make a lick of sense, but Lord, it was funny. I assume Trey Parker and Matt Stone enjoy talking to each other in that voice and found a way to throw it into an episode. “A man’s wife is his life, Mr. UPS Man!” is approximately 654 times funnier when spoken as Bane.
- It really is often impossible to remember what the heck I ordered when an Amazon package arrives. That should make opening the package a delight. Instead, I get worried about why I can’t remember. Now I know it’s just The Milkman fucking with my head, and I feel better.
- “The Milkman” feels like a horror movie John Carpenter should have made already.
- With all the money people pay Wolf Home Security, it has plenty of money with which to buy blankets and cocoa for all its customers.