Regular readers of this site know, even if only by osmosis, that New Jersey is currently responsible for at least 75 percent of our shitty, shitty entertainment. It seems like America goes through these sorts of phases every couple of years or so, becoming briefly infatuated with dead-eyed Los Angeles socialites, then fertility drug addicts who can’t stop choking the world with their children, and now New Jersey jerk-offs who pride themselves on indulging their every id-driven impulse. For their complete disregard for the rules of society, we despise yet sort of secretly envy these people—and so we give them things they don’t deserve, like their very own television shows and record deals. We turn them into characters and dress up as them for Halloween. We ask them to put their thoughts down on paper, and then we actually put those thoughts on a shelf at the Library of Congress and enter them into the annals of Western literature.
It’s no wonder that, to quote tonight’s episode, “No matter how much you tell them you don’t like them, they will convince themselves that you actually think they’re cool.” After all, it’s a thin line between fame and infamy, between love and thinking someone is the world’s biggest douche—and either way, these people we ostensibly hate are getting paid, in more ways than the one. That’s just the sick kind of world we live in right now.
South Park has tackled these kinds of faddish crazes before, of course, whether it’s Queer Eye For The Straight Guy-inspired metrosexuals or the desire to be stupid spoiled whores, so it’s inevitable that it would turn its attention to our current fascination with watching Italian people scream at each other, as seen in shows like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives Of New Jersey. Unfortunately for South Park, every other smartass in the country has had a go at what’s already a fairly broad and easy target, so the show had to really up the ante here—and so it turned the metaphorical invasion of New Jersey into the thread of our daily lives into a full-blown zombie-like epidemic, with the entire nation under siege by sleeve-averse “gorillas” (to borrow the Jersey Shore parlance unwittingly lodged in my vocabulary) and their shrewish, short-tempered wives.
Fortunately, this allowed the episode to turn into one of my favorite recurring plots, where Randy suddenly and inexplicably becomes the de facto town leader in a time of crisis. And hey, he actually did a pretty good job for once! Compared to some of his strategies in past episodes, convincing Osama Bin Laden to fly a bunch of planes into the advancing population of New Jersey—after both Arnold Schwarzenegger and the nation of Japan turned down his pleas for assistance—well, this was practically his Operation Cartwheel. (It really was smart thinking, as the mere sight of Jersey Shore’s Sammi “Sweetheart” Whateverola gives even the most patriotic pacifists the urge to blow some shit up forthrightly.)
That’s the sort of thing that, being a cartoon, only South Park could get away with, which gives it an advantage over all those other, more predictable parodies: One of the questions that most often plague those whose job it is to make fun of Jersey Shore and its ilk is, “How do you make fun of something that’s already a joke?” As it turns out, turning Snooki into a foul, lumpish tit-monster who communicates solely by shrieking, “Snooki want smoosh-smoosh!” is a good start. (“That thing is famous? Why?” “I don’t know!”) Although South Park has taken flak of late (including in these pages) for being a bit too, well, cartoonish, and relying too heavily on the sort of cheap gags it so famously decried when ripping on Family Guy, sometimes the cheap, cartoonish reality of its subject matter forces its hand.
Elsewhere, I also quite enjoyed Kyle’s horrified discovery of his own inner Jerseyite—complete with a transformation scene straight out of Teen Wolf—which eventually led to Cartman pulling some very Dawn Of The Dead-like reasoning that they’d have to dispense with him before he turned on everyone. But even better was the revelation that a lot of Sheila’s natural ballsiness comes from the fact that she used to be a barhopping, hair-pulling scrapper named “S-Woww Tittybang” who still has quite a bit of fight left in her. In fact, Sheila got a lot of the best scenes tonight, which was unusual but also unusually welcome, as when she flipped out at the salon, or gave an impromptu testimonial about her feelings to a nonexistent camera—a behavior that is, like so many other inexplicable aspects of their baboon-ass-in-the-air lifestyle, “a Jersey thing,” along with pretty much just humping and punching each other.
I suppose if I had any complaint about “It's A Jersey Thing,” it’s that it fell back on one of the things that I think is endemic of more recent episodes, which is, in lieu of making actual jokes about someone, occasionally they’ll just bring them out and beat the shit out of them. I’m thinking of scenes like the mass slaughter of YouTube characters in “Canada On Strike,” or the Carlito’s Way torture of Carlos Mencia in “Fishsticks”—and here it was epitomized by The Situation, flashing his abs while Randy hit him repeatedly without any sort of real purpose or resolution. It’s not that I don’t think that unnecessary violence can often be hilarious; it just feels as though scenes like that are the equivalent of, say, one of those Newgrounds games where you shoot Britney Spears in the face—momentarily cathartic, but ultimately cheap and unsatisfying.
But then, that’s probably what a parody of a (hopefully) mercurial cultural phenomenon like our rubbernecking fascination with New Jersey should be: as cheaply cathartic and cartoonish as possible. True, by the time we’ve moved on to gawking at Appalachian meth-heads or whatever, “It's A Jersey Thing” may not prove to have the lasting appeal of the aforementioned “South Park Is Gay!” or “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset” (lacking, as it does, either Crab People or Butters in a bear costume squishing his finger into Paris Hilton’s vagina), but for now it’s the brief, emetic purging that these awful, awful people deserve.
- After last week’s NASCAR outing, this is the second episode in a row about picking on a subculture of stereotypically stupid people. Can the Tea Party be far behind?
- “Next thing you know: Jersey party at the Sizzler.”
- “I’m gonna start crapping on your doorstep a lot more.”
- “Well okay, Mr. I’m Awesome At Geography!”
- T-minus 24 hours before “muff cabbage” hits Urban Dictionary.
- Seems a little premature to be killing off Osama Bin Laden like that. When his jihad succeeds and South Park is forced to address it, they’re going to feel reallllll silly.