It's the end of another South Park season, and thus probably a good time to ask this question: What are we looking for in the show? I'm not sure what the answer is, but I have to say this: There was no episode in this season that really blew me away, which is fine–I still like South Park. It makes me chuckle consistently, and occasionally actually laugh at something insightful. But I've never really surprised anymore, and that's a little bit of a dangerous place for a show like this to be.
Anyway, enough of that and onto "The Ungroundable," which had a headstart on laughs for me when I got a Comedy Central e-mail today that said it was about Goths and vampires. After the episode, I'm pretty tickled: It was a good one to end the season on–remarkably free of most SP conventions, and full of non-main characters, which is so often a good sign.
The only scene that wasn't really connected directly to the main storyline (and actually included the four "stars") was the computer lab, with Mr. Mackey trying to make sense of a manual and the kids just blasting away–I imagine this is actually what school computer labs are like now, and it makes me think I was born about 15 years too early. (In my day, we had an extra classroom full of Apple IIes, and a great treat was playing Oregon Trail or that weird pirate game–on a green-only monitor, of course.)
But then it was onto the A-plot, which was terrifically Butters-centric. The other boys send him off on a mission to spy on the new subculture at school–vampires–he takes the mission seriously. The vampires were pretty damn funny, and though I have no idea what's happening in elementary schools these days (seriously, Mr. parole officer, no idea), I'm guessing that the Twilight phenomenon is actually making it "cool" for kids to get all vamp-y.
And there's no doubt in my mind that this is pissing off Goth kids, because the Goth kids love to find things to be pissed about. And damn, the four Goth kids on SP are pretty damn great, I think. The one who flips his hair back all the time has the greatest voice, as does the girl in the black fishnets. (Is "the midget" supposed to be a guy or a girl?) More on them later. First, of course, Butters–who's hectored at home by his overbearing dad–so he becomes a vampire. He got a couple of great moments, especially when he hissed at his dad and puked on Cartman's floor.
I was waiting after about five minutes for the first Hot Topic joke to come along, and the episode didn't disappoint. Those of us who were sentient when goth actually was a slightly weird, definitely marginalized subculture still find the store fascinating–it's the most blatant co-option of a "rebellious" style that's ever happened, and I'm including Urban Outfitters selling pre-distressed Ramones T-shirts.
I actually loved that the solution the goth kids came up with to defeat the preppy vampires was to simply walk in and burn the place down. Yeah, real goth kids probably would've just stayed in the basement and bitched about it (and listened to Trey and Matt's awesome goth parody songs), but it was fitting. You can tell that Parker and Stone relate to the goth kids, even as they make fun of them. (And damn, the lead one has a cane. I forgot how much I loved that.)
When things return to normal–Butters reconciles with his parents, of course–the goth kids get a chance to make a stand and tell their side of the story, which was awfully John Hughes-like, except without the lessons. "Anyone who thinks they're actually a vampire is freaking retarded," says one. "Fuck all of you," says the other. Amen.
And here's what it made me think about South Park overall: I want to see the rest of the town more. I'm a little/lot sick of Kenny, Kyle, Cartman, and Stan. I want to know what the goth kids are up to. I want to see the rest of the school a little more. I miss Chef. I want Butters to freak out. I'll take a whole Tweak episode. Give me Towelie, dammit, if that's where the funny is.
-- Cartman: "You got pwned baby!"
-- I laughed pretty much every time the lead vampire said "per se."
-- "I think I would make a really good vampire if you'd just give me the opportunity."
-- There's nothing more true than the stereotype of goth kids drinking coffee in an all-night diner.