In recent years, South Park has become more and more content to let the bad guy win. Okay, maybe “bad guy” is somewhat inaccurate, given the show’s increasingly complex moral stance on a variety of issues. So let me rephrase myself: In recent years, South Park has become more and more content to let whoever it’s making fun of on that particular night win. Numerous episodes, including last week’s, have ended on a note of near sci-fi bleakness, a moment where someone (usually Kyle) sees everyone in town falling in with a mindless, scary, or morally questionable trend. Sometimes, they can’t believe no one else has spoken out against it and sometimes, they become one of the herd themselves, whether it’s succumbing to alcohol to get through the day or shopping at the new Whole Foods that’s further isolating the community’s lower-class population.
Tonight disrupted that pattern by giving the episode’s targets their just—and very disgusting—desserts, hinting that maybe Trey Parker and Matt Stone built SodoSopa and its successor CtPaTown not just to make the viewer and a handful of characters feel helpless, but to knock down the hip urban shopping districts and get some huge laughs along the way. Having already established both places as breeding grounds for citizens trying to keep up with the Joneses (i.e. just about everyone in South Park), Parker and Stone are free to get hyper-specific with their examination of smug entitlement. And who’s more smugly entitled than the obsessive Yelp reviewer?
But superior as they make themselves out to be, anyone with computer access can start writing critiques on Yelp, and at the restaurants of CtPaTown, just about every customer does. Cartman uses it as a way to blackmail servers into giving him free food, especially when it comes to David, a Mexican-by-way-of-Idaho boy whose family’s restaurant is hit particularly hard by the abuse of nonexistent power. It also doesn’t help that Cartman’s taken to racially harassing David at school in a way that’s awful even by Cartman standards. Elsewhere in the Yelp spectrum, Gerald Broflovski sees his reviews as eloquent poetry (he smokes a pipe while he writes them) and Harrison Yates pursues his constant Yelping as doggedly as he’d pursue a murder case. The one belief they—and everyone else in South Park who’s writing reviews—all share is that their online opinions somehow make them better than the rest of the general population. Never mind that the entire general population is doing it, thus stripping the activity of its uniqueness.
That ubiquity of Yelp becomes apparent through a string of events set off by Whistlin’ Willy when he kicks several reviewers out of his pizzeria. This inspires other local restaurateurs to fight back, which prompts Cartman to call a meeting of all the Yelpers at his house. He’s shocked to see the army of people that shows up, the chaos escalating when, in true narcissist fashion, every person thinks the restaurant rebellion is targeted specifically at them. Cartman seizes the day and mobilizes his troops, waging an all-out war against the eateries that involves vandalism, bombs, and (sort of) decapitation.
Eventually, it’s just Kyle and David standing up to the Yelp reviewers. But even though the two boys are outnumbered, they realize that their enemies have one severe weakness: their own egos. Kyle and David convince Mayor McDaniels to give each reviewer a bogus golden badge for “Most Elite Food Critic” and everything goes back to the way it was before Whistlin’ Willy’s uprising—or so it seems. The restaurant owners take advantage of the supposed return to normalcy by secretly pissing, farting, shitting, and jerking off on every dish about to be served to a Yelp reviewer, all set to a big-band number crooned by Parker that I can only guess is titled “Boogers And Cum.”
That’s not nearly as epic a punchline as something like “Night Of The Living Homeless,” but it’s that exact contrast—this idea of something so trivial treated so dramatically—that makes “You’re Not Yelping” work. Seeing a bunch of internet commenters move through an ISIS-like training montage and “behead” Whistlin’ Willy simply by taking off his over-sized mask garners yuks because, in real life, the perpetrators are so non-threatening.
And yet that’s the true horror of places like SodoSopa and CtPaTown, isn’t it? It’s an overflowing hub of people who think their own problems are of the utmost importance, even if the hardest thing they have to deal with all day is not getting seated fast enough at a restaurant. But the episode’s final shot indicates that things may change. As Parker warbles his concluding note, the camera pans up from the new businesses to the sky, clashing the naive sunniness of CtPaTown with the grossness that now lurks beneath the surface and in its patrons’ stomachs. I have a feeling South Park will still be under the CtPaTown/PC regime for a little while longer, but a small revolution has already started. It will just take some time before those disenfranchised by all the urban development can secure a true victory, a victory that’s more long term than ingested boogers and cum.
- I watched this episode on South Park Studios and the only commercial shown during each break was for Yelp. I’m sure that was planned.
- Each episode of South Park has at least one line that works solely because of the offbeat rhythm of how it’s said. Tonight, it was Whistlin’ Willy stuttering as he booted people from his establishment: “You get the…you get the fuck out!”
- Cartman strutting down the school hall to “Bad To The Bone” was right up there with his riff on the theme from Dog The Bounty Hunter.
- And Parker’s vibrato was most swingin’ on “Piss in your potatoes.”
- “I’m gonna show this prick how we do things in Boise.”