Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

South Park: “#HappyHolograms”

Illustration for article titled South Park: “#HappyHolograms”

“I’m still really confused, dude. I have no idea what that was about.”

Is it me, or does that quote from tonight’s episode feel like a failsafe? Because I suspect that Trey Parker and Matt Stone knew exactly what they were getting at with “#HappyHolograms,” even if they worried viewers might not get the point. And who can blame them? Several comedic threads—most notably Michael Jackson and Tupac holed up at the Marshes—felt unresolved, and the intensely metafictional nature of the narrative was hard to keep up with. It was rushed, it was messy, and it may have been just a bit too much story for South Park, even for a two-parter.

But tonight’s point was simply to accept the silliness. Twitter, YouTube celebrties like PewDiePie, and holograms, all of which fall under the larger umbrella of Internet hysteria, are all here to stay, whether we like it or not. It’s impossible to fight it. In fact, Kyle, the character who tries his damnedest to combat the sensory overload (and, let’s face it, Cartman’s new status as a popular Let’s Play commentator) with good old-fashioned family entertainment, ends up partly responsible for the most inane, disconnecting thing of all—a holiday special whose highlights are Bill Cosby and Taylor Swift doing a riff on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” that’s even more rapey than the actual song (for obvious reasons), and an Elvis hologram dueting with Iggy Azalea’s ass. It’s dressed like a snowman, of course, one with a butt-crack for a mouth that farts in place of singing.

Unsurprisingly, the special starts trending like crazy, but instead of enraging Kyle, its success eventually placates him, making him realize that cultural shifts in technology and entertainment are pure forces of nature. It’s the opposite of Stan’s reaction on “You’re Getting Old,” the midseason finale from three years ago. Where as Stan’s growing distaste with everything around him only made him feel more alienated and cynical for a time, Kyle’s experience actually brings him back in touch with the rest of the world. At some point, we all become the old guy who doesn’t understand today’s youth. And that’s okay. Let’s not forget, as much as Kyle praises television for being a former beacon of familial bonding, it was once criticized for being the opposite of that. Many people older than Kyle once said the same thing about TV that he’s saying about the Internet.

This accepting outcome definitely isn’t what I expected after last week’s “#ReHash,” which set the stage for a no-holds-barred skewering of all the aforementioned trends and people, a skewering that never really happened. Sure, there were some subtle (well, subtle for South Park, anyway) jabs at Cosby, but nothing on the level of “Red Hot Catholic Love.” Likewise, I could have used one more clit-rubbing Randy-as-Lorde performance that blew the previous ones out of the water. And even though Tupac’s Terminator walk into the police station was amusing, it didn’t have a satisfying payoff in terms of yuks. None of the bits did, really. Everything felt like it could have been taken just a bit further, stretched into that increasingly amplified, jackhammer repetition that South Park does so well. With so much story going on, however, there simply wasn’t enough time.

But once again, “#HappyHolograms” wasn’t making fun of these trends as much as it was making fun of those trying to resist them, although it didn’t seem that way at first. Even PewDiePie, the most heavily featured celebrity in the two-part finale (and the one poised to get taken down the hardest), ends up coming out on top, sending everything into a metafictional cyclone where he’s the only weatherman left standing. His final cameo, not to mention the fact that he cooperated with the South Park creators in the first place, shows that Parker and Stone appreciate his existence, to a degree. Like Kyle, they understand that South Park is living in PewDiePie’s world, not the other way around.


Stray Observations:

  • Man, I was really hoping we were going to get to see Randy-Lorde’s asshole on Jimmy Fallon.
  • Parker and Stone were able to work the holidays into the season finale. Would you consider this to be in the pantheon of great South Park holiday episodes?
  • The show also fulfilled commenters’ hopes that it would chime in on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, with the police force thinking it’s a literal joke whenever a black guy gets brought up. That’s pretty stinging and poignant when you think about it.
  • “Are you sure that hologram is black?”
  • “It’s a black guy!” “Shoot him!” “Choke him!” “Shoot him, and then choke him!”
  • I love that Randy always says “Shelley?” in the same timid way when entering her room.
  • There were lots of callbacks not only to the rest of this season, but much earlier episodes. Michael Jackson finally got to be Peter Pan!
  • That’s all she wrote until next year.