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South Park Goes on a Witch Hunt

South Park Episode 6 Review. Sons A’ Witches

South Park switched gears from last week’s underwhelming cliffhanger and gave us a fun little Halloween-themed episode entitled “Sons a’ Witches”. So, this technically being their second Holiday Special of the season, we’ll have to wait and see what they decide (if at all) to do with the Marcus/ Big Pharma cliffhanger. For now though, it’s Halloween in South Park!     

Jack and Crack

‘Tis the season for Randy and his pals to continue the tradition of dressing up like witches and getting hammered up in the hills where nobody can judge their questionable behavior. They like to, apparently, drink Jack Daniels, smoke crack, and practice witchcraft. You know…your typical male behavior.

“Put a spell on our bosses put a spell on our wives, a hex on the Patriots, let’s f*ck up their lives.”

One of Randy’s pals Chip Duncan has a book of spells from Salem and puts a hex on himself, thus turning him into an actual witch. Chip starts flying around wreaking havoc on the town. The next morning, Sharon recaps the events to Randy, who is in his classic hangover state and not recollecting a single thing about the night prior.

Sharon: You’re buddy, Chip Duncan. Apparently he flew around on a broom, blew things up and kidnapped some children.”

Randy: I knew that guy was a f*cking chode.

Randy doesn’t want Sharon to lump him in with Chip though. Chip is a bad witch. Randy is just a harmless idiot who likes to smoke crack in the hills with his buds. He refuses to let one bad witch spoil his tradition of drunken revelry; that’s completely unfair. Could he be complacently deflecting responsibility and shifting the blame onto a scapegoat? Or does Randy have a point? After all, he’s not guilty of doing any of the terrible things that Chip has been doing, so why should he have to change his behavior because of what other witches do?

“Just because of one bad witch we’re supposed to stop a tradition that goes back twenty-some-odd years?”

So the men—the “witches”—of South Park bring their agenda into the schools because in this warped version of reality, whenever the adults become absorbed with paranoia or unrest, their first reaction is to gather and preach to the children…what kind of world would that be, right?

So while the town tries to make sense of all the frightful, traumatic events taking place, Randy and his witch crew have to, of course, make it about themselves. Even though they have nothing to go off of, they fear that people are going to conflate their witchiness with Chip’s witchiness and that’s not what being a witch is all about (#notallwitches)!

“It’s like, there’s one awful witch that wants to kill everybody, so now they’re coming after all of us. This is like a witch…thingy…it’s like a witch pursuit thingy!”

The witches sing a delightfully unrehearsed tune about working together in order to confront the real issues at hand and the real guilty party and to not get overwhelmed with an irrational hatred towards all other witches. A decent message if they weren’t presenting it with the sole purpose of continuing their irresponsible “Witch Week” revelry, which doesn’t at all help the town deal with the actual witch crisis.  

“When Things are going bad,

and there’s people you need to confront,

Just be sure it doesn’t turn into a witch-pursuit-thingy.”   

Speaking of Selfishness

On the night Chip attacked the town, Eric and Heidi are going to the Pumpkin Patch to meet their friends. Heidi is taking her sweet time getting every part of her outfit just right, and it’s pure hell for Eric. If he misses a fun time at the Pumpkin Patch, his world would stop spinning. Heidi’s cavalier indecisiveness and general enjoyment for festivities causes them to miss out on much of the evening. It’s Eric’s worst case scenario. Well that, and there’s a child-snatching witch flying around and dropping bombs HobGoblin style all over the town.

When Randy and his witches remind Cartman of the “Bad Witch’s tendencies” (#notallwitches), it gets his Machiavellian wheels spinning, and a plan to get rid of Heidi once and for all reveals itself.

Cartman tricks Heidi with promises of a costume party, so she follows him into the woods and is captured by Chip the witch. (Did they name this character after an ice cream snack or am I just being a goof? We’ll never know.)

At the police station there is a rather entertaining back and forth when questioning Cartman about the kidnapping. I have to admit that I laughed aloud at some seriously tasteless victim-blaming jokes. It was an attack on the soft-spoken cop who was just trying to do his job and get information out of Eric, the witness, who is of course going to create a fuss over anything as long as he is painted as innocent. It was handled, I thought, perfectly and called clear attention to the issue.  

“Maybe if there’s a big fat witch around, you shouldn’t walk through the woods dressed as Hansel and Grettle”

Heidi, Heidi, Hey

Last season saw Heidi at the forefront of the plot, but this season she has been drastically demoted. She had shown promise as being a sort of moral compass in a couple episodes, much like the way Kyle would deliver his speeches back in South Park’s heyday. But the showrunners have sidelined her and treated her like one long gag for Cartman to “deal with.” I’m enjoying them exploiting and conflating the superficial aspects of young love, but I’m left wondering if they ever had intentions to make Heidi a legitimate character at all? Possibly, but it doesn’t seem to me that she “fits in” to this season’s overall tone and if nothing else, it’s kind of a bummer. While I think the “girls take forever to get ready” gag was funny (and even has some truth to it), the bit didn’t really offer any substance or a chance for Cartman’s behavior to change. But maybe that’s the point? Some guys are just assholes and it’s futile to think they’ll change?

If that’s the case then I think these scenes have to be from Cartman’s perspective whenever they are amping up a gag or trying to sensationalize behavior, because if these situations were from Heidi’s perspective, I think they’d be too, well, reasonable, and less funny. I mean even when Cartman ditches her in the woods, her first reaction is “Eric, Eric oh my God are you okay?” We’re supposed to sit there in anguish and yell at our Televisions because he clearly doesn’t deserve her. I’d like to think that Heidi is clawing at the chance to escape Eric…but maybe she’s happy in this dangerously dysfunctional relationship?  

“Heidi’s a nice girl, how can you be so awful to her?”

“You don’t understand…she has no time management skills whatsoever!

I’ve known couples like that…hell I’ve been in that couple. Day in, day out behavior like, “who takes longer to get ready for a night out” becomes amplified. Minute problems turn into catastrophes at the drop of a hat. Who keeps the TV on too loud? who forgets to do their dishes? Who takes too long to get ready before we go out? Who can we blame for this bad relationship? The media? The culture? No. You. You’re to blame. All that stuff isn’t a big deal if you actually give a shit about the other person and want to work through your problems. But Cartman clearly isn’t capable of caring about anyone but himself, so every second he’s with Heidi just becomes torture in his mind. 

YOU’LL NEVER DO BETTER THAN HER. JUST LOVE HER AND LISTEN TO HER; SHE’S PERFECT!

Removing the narrative shroud, this episode of South Park is about “dudes dealing with the Harvey Weinstein thing,” and more specifically, Hollywood. And though it’s certainly not the most important perspective on the issue, that shouldn’t devalue its legitimacy. The parody is subtle in that it doesn’t take on shot-for-shot instances of the topical issue, nor does it even bring up the core problem that society faces. They aren’t taking the ignorant position that “it’s no big deal and girls should just deal with it,” no. They’re exploring how fragile and foolish and frightened men can be during a cultural backlash and the metaphor, while really right on the money, will most certainly be taken for more than it’s worth.  They choose a more more vague, light-hearted fairy tale approach that focuses more on people’s reaction to traumatic events rather than the cause of the trauma itself. And that’s to mixed results; some people still just don’t understand South Park. 

In light of the witch pursuit thingy…Steven Stotch is riddled with guilt. About the drinking, about the crack, about the hexes that all the witches put on their wives. He wants to clear his conscience. Randy can’t handle it because that would mean actually dealing with acting like an adult. He gets the guys together in order to sacrifice Steven to the Devil. The witches soon lure Steven into a trap. Feigning heroics, they put on their own witch-pursuit-thingy so that they can foolishly scapegoat Steven and continue having their good time.

“We have until tomorrow morning to sacrifice Steven to the Devil.”

 Jack & Crack on a Jet

When Chip shows up to cause more havoc and…asserts his dominance as head witch (cringe), his antics are stopped by the only man possibly more morally repugnant than he: President Garrison. The Deus Ex Machina approach feels a bit stale, but they manage to pull some laughs together. I think the unfortunate thing about the implications of a certain President being the only one able to save the town of South Park are unfortunate. Personally, I just think the showrunners miss Mr. Garrison (as do I), and once you spend an entire season on a character, even if it’s a divisive, cringe-worthy topic, you have to find ways to incorporate that character into your stories.

Now if only they could take that same approach with Heidi…

They want to tell crass, insensitive and humorous stories that WE THE AUDIENCE can learn from, but their characters are too pig-headed to grasp. With the most offensive, pig-headed character coming to save the day, the characters learn nothing from the “it takes a thief” Deus Ex Machina.  Would I have loved a moral shift where all the characters band together and the witches come out and beg the town to forgive them for their reckless ways? Well, yes, especially in the sensitive and confusing times that we are in at the moment.

It would have been nice, but it wouldn’t have been South Park.


Images courtesy of Comedy Central

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    Colin spends his time either writing or being anxious that he should be writing right now and isn't. He's a huge Tolkien fan and he values a strong cup of tea. If you see him at a party, he's probably isolated himself after either quoting too much David Foster Wallace, or too harshly deconstructing someone's favorite film.

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