South Park: Season 20 Episode 1 Review – Member Berries
I cannot believe it. Twenty years. Twenty glorious years of offensive, crude, and downright hilarious content. I don’t know how they managed it, but they have; South Park is 20 years old and still going strong. Actually, what the fuck am I talking about? Of course I know how they managed it! Trey Parker and Matt Stone have accomplished something remarkable – a series that has lasted two decades yet manages to remain as fresh as ever, while continuing to evolve. South Park can make you laugh, recoil in disgust, or occasionally shed a tear; and it is back once again with an episode entitled ‘Member Berries’, and that’s what we’re here for today – to take a look at the opening episode of Season 20.
Member Berries is an episode that is crammed full with references to many current events based in the good old US of A, such as NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem in protest against police brutality towards African-Americans; J.J. Abrams rebooting franchises; and, naturally, the current presidential campaign. It would seem that the general consensus is that this episode suffers from too many storylines for an episode that simply lasts 22 minutes, but myself, I thought it was fine. I believe fans of South Park will still enjoy the episode despite any shortcomings it may have. Will it be remembered as one of the top episodes of South Park? I doubt it, but it certainly isn’t one of the worst.
The episode opens at a volleyball game taking place in South Park Elementary. The gymnasium is packed with parents and reporters, apparently all there for the game; However, they’re not here for volleyball, of course they’re not. This is South Park after all. No, they are there purely to see if Nichole Daniels, an African-American student, will sit or stand during the national anthem.
As Nicole sits (much to the joy of Randy Marsh (he bet $100 on Nicole sitting down)), she is joined by Wendy, Bebe, and Heidi Turner as they protest against a misogynistic bully that has been posting very hurtful comments on the school’s forums. All fingers point towards Eric Cartman as being the man behind Skankhunt42, and for very good reasons; Firstly, c’mon, it’s Cartman; Secondly, he is trying very hard to ‘support’ the girls which is definitely something Cartman wouldn’t do without an ulterior motive. It’s incredibly suspicious. As you would expect, Cartman’s support of the girls is not really any form of support at all – it is an Eric Cartman brand of support – being incredibly offensive himself while trying to appear innocent of any prejudice or ill-intentions. Kyle is having none of it; despite Cartman’s instance that he desperately wants to prevent a gender-war, he firmly believes that Eric is Skankhunt42 and is going to damn-well prove it! But oh no, poor Kyle is in for a shock. As it turns out, Skankhunt42 isn’t Cartman at all; Stankhunt42 isn’t even a student of South Park Elementary. Skankhunt42 is Gerald Broflovski – Kyle’s dad! Now, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this revelation. It’s rather an out-of-the-blue thing for Gerald to do, and I cannot help but think that there’s something bigger at play here. There must be. Could he be brainwashed? Perhaps he has been hired by whoever is behind Memberberries (more on that shortly). We’re just going to have to keep on watching to find out. I’m glad Trey and Matt made the decision to reveal Gerald as Skankhunt42 in the opening episode, as I feel that much more mystery built up around the online-troll would have left us feeling a little underwhelmed with the reveal. A little similar to the situation with Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – It was much better that we learn who he is now rather than in the final moments of the third movie in the new trilogy. Anyway, talking about The Force Awakens actually leads us on quite nicely to the next point.
Okay, so the situation that occurred at the volleyball game has resulted in the national anthem being discussed by the American Congress. They feel the anthem should be rebooted, and who better to reboot something than the master of reboots himself – Mr. J.J. Abrams. Okay, so considering South Park is essentially considered a topical show, it is a little odd that they are referencing something that took place over nine months ago, but hey, South Park’s previous episode aired before The Force Awakens was released, so you can forgive them for wanting to get a reference in. It didn’t really feel forced either, in fact, it was a nice way to make these storylines flow together. Ultimately, the Star Spangled Banner doesn’t seem to be all that different from the original version; something with is obviously a reference to the commonly held belief that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is basically a retelling of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. I don’t know, I thought it was a fun episode and there were many jokes that made me laugh, especially regarding the storylines mentioned in the above paragraphs.
Introduced in this episode is a new type of ‘super fruit’ known as Memberberries which appear to be sentient with a penchant for reminiscing about the ‘good old days’. This starts off rather nicely; we all like to remember our childhood, the movies and shows we used to love; who doesn’t enjoy a bit of nostalgia? But, ah crap! Turns out not everything in the past was so great (who’d thunk it?). It doesn’t take long for the berries to start spouting racist and homophobic comments to a shocked Randy Marsh. I get the feeling that these berries may become the central plotline for this new season of South Park, and will tie in with what Gerald Broflovski is up to. I mean, what if Cartman is right? What if someone really is out there to cause tension between white people and black people? Between men and women? Between straight people and the LGBT community? I know he’s an arsehole, but he is also surprisingly clever (in certain ways), so I have no doubt that Cartman is actually on to something.
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Now, there’s one more storyline I need to mention – The US Presidential election campaign. I have to say, I wasn’t really all that interested in the presidential campaign storyline. I don’t want Mr. Garrison running for president as some kind of Trump parody; I would much prefer it if he remained in South Park and ran for mayor or something, or just continued to be his usual strange self. A brightly oranged face Mr. Garrison is South Park’s stand in for Donald Trump, with pretty much the same, we imagine, issues as his real life counterpart. Mr. Garrison has become the Republican candidate for the US election, and now that he has actually won the position, he comes to the terrifying realisation that he actually has fuck all idea about what he is doing. Panicking, he attempts to become hated in the eyes of the voter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this storyline; it has its funny moments as well, but it just isn’t all that captivating to me. I reckon Mr. Garrison’s future on South Park hinges entirely on Donald Trump’s victory or loss in the upcoming election. Can you even imagine? Garrison as the President of the United States of America?! Either way, it’s time to decide once again between a douche and a turd sandwich.
So, overall, this episode wasn’t a belter, wasn’t something that will be particularly remembered in years to come, but it was by no means a bad episode. Packed with many very funny moments, Member Berries was an episode that sets up the upcoming season-spanning storyline quite nicely, and I for one am looking forward to seeing where this story is heading.
But that’s enough from me, dear readers. Now it’s your turn. What did you think to the opening episode of South Park: Season 20? What the hell is going on with Gerald? And what’s the story behind Memberberries? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. All that’s left for me to say is a very happy birthday to you, South Park. It has been such a pleasure watching for all these years. Here’s to many more. Cheers.
Image Credits: Comedy Central.