After 21 years on the air, South Park proves that the entertainment industry can still create relevant, original content without alienating half of your audience by sinking to partisan politics.
In South Park’s season premiere “White People Renovating Houses,” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker center on tensions between Randy Marsh and the local blue collar folks who complain about losing their jobs to automation to tech products like the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
In an effort to voice their frustration, the blue collar folks march in the streets with their Confederate flags and their anti-Google and Amazon signs, chanting, “You will not replace us!” (a play on the white supremacist chant “Jews will not replace us!”) and “They took our jobs!” If you’ve seen every episode of South Park, the “they took our jobs” line originated from the season eight episode “Goobacks” highlighting the immigration debate. In that episode, people from a poverty-stricken future travel back in time because economic opportunities are more plentiful in the present (which so happens to be 2004).
A conflict arises because the protests are ruining Randy’s new home renovation show. He even confronts them and says, “Don’t you know when you wave Confederate flags around, you make us look stupid?”
Randy eventually strikes a deal with the unemployed blue collar folks by hiring them to be everyone’s personal home assistant. Instead of an Amazon Echo in your living room, Jim Bob, adorned with a guitar, a dictionary, and a smartphone will play you an acoustic version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” tell you the time, or inform you how long it will take for you to get to your destination.
The blue collar ringleader, Daryl, can’t fully embrace the idea, saying he wants a “dignified job.” Randy shuts him down by saying, “Sorry you didn’t go to college so you have to take the jobs you can get. Coal mining and truck driving are not exactly jobs of the future. You’re stuck in another time, afraid to change.”
Harmony is reached at the end of the episode when Randy renovates Daryl’s home to give it a more “open concept.” Randy then breaks the fourth wall saying, “Remember, no matter how bad the country gets, you can always count on white people renovating houses.”
Stone and Parker deservedly earn praise for this episode. Rather than continuing to make digs on President Trump, they highlighted issues like white supremacy, automation, entitlement, and even dependency on electronics that transcend partisan politics.
In the lead up to the new season, Stone and Parker noted they were going to stop making fun of Trump, saying they were becoming just like CNN.
If you didn’t see the full episode, you can watch it here.