These are tense, angry times, fraught with uncertainty and violence, and no one has benefited more from that than South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In its recently concluded 19th season, the show has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis and has become as vital and relevant as anything on television. This shift is documented in a New York Times piece called “How South Park Perfectly Captures Our Era Of Outrage” by James Poniewozik. This year, the long-running Comedy Central show has basically ditched self-contained, half-hour stories in favor of a much more complex, serialized saga that focused more on the town in general than on any one particular character. The very soul of the town of South Park (and, by extension, America) is at stake. In this manner, the show has managed to take on political correctness, gentrification, gun control, xenophobia, homophobia, and other hot-button issues, while also lobbing satirical grenades at Caitlyn Jenner, Whole Foods, and Donald Trump.
While noting the show’s lack of subtlety and less-than-balanced take on the issues facing the nation, Poniewozik nevertheless praises South Park for its boldness and timeliness:
Now, it was as if our culture had been shining an Eric Cartman-shaped Bat-signal and South Park answered. You could see the news from college campuses—safe spaces, trigger warnings—and conclude that America was more radically leftist than ever. You could read a dispatch from the Republican primary—border walls, refugee panic—and conclude that it was more reactionary than ever. The country is deeply polarized, and between two poles is precisely where the quasi-libertarian South Park most likes to swing.
In other words, South Park isn’t perfect, but it’s exactly the show America needs right now. Parker and Stone may not be able to make sense of everything that’s happening in America, exactly, but they can provoke both laughter and reflection from recent headlines and have some fun by pointing out society’s most glaring follies. What more can be asked of a veteran cartoon series?