Last night, South Park aired “The Problem With A Poo,” which which tried to tackle a whole host of issues but, as our review noted, lacked a “coherent message.” The episode concluded with an unusually pointed call to cancel The Simpsons, which was maybe serious ... or maybe sarcastic ... or ... who knows?
At the end of an episode that saw talking piece of shit Mr. Hanky become a stand-in for everyone from Rosanne Barr to Louis CK to Brett Kavanaugh, the character was exiled to The Simpsons’ Springfield, where he was welcomed with open arms by a South Park-ified version of the show’s supposedly bigotry-supporting cast. “He’ll have to find a place that accepts racist, awful beings like him,” Randy Marsh says, as Mr. Hankey drives away and is greeted enthusiastically by an exaggerated version of Apu.
The implication, reinforced by a black screen reading “#cancelthesimpsons” and an episode title playing on Hari Kondabolu’s documentary The Problem With Apu, is that The Simpsons is, from the show’s point of view at least, cooler with “non-PC” behavior than South Park. The whole thing reads as a response to “outrage culture” in general and the way The Simpsons’ creators, with the exception of Hank Azaria, have met Kondabolu’s (honestly very mild) criticism of Apu in such a disappointing fashion.
The problem is that nobody can agree on what point the show was trying to make. Recaps of the episode (and comments on the hashtag, which is itself a play on the “#cancelsouthpark” tag the series has been circulating lately) waver between thinking South Park was seriously taking a dig at The Simpsons and seeing it as a tongue-in-cheek joke. The responses to the Twitter hashtag are similarly divided. Even Kondabolu seems a little confused:
The two shows have a long history of commenting on one another, though, meaning that it’s fairly unlikely South Park is actually calling out The Simpsons. In the past, as both The Huffington Post and Uproxx point out, the two cartoons have referenced one another through one-off gags or entire episodes. More likely than South Park ripping on The Simpsons is that the show is showing how easy it is to provoke social media movements and incite outrage in a bit of meta-commentary on the episode’s themes. The fact that nobody can figure out whether its hashtag is serious or not is the point, but it’s also a great example of the show’s “both-sides-are-dumb” critical slant failing to say much of anything.
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