From its earliest days, South Park had a tempestuous relationship with pop culture, at once skewering the speed of American discourse and generating its own, flashbulb-quick catchphrases. It’s the type of show that would bring on one of the world’s most famous actors and relegate him to performing a dog’s yips. As the show moved on, it got better at tackling current events while fusing them to sometimes-incongruous pop culture references.
A new video from Wisecrack picks into the way Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and co. have used pop culture to explore a half dozen broad themes on the show. Whether it’s repurposing the 1948 short story “The Lottery” to express a crude empathy for overexposed celebrities or compiling sci-fi references into a critique of sponsored content, the show’s writers fuse their references to broader points, shirking the “you think that’s bad” randomness of Family Guy for something much more considered. And even if those points are not always trenchant—“advertising is bad,” “people are dumb”—South Park keeps finding inventive ways to deliver them, a billion seasons in.