South Park “Going Native” Review

When Butters begins acting very strange and aggressive towards everyone at school, his parents reveal to him his status as a “native” Hawaiian, and that he must return home to take part in a tribal ritual. While there, he sparks the other white people Hawaiians into rebellion due to their points cards being taken away.

As the episode began, I thought I was going to be in for a very different story. Butters’ sudden anger and confusion seems very odd indeed because, well, it’s Butters for gosh sakes. He sits in the principal’s office while his parents talk amongst themselves in hushed tones. Is it time to tell him? Is he too young? I honestly thought we were getting a puberty story, and Butters was an interesting choice for it, given his meek nature.

But no, it turns out he was born in Hawaii, and must return there to have his you’re-a-man-now-ceremony. He’s supposed to go all alone, but Kenny tags along to help him get through airport security.

The whole thing kind of has shades of Star Trek‘s second-season episode “Amok Time,” where Spock is going fucking nuts because his pon farr, the desire to mate, has awoken, and he simply must return to Vulcan and get laid or else he’ll explode. I was half expecting them to have Butters and Kenny duel each other with giant Q-Tips.

I’m not very familiar with the situation in Hawaii. Canada’s own weird island place is Newfoundland, which is about as different as islands can be. The “native Hawaiians” are all SUV-driving white people, most of whom own a timeshare and spend their days drinking chi-chis, getting discounts on everything with their Hawaii resident points cards. I loved Butters’ “tribe” loudly explaining their proud native status at the airport terminal, right in front of an actual native Hawaiian, who looks incredulous.

Kenny has much more to do in “Going Native” than usual. He serves as the episode’s link back to South Park proper, sending the other boys letters about what’s happening, read aloud in an erudite, English Dr Livingston voice. Kenny also acts as a parody of the many films where a white leading man spends time amongst another culture and eventually adopts it, sometimes even assisting in a rebellion against his own. It’s been seen numerous times in films like Lawrence of Arabia, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai and Avatar. Some of those films are good, others not so much (Avatar). “Going Native” takes plenty of potshots at the concept.

It’s an interesting comment on the way some white folks tend to claim they have “adopted” or “understand” the ways of another culture. They’ll swear up and down it’s just a better way of life than their own culture without really understanding it beyond a vague generalization. For some people, as long as they’re badly attempting to adopt another culture’s customs, that means they get to feel all sagely about it. They’re more in touch with themselves and their spirit. They’re so enlightened than the rest of us with our commercial culture and our western medicine.

Butters meanwhile, embraces his heritage fully and whips the Hawaiians into revolting when the points cards are discontinued. They try to drive the tourists out by hitting golf balls at a passing cruise ship, but Butters, in his rage, manages to sink the damn thing. And it is hilarious. Having blockaded the island, the Hawaiians begin to lose their morale when they realize that without a supply of vodka coming in, they’re running out of chi-chis.

“Going Native” is a hell of a lot of fun; one of the best episodes of the season so far. I know a fair number of people don’t care for Butters much, but pairing him with Kenny in their own little mini-adventure was a really interesting move, especially following the revelation that Kenny is the only other kid at school Butters actually likes. This is about as close to a fun light-hearted romp as latter South Park gets. Lie back and enjoy it with a nice chi-chi.

Watch Full Episode here: (available 11/17/12)