South Park “Raising the Bar” Review

Cartman comes to terms with the fact that he really is fat in true South Park style, buying a mobility scooter and shouting down anyone who dares to challenge him rather than solve the problem, while Kyle becomes frustrated with the fact that no one seems to feel any shame for this kind of unhealthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, James Cameron and his team prepare to delve into the depths of the ocean, find the bar and raise it.

Kyle decides to follow Cartman around with a camera, hoping to embarrass him into losing weight and raise awareness about the childhood obesity epidemic. Token agrees to help, but unbeknownst to Kyle, he puts it on TV as a reality show up against Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

The Honey Boo Boo parody seems to be pretty accurate from what I’ve seen of the show, right down to the reality show music and Honey Boo Boo and Mama get some of the best lines of the episode.

My pig heart is sweeter than bacon, child!

The first time I saw anything about Honey Boo Boo I thought it was a joke. This show, this fucking show, seemed like something out of Idiocracy. I couldn’t believe this was a real television program. It’s insane.

The only jokes that fell flat for me was the title of Cartman’s reality show, Fatty Doo Doo. REALLY? That’s what they went with? To be fair it does sound like the kind of title a pair of young boys might come up with, but in an otherwise very clever episode this just seems, well, stupid. I also didn’t really care for the Randy Newman appearances either, but they don’t drag the episode down.

NUMA is no match for James Cameron!
The James Cameron plot is an absolute comedy gold mine, even though it never intersects with what’s going on in South Park. Cameron’s ego and his team being sick to death of it gives us a wealth of great jokes and a very fun song to boot. The whole thing culminating with James Cameron actually raising the physical bar and then refusing to take credit for it in the most arrogant way possible is a perfect cap to the episode.

Yup.
The cavalcade of fat people lurching into Wal-Mart at the beginning of the episode, and being given scooters with which to scoot around is completely accurate, unfortunately. I mean, I’ll cop to being a fat bitch myself, but even I think that’s the height of pathetic. I waddle my ass down the Wal-Mart aisles. Sure, some people are just naturally bigger than others. How healthy you are, rather than how skinny you are should be your chief concern. But no one, no one in the whole world is so naturally large they can’t even move.

I get the logic, or lack thereof, that gets people to that point. I understand having a lack of control around food. If my boyfriend and I order pizza, I don’t just have a slice or two, I want all of it . And I want all of it fast so I can at least make sure I get more than him. It’s completely stupid and unhealthy, but that’s just how a fat person’s brain works sometimes.

Cartman’s final showdown with Honey Boo Boo comes in the form of a sketti-wrasslin’ match, and it is wonderful. It’s kind of disturbing how much glee I felt watching two fat, reality TV child stars trying to kick the crap out of each other, only to be stopped by a fed-up Michelle Obama.

This episode is one hell of a lot better than “Sarcastaball” could have ever hoped to be. It’s kind of a meta concept, which is always fun. Near the end of the episode, Kyle wonders aloud if it’s our fault for allowing the bar to be lowered so far, and it’s kind of an interesting point given that South Park has caused many an uproar over its content.

 

“Raising the Bar” takes a pretty accusatory tone with the audience, and they’re not wrong either. We did allow this. We did keep tuning in to Honey Boo Boo and its ilk. We gave it and others like it the ratings that turned education networks like TLC and History into reality programming channels. Why do we do this? Why do these things appeal to us? They must, on some level, because they keep getting the ratings to keep them around.

More than once characters point out that “the bar” is something determined by society’s tastes and morals as a whole but by the end, South Park seems to be making the point that the bar is also something the entertainment industry can take upon itself to raise by refusing to sink to the level of the worst reality programming and creating thought-provoking, mature content.

“Raising the Bar” is South Park social commentary at its best and most incisive. It makes us take a hard look at the way we’ve let things go, and even make us feel a little guilty, all while wrapping it in a delicious comedy skin.

Watch Full Episode Here: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s16e09-raising-the-bar