South Park: 50% 1%, 50% Pure Madness

One of South Park's strengths is its ability to be topical within a six-day window, as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and their team spend only 144 hours on each episode, from conception to broadcast. With well-intentioned drum-beaters "occupying" the downtown parks of major cities everywhere and caviar-snorters appalled that success is now a stigma, an oh-so-exploitable news story fell into South Park's lap, and the show went for it. Sort of.

"1%" was advertised as the "Occupy [insert location here] episode" but it took an unexpected turn into the deranged mind of Eric Cartman. It was one of those episodes that starts off with a strong idea before careening into something completely different, but that's how South Park rolls, man. Whether that was planned or not, I don't know. If you've seen Comedy Central's recent South Park: 6 Days to Air documentary, you know that each episode of the animated comedy experiences several transformations during its growth. What's proposed on Friday often looks awfully different by the time the final version of the show airs on Wednesday. And I get the feeling this episode underwent a lot of shifts in direction over the course of the week but ended up catering to one of Trey and Matt's strengths: thinking on their feet and making shit up.

Things started off heavy on the 99% end of things, with Cartman recording one of the worst scores ever in a standardized physical fitness test administered by Colorado schools. Because his score was so bad (he registered the cholesterol level of a 70-year-old man and fell into the bottom 1%), the school's overall score dropped so much that all the students were forced to take P.E. during recess. The kids got mad at Cartman, bonded together as the 99%, and began to torment Cartman by going after his stuffed animals, including his best friend Clyde Frog. There were a few painfully forced jokes, including one about an occupy movement taking place in a Red Robin bathroom as Butters dropped a deuce, plus some stuff about "class warfare" between fourth and fifth graders. But overall, it seemed there was a solid foundation for an episode that would parody the OWS movement. But that never really happened.

Part of the way through, the episode refocused its attention on Eric Cartman and his stuffed animals getting knocked off, at which point "1%" lucked into an oddly entertaining, and somewhat poignant, storyline about Cartman growing up. We saw shades of the recent classic "You're Getting Old" as Cartman responded to his mother and peers telling him to mature by landing himself right in the middle of a stuffed-animal murder spree. Cartman's paranoia grew as he witnessed each of his childhood favorites being destroyed (Clyde Frog was nailed to a tree, Muscleman Mark was boiled like a bunny, etc.), but he couldn't put his finger on a suspect.

It was terrifying and creepy, but only the appetizer to the episode's main course. Cartman arrived just in time to see one of his final toys have its head blown off; then he turned around and saw Polly Prissy Pants, the culprit behind all the mayhem, sitting all villain-like in a giant chair and holding a gun. Of course it wasn't the Triple P, but Cartman's schizophrenic delusion, who orchestrated the entire deal, in response to everyone telling him to grow up. With tear-filled eyes, Cartman took the gun and unloaded several rounds into Polly Prissy Pants' head. Maturation complete.

As an episode overall, "1%" was all over the place and seemed like a product of last-minute changes, ditching its initial premise in favor of something Trey and Matt latched onto late in the production cycle. But sometimes the best ideas happen on the fly. Not a classic episode, but an interesting one to discuss nonetheless.

Questions:
... What did you think of "1%"? Did it feel patchwork to you too?

... Do you wish South Park had done an entire episode dedicated to the Occupy Wall Street movement and saved Cartman's stuffed-toy slaughter for another episode? (I do.)

... Do you think Clyde Frog is gone forever!? He can't be, can he?

... Did you agree with the notion that "black people can't be blamed for anything," or did that not make sense to you at all?

... Are the South Park kids growing into teenagers or something?

Comments (19)
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You ever notice that Michael Moore looks like a real life version of Peter Griffin?
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It's probably reading a whole lot into the plot of the episode, but I think everything matched up greatly with the Occupy movement. Cartman was the one percent -thanks to his fat ass, an allegory to all the money the one percent have- with all these toys that were very precious to him. Think incentive packages, sales bonuses, increased salary, etc. Everything these executives hold dear to them. Money. Possessions. As the ninety-nine percent grew angry with Cartman, they started going after what was most precious to him. Demanding arrests, accountability for bailout money, screaming for more regulation and a higher tax rate for the rich. As all of Cartman's toys were threatened, he began to horde them more, becoming crazier and more unpredictable as the attacks continued. Then finally came realization. Banks, corporate America and Wall Street are all -or somewhat- to blame for everything that has happened to the economy, and are what fuels the Occupy movement. And they know it. Cartman was responsible for the death and destruction for all his most prized possessions. Banks and corporations screamed for deregulation in the 80's and this is what it got them. Going a step further, the eighty-eight and the seventeen percent are representative of the varying grades of wealth, who are feeling the squeeze of the shrinking middle-class, who are deemed as rich and well-to-do but are still suffering the same was everyone else. All in all, despite the off the wall plot and the seeming patchwork of the episode, I thought it played well off of all the degrees of the Occupy movement and beliefs.
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Yes, excellent analysis.
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The whole OWS portion didn't really do anything for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Cartman growing up/stuffed animal B story
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...It did feel a bit "patchwork", but those are usually the episodes I enjoy the most, and I don't think it's a coincidence that those are usually the episodes where Cartman is at his most deranged.

...I think an entire occupy wall street episode could have ended up being a bit too cliched.

...I expect to see Clyde Frog again next week.

...No. Anyone can be blamed for anything they are resposible for.

...I hope so, it'll open new avenues for ridicule.
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I thought this episode was hilarious. Especially laughed at the part where the 83% stood up against the 99% which made them the 17% and Cartman the 0.7% haha.
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I already forgotten that South Park could make people laugh ... great episode, although I think if they had made two episode (one about the 99% and the second about Cartmanevolution) would have been better.
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The episdoe should had stuck with the Occupy theme.
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The whole episode, I thought was to show how silly we all are in every aspect! The arguments we bring up, our ideas, etc. Right now we are very disfunctional and a society!
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This episode was kind of confusing I mean I know Cartman has to grow up but that toy slaughter seemed kind of pointless showing Cartman has multiple personality disorder like when he was Jennifer Lopez turned Mitch Connor then with his stuffed animals.
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I really enjoyed this episode. It reminded me a bid of the old South Park, which is good if you think about many of their episodes in their last seasons.
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I thought it was great gave a slap to the media the whole 99% crap thats flooded it...a few slaps to obama...but most importantly they put a character development episode for cartman into the show... for the most part they've only reserved character development for Mr garrison (and Stan for one episode... tho they erased everything that they did 1 episode later lol)



and as for the "black people cant be blamed for anything" joke...lol I got it..its funny..and totally true... because they had a troubled past stored upon them.. the race card has gotten played so often in recent memory (not by all of course...i wouldnt even say by most... but you have the select few famous idiots that do it alot aka: Whoopi Goldburg)...people are downright...afraid if you will to say anything that may seem even remotely racist
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Terrible episode..... not funny at all and all over the place
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I loved the episode. Their ability with which they apply realistic national problems to 10 year old kids' lives is otherworldly.
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Average ep with good sh!t and bad sh!t :)
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That episode was very good, but a little all over the place.

South Park is still the best animated show on TV.

South Park: 6 Days to Air confirm that.
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South Park is usually kind of what would come out from behind after somebody ate a bag of small diamonds. Mostly shit but with a hidden gem here and there. The shit-parts are often way to big, and also very forced, but you keep watching anyway just for these gems that do pop-up once in a while. These guys CAN do clever satire and clever jokes, they have it in them. Better than many others, actually. But it is like they do not really dare to do it properly, and instead hides behind a lot of juvenile, disgusting and dumb stuff. I have not seen this episode so this was more of a general opinion on South Park in case that was unclear.
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Pretty good episode. Definitely didn't top last weeks, but pretty solid overall. The killing of Cartman's toys was definitely the highlight of the episode.



The occupy parts were hit or miss...overall I'd give it a B.
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Eh, I really didn't care for the Occupy Wall Street plot, because to me the entire thing felt quite forced, which has often been the case when Matt & Trey try to take on current events over the last couple of seasons. I did really enjoy the toy killings and its conclusion though. Parts of this season does make me wonder if next season, they'll finally advance to the fifth grade.
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