There's so much bad shit happening right now - the Trump campaign is under federal investigation, which Republicans have sought to discredit; the president is sneering his way to a war with a nuclear-armed North Korea; men in media, politics, and entertainment are outed daily as disgusting scumbags - that it's too much for South Park to fit into a 30-minute cartoon. The fatigue, the fear, the uncertainty is real, and it's almost impossible to make sense of, let alone laugh at. But it's especially difficult for South Park, which prides itself on making fun of both sides.
The problem is there are not two sides to sexual harassment. There are not two sides to taking Vladimir Putin's word over that of American's intelligence agencies. There are not two sides to white supremacy. "Bothsiderism" is a dangerous practice right now, and it blurs the lines between fact and fiction, right and wrong. [editoriallinks id='75b8443d-e19c-4f29-834e-bde2f22d5035'][/editoriallinks]
Thankfully, in its season finale, South Park, at least briefly, picked a side. In "Splatty Tomato," South Park turns Mr. Garrison's Donald Trump into a Pennywise-like terror haunting the children of the town. As the country plunges into chaos, Garrison is more concerned with lurking around town asking about his approval ratings, a pretty accurate depiction of our president. Depicting the president as a monster obsessed with his own popularity amounts to South Park finally picking a side.
But there's another line that South Park crosses, with a really bizarre moment midway through the episode. The mayor brings in Officer Brighton to hunt down Garrison. He reminds the people of South Park: "Remember this is the President, so you cannot shoot him. You can't even talk about shooting him. Don't do any coy satirical takes about shooting him ... remember they can do to you what they did to Kathy Griffin."
It's a weird moment that name-checks Kathy Griffin's lazy and pointless stunt earlier in the year in which she depicted herself holding a bloodied Trump head. It's thrown into the episode without context and comes when South Park is debating how to stop this president. It's a vague critique of satire and how even that is an ineffective tool. Again, like in other parts of this season, by attempting to keep up with everything at once South Park ends up saying nothing at all, much like Griffin's own stunt with the head.
In the end, they catch Garrison and stop him, but he's immediately freed by the White family that's continuously making excuses for the president's behavior. There's little nuance to this joke, as the episode, like in previous years, ends with everyone pointing guns at each other. But the final conclusion that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have about 2017 is somewhat disgusting, with Heidi - who's been gaslighted by Cartman all season - saying, "If you always make yourself the victim, you end up being awful." Here's more of that dangerous South Park both sides, where the "Whites" have made themselves the victim to make excuses for the president while at the same time Heidi has made herself the victim by getting emotionally abused by a man. Nope. It doesn't work this way, South Park. There are not two sides to this issue. White people playing the victim is not parallel to actual victims - whether it be victims of abuse by men or victims of systematic racism. To lump this all into one easy answer about being the victim is not only wrong, it's dangerous, and is exactly what white men in power use to justify their actions. It's a sad message to end a sad season on, and even more pathetic in 2017.