South Park Is Avoiding Trump, but Still Hasn’t Learned Its Lesson

This post contains spoilers for South Park’s Season 21 premiere.

Going into Season 21, South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone revealed their new strategy: ease off Donald Trump and go back to the sillier stuff, like “fart jokes.” Their plan for Season 20 got blown up when Trump got elected, they said, since it’s hard to make fun of someone who is inherently so ridiculous—so this year, they hoped to look beyond Trump without “actively leaving [him] out” of the show.

But given Wednesday’s premiere, it’s clear South Park can’t quite help trying to cover the president—or at least, the political landscape his election fomented. Case in point? This season kicked off with a white nationalist demonstration that directly echoed the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. So much for fart jokes.

In South Park’s world, the protestors were demonstrating against what actually caused their economic disenfranchisement—big tech corporations and automation—though they were still waving Confederate flags. (The show chose to leave those symbols unremarked upon, beyond a joke about how much people who wave Confederate flags around love to wave Confederate flags around.) On the other side of the aisle, we have Randy and Sharon Marsh, who oppose the rally not because of the flags or because of the protesters’s underlying racist ideas (which bubble to the surface only once, then are quickly dismissed with a tossed-off “what the hell was that?”)—but because it’s disrupting their new HGTV-esque reality show, White People Renovating Houses.

Eventually, Randy convinces all of South Park to give the unemployed protesters jobs as substitutes for voice-controlled smart appliances like the Amazon Echo—but naturally, the men aren’t as good at that job as the actual machines were. This leads to arguments between them and Randy, including one in which Randy tells a frustrated Alexa stand-in that he…

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