South Park
Jarred Has Aides
episode #311

There he is, beating that dead horse!

It's hard to believe that we've been visiting the snowy environs of South Park for five years! The sixth season premiere, while not as aggressively controversial as last year's "It Hits the Fan," had its fair measure of typical South Parkian shenanigans.

As befits a new season, the intro has been reworked and the Primus theme remixed la J.Lo. (Well, without the help of Ja Rule, that is.) Conspicuously absent for even the casual viewer was Kenny, who apparently remains dead after last season's emotional episode "Kenny Dies."

The episode has a mostly straightforward narrative that focuses on celebrity restaurant endorsements. Enter Subway's favorite formerly "big-boned" spokesman, Jarred. His appearance in South Park to tout the benefits of sub sandwiches is visited by an adoring crowd with "We [heart] Jarred" signs. Our little heroes Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Butters (!) meet Jarred and learn his secret: the pounds melted off because of his aides. Yes, Jarred has aides - not the acquired immunodeficiency kind, but Scott and Tyler, Jarred's personal trainer and dietician. Of course, Jarred is oblivious to the profound wrongness of saying things like "hooray for aides!"

Soon after their fateful meeting with Jarred, Cartman's latest "genius moment" involves finding a formerly obese person and selling him as a weight loss spokesperson to the local Chinese restaurant. First, the boys decide to fatten up Butters, which involves excessive amounts of mayonnaise and a mild ick factor. Afterward, the boys negotiate with the Asian owner of the unfortunately-named City Wok, whose grasp on the English "c" sound is given the stereotypical "sh." However, when Butters can't lose the weight, the boys try at-home liposuction, which has the desired slimming effect on Butters (more ick factor) but gets him grounded by his parents.

When Stan, Kyle, and Butters need to go to City Wok to finalize their deal, Cartman stays at Butters' house to answer the phone as Butters' parents call to check on him. Of course, Cartman takes this opportunity to insult Butters' parents in inventively filthy ways.

In the meantime, Jarred's focus on "aides" as a positive weight loss program results in his being fired by Subway and his despondent walk in the rain ( la the movie Philadelphia). When Jarred proposes the "Aides for Everyone" foundation to the people of South Park, the standard sitcom device of "an initial misunderstanding spirals out of control; wackiness ensues" (perfected by the seminal early seasons of Three's Company) is taken to its extreme manifestation when the town surrounds Jarred and puts him on a conveniently-located scaffold for hanging. Is it uncharitable to suspect that the good people of South Park are too easily prepared for lynching? (Hey, it's the town flag. - Editor)

The boys arrive in time to explain Jarred's "aides" and save the day. Everyone apologizes and laughs about the incident, which leads them to realize that the appropriate lag time before tragic events can be jokes (22.3 years) has passed, and AIDS is now funny! Nationwide rejoicing occurs. When the City Wok owner offers a mere $15 to the boys for Butters' spokesperson talents, they learn a valuable lesson on the nature of misleading celebrity endorsements.

Who should be offended by this episode: that Jarred guy; Subway; anyone HIV-positive, suffering from AIDS, and/or AIDS activists; anyone who has ever tried to lose weight; Asian non-native English speakers; proponents of at-home liposuction; Bruce Springsteen.

In the midst of the season-premiere fanfare, this week's Worthy Message is difficult to isolate. The obvious message is that one should always suspect easy answers provided by advertising. While we might hope that only the most feeble-minded and easily manipulated adults are unaware of this basic cultural principle, the fact that George Dubya is president indicates otherwise.

In the end, the double-edged commentary on our culture's willingness to mock AIDS is more interesting. In the past 22.3 years many cruel and thoughtless people have joked about AIDS because of its initial prevalence in marginalized populations. The idea that the rest of us can now do it too, without repercussions, is disturbing because it might not be that far from how many people feel. Can sympathy have a statutory limit? Perhaps it does.

However, the "AIDS is funny now" payoff to the entire episode was weak, humor-wise, and certainly does not reach the level of the darkly comedic classic "Scott Tenorman Must Die" or the Warner Brothers-inspired slapstick of "Osama bin Laden has Farty Pants." One expects more from a season premiere. Next week: the new episodes keep on coming!



 

Laura Proud

 

 

 

 

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