South Park
Starvin' Marvin In Space
episode #311

Why, yes, it is a Chocolate Yum Yum Bar, Miss Struthers!

As Comedy Central continues its festival of reruns (creatively packaged this time as the "South Park Road Trip") we were treated to a season three retread, which itself featured the return of our first season friend, the Ethiopian boy Starvin' Marvin.

Previously the boys (Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman) adopted Marvin so they could receive a free Teiko sports watch. Of course, wackiness ensued. In Marvin's return, his people are still starving in Africa and the ineffectual Christian missionary leads bible study in God's language, English, while admonishing the starving people "No, no, no! We don't eat the bibles!"

Into this bleak landscape a spaceship from the planet Marklar lands. After the ship's pilot is eaten by a lion, Marvin finds the ship and uses it to search the world to find a place for his people without missionaries. He is unsuccessful, and enlists the help of the South Park boys. The CIA, Christian Broadcasting Channel (CBC), and Sally Struthers all pursue Marvin. A particularly chilling scene is the CIA's first meeting with Sally, who has turned into Jabba the Hut by eating all the relief food intended for the starving Africans. After the incentive of a Chocolate Yum Yum bar, Sally agrees to help the agency.

In the meantime, Marvin and the boys make it to Marklar, where there are plenty of natural resources, peaceful and accepting natives, and no missionaries. Kenny is left behind on earth and frozen in carbonite a la Han Solo, there is a spaceship battle interrupted by Pat Robertson's CBC fundraising, and eventually everyone ends up on Marklar.

The Marklars understandably are confused by all the conflicting points of view until Kyle uses their language to explain: "Marklar, these Marklars want to change your Marklar" etc. The Marklars decide the Ethiopians can stay and the missionaries must leave. Sally gives the boys a ride home in her ship and the Ethiopians celebrate around a waterfall. Sadly, there is no mention of Chef. Kenny's ultimate fate is unknown.

Who should be offended by this episode: evangelical Christians, Sally Struthers and famine relief workers, CIA agents, fans of cheesy "inspirational" songs, Australians, Pat Robertson, George Lucas, and Ethiopians (I don't think they really use the click-click language, but I could be wrong).

Goddess bless those boys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, for despite the seeming anarchy of each South Park episode, there is always a Worthy Message to be found. The show delights in skewering the inability of certain religious types to address real social conditions, and this week's Worthy Message is no exception: the missionaries and the CBC want to prevent the Ethiopians from going to Marklar, where there will be plenty of food and land, because the Marklars have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christians value salvation over survival.

Sally Struthers is introduced not just for cheap laughs (although her Jabba "ho ho ho" is excellent) but as an example of someone who tries to help starving children in Africa but ends up corrupted by power and massive quantities of free food. It is only Cartman's heartfelt (!) plea that convinces her to abandon her selfish ways and help Marvin and his family. The CIA is involved and should be feared because our government (in the South Park-verse) is always involved in shadowy pursuits.

Next week, the road trip comes to an end in Afghanistan, and Cartman takes on Osama bin Ladin. USA! USA!


Laura Proud





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