A day in the Park
Fri Mar 9 2007
There wasn't an onscreen counter listing the number of times the epithet was used ( la the now-legendary 2001 episode "It Hits The Fan"), but the n-word--laden "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson," the Wednesday 7 installment that kicked off the 11th season of South Park, was pretty daring nonetheless. One might expect the premise to satirize political correctness (Stan's father appeared on Wheel of Fortune and bought an I rather than an A in order to complete the word N_GGER; the clue was "Someone You Find Annoying"), but instead it represented, at least implicitly, a welcome swipe against the Fox News crowd by our old pals Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
We won't go into excessive detail in case you haven't seen the episode yet, but in an impressive bit of jujitsu, the episode subtly shifts gears at the halfway point and winds up having a lot more to say about bizarro Bill O'Reilly--esque persecution complexes (the "war on Christmas" and what have you) than it does about racial sensitivity (for the record, in the absence of the aforementioned onscreen counter, we'll take Wikipedia at its word that the offensive term that drives the episode was used 42 times, versus 162 utterances of everyone's favorite fecal euphemism in "It Hits The Fan"). We may be reading too much into the episode—Cartman's throwdown with a dystrophic dwarf doesn't quite fit the thesis (though it sure was funny)—but we've long since learned that taking South Park at face value is something one does at his or her own peril.
In other South Park news, for the next two weeks, the beloved 2004 episode "Good Times with Weapons"—a.k.a. "the one where the boys are transformed into ninjas"—is available as a free download in 720p high definition via Microsoft's Xbox Live service. It's the first time South Park has been available in HD anywhere (the animation was rerendered in widescreen and everything!),and while it doesn't necessarily justify blowing a grand on an Xbox 360 and an HDTV, it sure is a treat if you already have the hardware. South Park's animation might not seem like it would gain that that much from being in HD (notwithstanding the detailed anime look of the ninja sequences), but it's all about the colors, kids, it's all about the colors...