Episode: “Stunning and Brave.”
Show: South Park.
Running time: 21 min.
There is a fear surrounding the term “being PC” or politically correct. Many people are afraid to say or do anything out of ignorance or general nitpicker anxieties for fear of possibly offending someone, and being considered a bigot/bad person. Many want to be seen as good human beings and thus when fingers are pointed at for daring to make comment about something, particularly outside of personal experience, they are disturbed into silence. The South Park Season 19 premiere episode “Stunning and Brave” (written by Trey Parker) touches on that anxiety.
In this episode PC Principal is a testosterone riddled jock-ish aggressive PC-er, who confronts the main characters, their parents, and most of the town about their discriminatory insensitivity. He is the embodiment of those “privilege police” that go around denouncing people’s opinions because they are making it from a position of a particular privilege.
This episode does a self-poke at the show, mentioning various situations through PC principal that would be considered discriminating during a parent teacher conference night when the character is introduced. This can be seen as the major clue that this is an episode more from a personal reaction by the show’s creators with aggressive PC critics then critics and more general society. There is also the veiled defense of the show in the climax of the episode through Cartman when he uses a few ethnic stereotypes and offensive images as a weapon against the PC Frat house, then one of PC Principal’s friends mentions “yeah, I would have never thought to use offensive imagery and outrageous stereotypes to provoke someone to open their eyes…” which is basically what South Park generally does when they use offensive imagery and outrageous stereotypes through parody to illicit awareness to the issues an episode covers.
Granted, the episode could have done without that explanation at the end, having a point explained takes away from the impact of thinking about the lesson, but it could have been done by the creators to make absolutely sure that their critics get the point and can’t further misconstrue this particular theme.
Outside of this, the show also parodies aggressive PC’ers in general as by providing an exaggerated stereotype that they are all privileged university/college students who take their criticism a little too far to the point of mimicking what they are policing without any real understanding or personal experience themselves of the issue because of their own privileges, making them come across as hypocrites. It was an interesting attempt at exaggerating the negative qualities of aggressive PC’ers through a potentially offensive generalization, though appealing to the “privileged white jock university trope” does have its issues in perpetuating a negative view of university students (who by the way are hard working and poor to a greater degree then privileged).
South Park also used Kyle particularly well as the besieged straight-man in all this, the more sober sort of tragic element in the issue of being politically correct for the sake of it. Kyle has an opinion that is not politically correct, that he is not fond of Kate Jenner, a visible trans woman previously known as Bruce Jenner from the Kardashians, a prolific figure and advocate within the trans community. In the show, the point is that often if someone has a negative view of someone its because a person with privilege is having issues with someone elses lack of privilege of that privilege or some physical difference, such as being trans. Kyle disagrees with this, stating that he was not fond of her when she was Bruce Jenner and the fact that Bruce is now Katie, doesn’t change his opinion of the person, Katie being a trans woman or her actions as a trans woman, has nothing to do with it. Kyle represents the correct was of thought, in that it is about the individual person themselves and not what they are that should matter, the thing that people should have a problem with is people themselves not their outward appearance or identity.
This was a good episode, a good layering of themes for the most part. PC Principal will likely get old fast if he is used in more episodes then this, and it was a surprise that they kept him on at the end, but that could perhaps be the point. The episode worked the mentioned themes well, and Kyle’s progression with this was well utilized, though some of the characters were rather underutilized and just there for the sake of them being there. Randy’s arc was unsurprising, considering his previous record of getting sucked into things, but seemed rather pointless overall, though it could be an avenue for something in later episodes, and like with most other good South Park episodes, there is likely more to unpack from it, but for the new season, it’s a great start for season 19.