Episode: 6, “Tweek x Craig.”
Written by: Trey Parker.
Running Time 22 min.
Well, this week’s episode was certainly interesting.
Being a member of a fair few fandoms and holding an account on deviantart.com, it didn’t take me long to see and hear about this interesting proclivity among some South Park fan artists to pair the background/side characters, Craig and Tweak. Then again, I have come across a fair amount of yaoi variations of various fandoms, and done in the popular anime/manga style dejour, so I wasn’t overly surprised to hear that there was yaoi art based from South Park.
The only surprise for me was that it took South Park itself this long to react through one of their episodes, a not uncommon thing in various franchises, for example Supernatural was fairly quick to respond to their fandom pairings in an episode, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic even quicker in at least two of their own.
How shows respond in these episodes is usually tricky on part of the makers, as they need a balance of settling what their image is about, acknowledge their fanbase, but at the same time not collectively tick them off. Supernatural did it by using the basis of a fan convention for one plot line and poked fun in a carefully humorous way to the more incestuous popular pairing of Sam/Dean that was out there, while MLP used their episodes to tackle their issue with shipping, one as a poke at shipping in and of itself as a sort of moral lesson, and another as a not quite smart wink, wink.
South Park’s method was to absorb it into their latest plot device of the PC frame work they have been working with as an overarching narrative this current season. In retrospect, considering the PC -ist commentary that’s been going on, it was likely only a matter of time before sexual normativity popped up. In this case, they used a sort of reverse-repression when dealing with the issues of a community and family’s idea of the dominant ideal of sexual orientation over the wishes of those who wish to be another way is purposefully overlooked. In this case, the community itself is so preoccupied with being seen as open and accepting that Craig and Tweak are gay, that they seem to choose to ignore the fact that Craig and Tweak insist they are straight.
The show seems to be more using episode structure on a more personal scale, and less about the perception of sexual normative in general. This personal commentary can be read as a show maker’s relationship with the fanbase known as shippers, particularly yaoi shippers, with the South Park Community representing them, and how they seem to be, from the content maker’s point of view, forcing their ideals onto the show’s ideal of cannon, manifested in the shipping of the characters of Craig and Tweek through Greg and Tweek, and the two’s later capitulation as being seen as the show flinging its hands up and saying that there is no point in fighting it.
While there is a sort of poking fun element, this is South Park after all, unlike Supernatural’s outright poking fun, they are not upfront mocking the shippers themselves nor are they trying to steer the shippers away from shipping like MLP, they are more along the lines of having this sort of resigned air to the whole thing, but at the same time that it’s okay to resign to it, tolerance for this type of shipping seems to make a lot of people happy, so why not let them have their illusion?
The only nitpick for this episode would have to be Cartmen’s thing with Cupid Self. I don’t exactly know what was going on there, was Cartmen supposed to be a shipper or something? The purpose of his little arc was a little confusing, though it could be read as him coming to terms with the reality of Craig and Tweak being gay in a PC world outside his bigotry for once.
Overall, a decent response episode on behalf of South Park, taking it in a surprisingly tolerant turn (for a mainstream show anyway, they still didn’t exactly show the real reason why the slash happens) considering the show’s reputation, and the storyline itself had a good pace, Randy and the rest of his friends generational confusion was a nice touch, and despite Cartmen’s confusing little arc, it was a strong episode.
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