South Park is actually a cultural hero. Even if you don’t watch it constantly, you hear about the parodies that it does. I admit. I don’t watch it regularly but after I heard about the “Worldwide Privacy Tour,” I had to watch. Once again I was reminded that there is more to South Park than meets the eye.
What you may ask? Well, while everyone was laughing at the Prince and Princess of Canada, South Park had put a “Story B” into play. I must admit that it intrigued me when the show aired but it wasn’t until I watched it the second time that I really understood what the “B” story was about. They defined it as branding. I will redefine it for my generation: it is bullying.
The story opens with Ike refusing to give Kyle the computer. Ike is watching the Queen of Canada’s funeral and he doesn’t care if it was four months ago. Kyle only wanted it to play video games with his friends and Ike feels that the funeral is more important.
The next day at school, Kyle apologizes to his friends for not being able to play the game. They blow him off saying that he wasn’t needed and they reached a new level. When Kyle explains that he had wanted to get to that level with his friends, they blow him off again and walk away. Kyle’s feeling, of course, are hurt but when he tries to talk, no one listen.
Kyle arrives home to find that he has new neighbors. That’s right! The Prince and Princess of Canada have moved in across the street bringing their message of privacy and being left alone. When Kenny tries to comply, the couple reveals that they don’t care. They want to be seen and they’ll do anything to get attention. From waking him up in the middle of the night to polo games with balls going through his window, Kyle eventually has enough. He tries to talk to his friends who say: “We’re so over them. Forget them.” How can Kyle forget them when they live across the street and are trying to get his attention.
Now is when “Story B” kicks into gear. Butters, classmate of Kyle, has overheard the conversation and wants to help Kyle. He suggests that Kyle come with him to get help at a “branding clinic” that Butters has been using. (And no I won’t use the company’s name here in case children see this). Butters has gained more confidence since he has been going and the counselors explain who he is and how to project himself to the world for a better life. Kyle jumps on this and goes along. He does not like the first brand but accepts the second. I’m beginning to see a trend with this and wonder why the last attribute is always “victim.”
While both Butters and Kyle try their new identity out on their classmates at school, Kyle quickly learns his friends don’t want change to happen. Meanwhile, there is a fight on the playground. When Kyle arrives, Butters is being beaten up by Bebe. It seems Bebe doesn’t like Butters new persona and this is her way of letting it be known.
Now for the big finish for this story. Kyle realizes that “branding” won’t help. He takes Butters hand and leads him to the branding agent. When he calls for their counselor, the Prince and Princess are there and the Prince tells him to stop. If we notice the duo’s branding, “victim” always appears at the bottom.
Kyle gets mad at the counselor. Kyle stops in the middle of the room and draws attention to Butters and himself. Kyle has realized that it is more important to be yourself. After seeing the damage that Butters new persona has caused, Kyle is going back to who he was.
“It’s this stupid place. Don’t you see Butters it’s people who think of their brand which produces more people like them (Prince and Princess of Canada). . . . Don’t you guys want to like you for you instead of who they want you to be.” (South Park, season 26, episode 2, Comedy Center, aired February 15, 2023)
The funny thing is that a young boy gets the Prince of Canada to see the light. The Prince ends up forgetting about getting a brand.
Now, what all this says to me is this. We are all looking for acceptance. We may try branding like the Prince and Princess of Canada. Yet, with branding comes the force of not being yourself but who we want people to see. Is this being honest. Kyle changed the Prince of Canada’s mind (whether it stays changed is another question for another episode). Maybe we do put too much emphasis on what others see than who we are. Maybe, just maybe, that’s why we have some of the problems in our world today. Maybe we need to step back, like Kyle, and try to admit our faults and become better people. This is the hidden meaning in this episode. I hope some think on the issue and take it to heart. Unfortunately, we live in a land where labels, brands and insults persist. The world needs to change! Can South Park make this happen?