Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman of South Park, in the show’s hour-long vaccine special
A famous South Park episode once mercilessly mocked the Church of Scientology by simply repeating the nonsense that the organization preaches to its members.
The South ParQ Vaccination Special does a similar thing to QAnon, with a segment visualizing the core belief at the heart of the conspiracy – that Hollywood elites like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks enthusiastically consume the blood of children to stay forever young, and that the only man who can stop them is Donald J. Trump.
But the basics of QAnon are common knowledge at this point; the special doesn’t focus on the sprawling, incoherent and contradictory story that QAnon followers have collectively created (despite the mythology being amusingly close to the most deranged and imaginative episodes of South Park), but seeks to reset the show back to “normal,” while simultaneously mocking the idea of the world ever really returning to the way it was, even after the vaccines are successfully deployed.
In the real world, Trump has essentially gone into hiding, his power seemingly shattered after the removal of his Twitter account. Hence, the show’s Trump stand-in, Mr. Garrison, returns to the way he was in the earliest days of the show, during a fun, imaginative scene in which he bargains with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who use their godly animation powers to shapeshift QAnon adherent “Mr. White” into increasingly monstrous forms.
The special highlights the temporary divide between the vaccinated elders, finally free from masks, and the less vulnerable members of society who are keen to skip their place in the line, get the vaccine, and move on with their lives. And of course, the Q cultists who believe that Bill Gates is injecting us with microchips, gay frog serum, or whatever ridiculous claim they’re making now.
Things have changed; quarantine turned us all into extremely online psychopaths, widening pre-existing political and cultural divides, and that increasingly divisive dynamic is reflected in the boy’s “break-up,” which is played like a divorce, with the boys arguing over who gets custody over Kenny.
There are a few standout scenes in the special; framing the town’s vaccination center as the hot new nightclub, the QAnon cultists teaching children the sordid details of their delusion, and Mr. Garrison concluding that in order to find peace, “make sure you’re on the side of the people with the most power.”
But overall, the special felt rather tame, especially compared to the show’s wilder days, in which a single, stupid concept would be pushed to the brink of insanity; the boys making meta jokes about “phoning it in” felt a bit too close to home.
I would have loved to see the wildest fever dreams of QAnon through the twisted lens of South Park, but at least the special successfully set up a good conflict for the next season of the show, and put Mr. Hat back into the hand of Mr. Garrison.
I’m fascinated by all forms of storytelling; movies, television, mythology, fairy tales, and urban legends.