Reviews

South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season

South Park uses transgressive means to further enlightened themes, the offensive means to be later isolated and paraded in publicity and spin.


South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season

Distributor: Comedy Central
Network: Comedy Central
First date: 1997
US Release Date: 2008-08-12
Amazon

Earlier this year, my roommates and I, fueled by pop culture consciousness and enthusiasm over a new Netflix subscription, decided that we must discover during which season South Park euthanized the shark and broke the skis. For those who aren’t sure what this means, consider that if we call it “jumping the shark” when a show veers off into the throes of absurdity and awful writing, it must be appropriate to refer to the opposite phenomenon as, “euthanizing the shark and breaking the skis”.

With a cunning strategy by which we could get a new DVD every day as long as the old one was in the mail box by 5PM, we spent unforgivable amounts of time pouring over Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s satirical masterpiece. With schoolwork abandoned, personal hygiene dismissed, girlfriends lost, we watched every last episode in reverse order. Finally we came to a shocking and ire-inspiringly anti-climactic conclusion.

The shark was never euthanized because there was never any shark to begin with; water-skiing never was even an option. To break my obstinate conceit, South Park, as it turns out was always clever and culturally relevant, peppered with low-brow humor but never suffocated under its weight.

Why, then, had we grown up with the distinct impression that South Park equaled a cavalcade of scatalogical humor combined with assorted one-liners about genitals? We sat confused for a few hours distinctly dumber, less clean, and lonelier than when we had begun.

That was until Comedy Central aired a commercial for the upcoming World of Warcraft spoof, an episode dearly loved by most devotees. However, something was wrong with this commercial. It mainly featured a clip of Cartman defecating all over his mother who was holding a bed-pan for her gamer-recluse son. This was not the episode we loved but only a small, completely unrepresentative fragment.

Then it dawned on us, this was the answer to our shark dilemma: while the actual show is quite high-brow and most of their groundling comedy is self-reflexive, South Park has to advertise itself as a crass spectacle. Then, when viewers tune in, drawn by the adolescent elan vital in us all, they can turn and say to each other, “Wow! I always thought South Park was just fart jokes. How intelligent it actually is.” South Park’s entire marketing model is an elaborate bait-and-switch employed with absolute genius.

Season Eleven makes such an observation abundantly clear and is, without question, the best season that Parker and Stone have ever put together. Season Eleven collects their most lucid messages on organized religion in The Fantastic Easter Special and Cartman Sucks and, to everyone’s surprise, they are completely lacking in knee-jerk religion bashing or insensitivity. “But I thought South Park liked killing Jesus because Christians are stupid!?” Well, they do like killing Jesus, but it’s in the service of a profound message of religious tolerance and even-handed treatment.

This is only the most salient out of many examples of how South Park uses transgressive means to further enlightened themes, the offensive means to be later isolated and paraded in publicity and spin. Parker and Stone offer a masterclass on racial consciousness, but all that gets through the media net is, “That South Park used the n-word several dozen times.” Rinse and repeat, this is the South Park model.

It cannot be overlooked that in addition to the fantastic rank-and-file offerings of Season Eleven, on these discs is contained the most ambitious South Park project: The Imaginationland Trilogy. Flexing its capacity for longevity and an adroit writing sensibility in which many plotlines can be juggled, South Park effortlessly stretches a story about terrorists attacking our imaginations into the longest continued plot of the series to date.

Mashing-up countless shot-for-shot film parodies, an overwhelming pastiche of pop and literary culture, and a handful of keen insight into the value of fantasy, Imaginationland not only thrills but justifies the entire series in its social effect. CareBears are executed, Kurt Russell gets raped, a giant tube of Crest wards off Cavity Creeps from the heights of appropriated Lord of the Rings architecture. The whole affair is awe-inspiring and lets the animators show off a bit of artistry, a welcome switch for a show in which the animation is usually only there to serve the comedy.

Bundled with all this splendor are short, one-off commentary tracks that usually only last for the first five minutes of each episode. Although they rarely add more than a laugh or two, the format is quite enjoyable as one can watch the entire series with the commentary on and miss very little of the dialogue. As it would seem, there are really no missteps at all on this disc. Even the box art is attractive although nothing different than the last ten equally attractive seasons. I would love to iterate more how worthwhile of a purchase this collection is, but I've trumpeted enough. Just don’t let the cat out of the bag that the whole potty-dynamic is just a red herring.

9
Music
Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Books
Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Books

The American Robot: A Cultural History [By the Book]

In The American Robot, Dustin A. Abnet explores how robots have not only conceptually connected but literally embodied some of the most critical questions in modern culture, as seen in this excerpt from chapter 5 "Building the Slaves of Tomorrow", courtesy of University of Chicago Press.

Dustin A. Abnet
Film
Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Film

'The Serpent's Egg' Marks One of Ingmar Bergman's Strangest Efforts

The Serpent's Egg bares many of the Bergman's trademark features – the suffocating auras of despair and an underdog's sense of triumph over tragedy – but falls short of a more intelligent rendering of human drama.

Recent
Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Music

Weeks Island's 'Droste' Is a New High Water Mark in Ambient Steel (EP stream) (premiere)

Lost Bayou Ramblers' Jonny Campos turns up as Weeks Island with Brian Eno/Cluster-inspired music straight from the bayou. Hear Droste in full ahead of its release on Friday.

Music

Ireland's Junk Drawer Share New Krautrock Meets Post-Punk Song, "Temporary Day" (premiere)

Junk Drawer's "Temporary Day" is a simple yet compelling video for a gripping song that shows why the band have earned such acclaim in their native Ireland.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Music

Miranda Lambert - "Bluebird" (Singles Going Steady)

Miranda Lambert sings her blues the way an artist paints with them on her latest single, "Bluebird".

Music

'Stone Crush' Proves (Again) That Memphis Is Ground Zero for Soul and R&B

Stone Crush shines a light on the forgotten -- or never known -- artists that passed through the doors of Memphis' most storied studios in an attempt at just one fleeting moment of fame.

Music

Circles Around the Sun Shoot for the Stars on New Album

Jamrockers Circles Around the Sun's self-titled third album finds the band transcending darkness after losing their founder in 2019 to chart a groovy new course.

Music

Jazz's Kandace Springs Pays Tribute to 'The Women Who Raised Me'

Singer and pianist Kandace Springs tackles a dozen songs associated with her jazz vocal heroes, and the combination of simplicity and sincerity is winning.

Music

Coronavirus Tunes: A Brief Playlist for Our Times of Self-Isolation

As coronavirus spreads throughout the world and many of us hunker down with online media, we offer eight songs that share our feeling of seclusion.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.