The townsfolk of “South Park” returned for a mid-season special on Friday, but they’re looking a little different this time around.
The 45 minute special, “Enter The Panderverse,” tore into Disney’s ham-handed diversity casting and mad dash for remakes. The title references the Disney-owned Marvel “Multiverse” of alternate dimensions, a “lazy” way to interlink endless spin-offs that pander to various ethnic groups.
Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker mock Disney for incorrectly assuming this approach would appeal to broader audiences, but despite the evident failure, remaining unable to turn away from such a “lame and gay” model. In a hilarious critique of forced diversity, Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are replaced by “diverse women” from an alternate universe where everyone “complains about the patriarchy.” (RELATED: New ‘South Park’ Special Hilariously Mocks Diversity Fever Sweeping Through Hollywood)
Clips from the episode quickly went viral over the weekend, with conservatives cheering a powerful cultural icon seemingly taking their side. Some took it as a sign that the tide of the culture war was beginning to turn, and even Elon Musk voiced his support. But this is not the victory that many believe it to be.
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) October 27, 2023
South Park remains the most important show on television. https://t.co/nlmXXAwWmL
— Brandon Morse (@TheBrandonMorse) October 27, 2023
South Park just obliterated Hollywood over their anti-white wokeness
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) October 27, 2023
Stone and Parker are rightfully known for their iconoclasm. They mock moral panics — often as they unfold in real time — and highlight how both sides of an issue can fall into brain-dead extremes when they feel morally justified. The adults of South Park invariably panic over some figure, event or trend, and the four boys emerge, sometimes reluctantly, as the voice of reason. Over 26 seasons, this approach has angered Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, celebrities, fat activists, environmentalists, Republicans and Democrats — and everyone in between.
For example, the episode “Go God Go” mocks atheists’ secular faith in science, which often ends up sounding just as religious as the Christian beliefs they seek to disparage. The Republican-Democrat political divide is routinely presented as a choice between a “Turd Sandwich” and a “Giant Douche.” “The Death Camp of Tolerance” shows how liberal tolerance can be just as coercive as the hateful movements it claims fight, while “With Apologies To Jessie Jackson” equates people obsessed with fighting racism with actual racists.
No one is spared, but neither is anyone truly demonized. Rather, episodes often come together with a didactic lecture from one of the boys: everything is fine in moderation and we should all take a humble skepticism to our own most cherished beliefs. Extremes are always morally equivalent.
For decades, this was a powerful message in an eminently moderate country like America. When the show first aired, Americans could still agree on the basic foundation of our common life and extremists on all sides were largely relegated to the fringe. But we no longer live in this country. One side has fully embraced the extremists in their ranks, and now works symbiotically to brand anyone who opposes them — the average South Park viewer of 10 years ago — as the true extremist threat.
Yet Stone and Parker remain blind or ignorant — perhaps willfully so — to this trend over the past 10 years. As a result, South Park has lost its once exemplary moral clarity. Recent seasons have increasingly focused on the America First movement and the moral panic over political correctness. The juxtaposition always leads back to the same message: both sides feed off each other, and in the end, partisans in each camp are just plain stupid. (RELATED: South Park Clips Perfectly Predicted How Insane The Left Would Get)
But these platitudes reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the current moment. One side stands for civilizational ruin, the destruction of 2,000 years of accumulated knowledge and morality and the end of America as we know it. The other stands in the breach — stemming the tide of imminent collapse and holding out hope for a return to the normalcy that Parker and Stone ostensibly advocate for. There can be no moral equivalence here.
“Panderverse” shows that even with all the progressive left’s escalatory aggression under the Biden administration, Parker and Stone’s understanding has failed to evolve. In the new special, it’s eventually revealed that Disney has only been producing more diverse spin-offs as a knee jerk reaction to Cartman, who sent “racist” hate mail after the company’s earliest foray into racial pandering. Cartman’s big epiphany is that wokeness and anti-wokeness are morally equivalent, feeding off each other and turning both camps equally stupid. Sure, Disney’s diverse remakes are lazy, but “railing about woke stuff all the time is pretty lazy too.”