Why Season 20 of South Park Was Bad

Updated on January 29, 2017

No one's a bigger fan of South Park than me. I think it's because South Park is designed to speak with the voice of middle America, to counteract cultural messages that we're all somehow less important than people in New York City or Los Angeles. South Park runs on making fun of celebrities, who are people who society thinks are important. But South Park is saying that other people in "redneck" small towns are just as important and interesting as they are, even though the show treats citizens of the titular town with just as much derisive mockery (especially in the way that it handles its portrayal of the mayor and chief police officer in the earlier seasons). I like it also because it makes fun of everyone. No race, religion, political point of view, etc. is sacred in South Park.

Originally, the show had no political correctness. They weren't trying to please everyone, they just let loose with the shock comedy on everyone and everything. But in season 19, the topic of political correctness and recent changes in society are addressed, as South Park struggles to adapt to a new world. I liked that season, because it called attention to the hypocrisy and insincerity of PC culture and had some spot-on commentary about gentrification, advertising, privilege, language policing, and virtue signaling.

But Season 20 was pretty much downhill. One problem was that the whole season has one continuing story. While 19 had a continuous narrative elements and themes, each episode was more stand-alone. With 20, I just kind of marathoned it like it were all one big movie. It's a good thing that the creators of the show wanted to try something new, but I don't think it was very good. Mostly because all those episodes built up to a climax that disappointed. But more on that later. So here are 6 reasons I didn't like the latest season of South Park.

6. The Member Berries Sucked

Maybe it's because I marathoned this season, watching it all at once, but I found them to be incredibly annoying. They're essentially a running joke about how there is good nostalgia and bad nostalgia, and the latter is blamed for the rise to power of Donald Trump (Mr. Garrison assumes this role in the show.). But they're not the first people to say that, or to criticize nostalgia in general, so it comes across as an attempt at social commentary that's not very meaningful or new. But as characters, these are the Jar Jar Binks of the South Park land. The humor associated with them gets very repetitive and dull very fast. They also don't seem like they got any sort of decent resolution to their story, so it felt like there was no point in them even being there. I guess South Park sets itself apart with surreal comedy, obviously, but this was one of their lamer creations.

5. The Danish Guy Was a Boring Villain

A major source of conflict towards the end of the season involves Gerald, Kyle's father, locked in a battle against some... Danish guy, who wants to make it so that anyone can search for anyone's entire internet history, ending anonymity. Kyle's dad is a troll called SkankHunt42, so he does not want this secret out, obviously, and he goes to absurd lengths to protect this secret. But the conflict wasn't that satisfying. Do we root for Gerald knowing that he was a troll and heartlessly bullied a woman with breast cancer until she committed suicide? And then the trolls Gerald befriended all end up trapped in Denmark in a convoluted James Bond -esque world domination plot that didn't make sense and just wasn't all that satisfying to watch. You can't make me afraid of Danish people. Sorry. They're just too bland and mellow to become believable as any kind of villainous cabal. Matt and Trey do better at making fun of evils that actually exist in the real world (North Korea, terrorists, Saddam Hussein, etc.) and using their laser-guided satire on them. And any person who knows writing will tell you that a bland villain makes for a dull story.

4. Cartman Was Boring

If the Cartman from previous seasons could see the Cartman from this season, he would kick his own ass. In the beginning of the season, Cartman starts talking the talk, pretending he's on board with political correctness and feminism. But it seems mainly that that's so people won't suspect him of being SkankHunt42, who becomes hated at the school because girls protest his trolling by breaking up with their boyfriends as a group, sort of like the kiddie version of a Lysistrata gambit. Everyone thinks the troll they hate is Eric Cartman. But, when the boys get together and break all of Cartman's electronic equipment, they find out it's not him (and it turns out to be Kyle's dad).

But even after he is forcibly exiled from social media, he doesn't get elaborate revenge on everyone, Cartman style. In fact, he becomes even more obnoxiously PC and castrated-acting when he befriends and then starts dating Heidi, a girl who left social media due to trolling. So obviously, they're going for a classic "he's acting totally not himself because of a girl" schtick you see in a lot of buddy comedies and the old episode of South Park where Chef dated a succubus. That would have been fine if we only had to endure Cartman acting so out of it for only an episode or two, but he acted strange like that for the entire season, robbing us of the hilarious antics of the foul-minded sociopath we know and love. It's one thing to have a character act brainwashed, crazy, hypnotized, or whatever for an episode or two. Like in Kill La Kill when Ryuko got brainwashed into siding with the villains. But change their character on a fundamental level for a whole season, and you'll get people really wanting their jerk back. Season 20 Cartman is an offense to Cartmanhood.

3. The Ending Goes Nowhere

Well, you have:

  • A showdown where the Danish guy tries to destabilize the world and use the trolls for whatever it was again? I have no idea what he even wanted.
  • The member berries planning... something, and being somehow connected to this destabilization of the world, but their part in it all is never made clear and their story also goes nowhere.
  • Cartman and Butters are in a love rivalry for Heidi, who figures out how humanity can go to Mars to escape internet trolling. The problem? Cartman figures out that girls on Mars will keep men as slaves for semen and jokes, so he bails. But if you want a big return to the comedic sociopath Cartman was in earlier seasons, you will be disappointed. Basically nothing this season does to Cartman even makes him angry, in contrast with how angry he used to get over very minor slights.
  • There is some crap about Mr. Garrison as a stand-in for Donald Trump becoming president and having no idea what he's doing, and... by the end, he kind of still doesn't really know what he's doing or how to run a country. He's just tricked by Kyle and Mr. Slave into doing what's necessary for the plot. He doesn't learn how to really stand on his own.
  • Does Gerald even learn a lesson? How does the world grow and change after this? The plot doesn't seem to have any meaningful consequences, even after such an enormous buildup.

So, yeah, for a show that spent all this time building up to them, the final conflicts of this season were boring and meaningless.

2. The Political Stuff Was Lame

I'm not sure why, but they didn't seem like they were doing political satire as well as they used to. Almost all of their mockery was aimed at Donald Trump, and they made Hillary Clinton look like a reasonable authority figure who deserved to be elected. Maybe it's just sour grapes on my part because I'm no fan of Hillary myself, but they could have done more with her in terms of, she has a lot of things you could make fun of her for. It seems kind of weird when you contrast how much South Park seemed to suck up to Hillary Clinton this season with how much they've stretched the truth and made up tall tales to satirize other famous people like Barbara Streisand and Paris Hilton. There is not one joke really at Hillary Clinton's expense, other than the repetitious dubbing of both politicians as "Turd Sandwich" and "Giant Douche", a callback to a previous, actually funny, bit of political humor from South Park.

But also, everything they say about Mr. Garrison as Trump has been said about Trump before, and they repeat the same jokes at his expense over and over again. How many times did it need to be restated that Garrison had no idea how to be president, for example? Like the member berries, Mr. Garrison's character in this season was a one-dimensional, boring character, about whom the show makes the same joke over and over and over ad nauseum. Trump is also a person with more satirical potential than this season of South Park gave him.

South Park has done amazing political satire in the past. But this season's was lacking, for whatever reason. And we've had a ca-ra-zy election. We've had people acting like baboons on both sides! You barely even need to paint the craziest supporters of Trump and Hillary with a satirical brush, they're already basically living satire. We've had the internet blow up with hot-headed arguments between radical SJWs and anti-SJWs. We've had people accusing Trump of homophobia while his most vocal supporter is a flamboyant gay man. For the first time in history, more people started to see fucking InfoWars as more credible than "real" journalism, because the mainstream media lied over and over again. Where was any of this crazy shit going on in the real world's South Park counterpart?

1. The Narrative Separates and Divides Main Characters

This is a problem for South Park. The original first few seasons were all about the main four boys doing things together, solving problems as a team. In this season, every main character is off doing their own thing, and none of them are united. We have:

  • Cartman: getting totally castrated and pussy-whipped for an entire season.
  • Stan: he kind of gets caught in the middle somewhere and does nothing really proactive, kind of like Kenny, who basically does nothing the whole time.
  • Kyle: goes through the whole story arc of his father being the troll, helps Gerald bring down Denmark in the end, along with Ike, although they really piss his mother off in the process.
  • Butters: becomes a satirical exaggeration of an MRA, literally waving his penis around to protest girls protesting trolls by breaking up with the boys.

So, the story of this season makes two main characters inactive, and makes Butters and Cartman act way out of character for the entire season. With the exception of maybe Kyle and Ike, very few of the characters do anything great in this conflict, and Butters and Cartman are reduced to unfunny running jokes. Original South Park had these boys doing things as a team. I guess now, they're acting more mature and sophisticated, sort of more like high school children than elementary school age, or even like college students. But this narrative separated and isolated them, so that they never had those important character-defining moments where friendships are tested. They just all kind of went separate ways and had separate adventures.


Since the finale of Season 20 is called "The End of Serialization As We Know It", I'm assuming that the creators themselves are aware that this season totally nosedived. I have big hopes for the next season, and I'm seriously hoping that this show isn't going to go sour permanently. I think South Park has had a lot of really great episodes and story ideas, and I might even go so far as to call it the most creative and original adult comedy TV show. But even a fan like me has to admit, the last season, though funny in moments, was not the best that South Park could be.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 47 hours ago from Illinois

      Yeah I miss when it was really foul and depraved and just didn't care what the Sunday School moms thought.

    • profile image

      Matthew 3 days ago

      It was awful. I think you nailed it and while season 21 was “better” it still sucked in my opinion.

      Whatever happened to episodes like Chickenlover? Gone are the days.......

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 3 weeks ago from Illinois

      Yeah, I can't deny that episode was terrible and it's not as funny as it was. A lot of shows have gone on too long and lost touch with their original inspiration.

    • profile image

      Joe 3 weeks ago

      I disagree with you Rachael. Season 21 sucks even more than 20 did. Not funny, consensual, and the scenarios were really lame. That episode with the elder people selling drugs is incredibly bad. Why did they introduce this bland and useless Marcus guy? It's even worse than the latest Simpson or family guy episodes.

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 3 weeks ago from Illinois

      Season 21 is OK. It's not as big of a train wreck as season 20 was, but it's not terrible either. I just think new South Park is having a hard time trying to stay relevant and funny in a PC thought-police era. It's kind of sad that Matt and Trey have given in to pressure from society to be all sensitive. They didn't used to give a shit about sensitivity or offending people. The point was to offend everyone. And that's why I liked them. SMH.

    • profile image

      BobsAndVagena 3 weeks ago

      You basically said what I would say but better and more. Spotted on point of view. I wonder how so many people liked season 20. Some even credited it as the best season ever. I facepalmed.

      South Park and PC? Wtf. The whole show had been anti-PC I thought they would hype Trump instead of making the assumption that Hillary would win so much so they didn't have enough time to change the last episode.

      For that reason I haven't watched the lastest new season and i hope it's good. I have rewatched all episode at least 6-8 times now. It'd be sad to see this show go down hill.

      Yours, also South Park biggest fan,


    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 5 months ago from Illinois

      Ryan Yeah, it does kind of seem like they're trying too hard to push liberal culture policing instead of focusing on actually being funny. Ending serialization is good but they've actually done good serialization before, that wasn't it. The real problem is they're focusing too much on making a political statement than on being entertaining. S21 E1 was just them preaching against "omg Alexa is misogyny because it lets men control a subservient woman-voice" and "omg people waving Confederate flags are so dumb" but neither of those opinions are being shown in a way that I think is funny. I guess like many things, South Park has gone from underdog to establishment. And lost its edge.

      Bimbo schwartz, No, I really don't care if people make fun of Trump, if it's funny. But I think that S20 of South Park had major flaws in their writing that don't have much to do with politics. But the major problem was political in that, they set up the whole season's story arc during an election they seemed certain was going to swing in favor of Hillary. So when it didn't, they had no idea how to write the show, because they had planned it to go the other way. That's a risk you take when you're trying to be topical all the time.

      I don't care about mockery of Trump, if it's funny. I also think their mockery of Trump didn't even go far enough. It wasn't funny because it didn't even really capture what's bad about Trump, or his true personality. You kind of have to draw a portrait before you learn to draw a caricature. Making Mr. Garrison Trump seems like a bad choice, why not just have the real Trump in the show? Mr. Garrison doesn't have Trump's background as a tough business guy or a reality star, so there's many jokes you could make about Trump that you can't make about Mr. Garrison miming Trump.

    • profile image

      Ryan 5 months ago

      I much agree with your article. Well written and accurately describes the flaws with the past 2 seasons. Real sad, especially as a fan from the beginning, to see season 21 taking the same path.

      Guess I won't be watching South Park anymore.

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 7 months ago from Illinois

      Rick, yes, I'd like it more if they stuck to wacky adventures like in earlier seasons instead of trying to make everything topical. Later seasons of Futurama failed for this same reason. One problem with doing current events in South Park is that the show's main characters are supposed to be elementary school children. In the earlier seasons, they showed naivite and innocence and the confusion about adult topics typical of boys their age. And that's where a lot of the humor comes from. Now, they're acting like little adults or like high-school aged kids. They should age them up or make the show fit what 4th graders are actually like.

    • profile image

      Rick 7 months ago

      The problem with this show since season 12 is that they are trying to make South Park keep up with current events. Anything that's trending or popular South Park will make an episode about. South Park was good when the four boys were going on crazy original adventures. I watch South Park to get away from the world, watching South Park is like watching the news now. If I wanted to see Colin kaepernick or trump I'd turn on the news. The show lacks originality and needs to go back to doing silly stuff with the boys and their peers. Randy is a cool side character but they need more stand cartman Kyle and Kenny not randy or the adults

    • profile image

      Some guy 8 months ago

      Also, where the hell was Kenny?

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 8 months ago from Illinois

      I was referring to Milo Yiannopoulos.

    • profile image

      rpm 8 months ago

      Agreed 100% that this season was below par.

      Q: Who is the flamboyant gay man that is Trump's biggest supporter?

    • profile image

      ak 10 months ago

      This is by far the best, deepest, and fairest review of season 20 that I've read. After reading, I scrolled up to see who the author. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it was a female, since the author admitted to not liking Hillary much. (I too despised both candidates.) Thanks for the great read.

    • profile image

      Nudder Guy 11 months ago

      Great article. You clearly articulated my frustrations with this season, some of which I couldn't put a finger on. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Guy 12 months ago

      Great read. Thanks