The men who made Team America: World Police know a thing or two about patriotism. So it was no surprise that during South Park’s 20th season premiere, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took direct aim at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his national anthem protest.
Kaepernick has caused a nationwide firestorm by deciding to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” before NFL games as a protest of police brutality against African-Americans. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” the quarterback said late last month after a preseason game.
In the world of South Park, it is a group of fourth-grade female volleyball players at the center of the controversy.
Returning for season 20 is P.C. Principal, who announced at the end of last year’s season finale that he would be back and kept his promise. He, of course, was completely on board with the national anthem protest, defending the girls from their biggest troll—which everyone naturally assumed to be Cartman.
The debate over the national anthem led Congress to enlist director J.J. Abrams to “reboot” the national anthem like he did for Star Wars and Star Trek. “We all want something new, but that makes us remember the things we loved,” they tell him. The episode’s name, “Member Berries,” represented a sense of nostalgia not unlike the now infamous political slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
As they promised during an interview with The Daily Beast this month, creators Parker and Stone are continuing to use the character of Mr. Garrison as their stand-in for Donald Trump. Last year was the first time the pair decided to forgo the “reset” at the end of every episode and instead build story arcs that spanned the entire season. Now they have taken that idea even further, carrying over a plot from one season to the next.
Instead of taking on Trump directly, Mr. Garrison has become an avatar of sorts for Trump’s ideas. “We were like, fuck him, we don’t want to give him the satisfaction,” Stone told us of parodying the real GOP candidate. So instead of calling out the candidates directly, the Gallup poll of this episode pits a “turd sandwich” that looks a lot like Hillary Clinton against the “giant douche” that is Mr. Garrison with orange face paint.
Along with his running mate Caitlyn Jenner, Mr. Garrison first announced his candidacy for president last season with the song, “Where My Country Gone?” Instead of being outraged by Mexican “rapists and murderers,” he is fired up about illegal immigration from Canada and even more so that the town’s P.C. Principal is forcing teachers to take “Canadian-language” classes. He wants to build a massive wall along the northern border until he finds out that a distinctly Trump-like candidate has already done the same to keep Americans out.
“Are you telling me we’re about to be voted into office and have no fucking idea what we’re going to do?” Garrison asks Jenner at one point in the new episode, echoing what are widely believed to be Trump’s fears about actually winning.
Later, South Park presented its version of NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum, hosted by Matt Lauer, who was a lot tougher on Mr. Garrison than he was on Trump. “I’m not going to just get elected and look like a jackass,” the candidate insisted. “Why did the Democrats have to elect such a turd sandwich?”
The episode ultimately comes to a head at a 49ers game attended by both candidates. The unveiling of the new national anthem gives Mr. Garrison what he views as his best chance to sabotage his own campaign once and for all by sitting down when it is performed. “When I sit down to not support this thing, I’m sure to lose this election,” he says.
One problem: The only difference between “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Abrams’ new version is that it’s now acceptable to stand, sit or take a knee, all while “honoring America.” Just like in real life, there is nothing this Trump-like candidate can do to lose.
Oh, and Kyle’s dad is the real troll.