“It’s the reason a lot of us joined the force.”
“You see officers, apparently Leslie thinks that talking to her friends is more important than learning about diversity in third world countries.”
The latest episode of South Park opens with P.C. Principal, South Park’s new militant advocate for social justice, calling the police to punish a girl for talking during an assembly. The principal demands that militarized police remove her from the presentation.
The town’s local police officer, Barbrady, also enters the auditorium. When the principal shines a laser in his eyes, he panics and fires his gun, accidentally shooting a small Latino boy.
“People are tired of the police not being held accountable for their actions,” Mayor Henderson tells him in a meeting after the non-lethal shooting. Though the episode begins with an administrator all too willing to call the police for frivolous reasons, it quickly takes a turn: the town stands up to police brutality. Their first step is firing Barbrady.
Police officers in the town begin to recoil at growing anti-police sentiment, and when Kenny’s father calls the police to clear homeless people from their mostly abandoned part of town, the officers refuse to come.
“Are any of these homeless people of a minority persuasion?” the chief asks. “See, it used to be we could beat up minorities and nobody cared. It’s the reason a lot of us joined the force,” he continues before refusing to show.
Frightened of the homeless people and drug addicts, Kenny begins a ninja club in order to scare them away. Dressed in all black with their faces covered, the children clearly resemble members of the Islamic State. This terrifies the white people who see them playing in their newly constructed fortress.
Meanwhile, the town mounts further opposition to police.
“Now listen, not all cops are racist, trigger happy assholes,” one cop tries to explain to angry citizens. He is quickly shunned.
“Wow, we’ve only had a Whole Foods for a month, and already we don’t need cops. So cool,” Randy marvels, referencing an earlier episode where the town campaigns to add a Whole Foods to their gentrified food and arts district. Randy tends to represent the often ignorant, usually contradictory opinions of the South Park herd.
In a montage, the town’s upper-middle class white residents blast NWA’s “Fuck the Police” while protesting local cops. They harass and shun them, vandalizing one of their cars. “No to Pigs, Yes to Free Range Pork,” a newspaper headline reads. The police stop working.
As the town touts itself for loathing cops and advocating on behalf of minorities (while sipping wine and spending $50 on three items at Whole Foods), Kenny’s ninja clan attracts more children eager to play. The parents of the town grow increasingly terrified of what they assume is a terrorist group. At the same time, the ninjas’ presence scares away the homeless people and drives them to Shi Tpa Town, the bourgeois area of South Part where Whole Foods is located. Randy, one of the most outspoken critics of cops, is horrified at the denigration of his beloved high-end supermarket.
“I didn’t bust my ass to gentrify this part of town to have it overrun with homeless people,” he complains to the mayor. Other residents quickly blame the children’s membership in “ISIS” for the deterioration. “People are really freaked out by ninjas,” one child tells his parents, unaware the town believes he is a terrorist. Tensions mount.
Though criticism of police is abundant throughout the episode, the onus of responsibility quickly shifts from police to citizens.
The townspeople, led by Randy and the mayor, attempt to re-employ the police officers, who have turned their station into a hula school. Randy complains that the food and arts district is overrun with vagrants and ISIS is taking over the town.
“Sorry, but I guess you’ll have to find somebody else to do all the difficult, dirty shit you don’t want to do yourselves. I gotta be ready for the luau,” the police chief retorts.
Desperate and terrified of ISIS and the homeless, the townspeople reach out to Barbrady, who is now homeless, as well. In the midst of depression for failing at his job, the townspeople enlist him to help to stop the fictitious child terrorists. He protests, but Randy assures them they are dangerous. “Are any of them minorities?” he asks. “A couple of ‘em, yeah,” they reply. They convince Barbrady his services are needed and tell him to “go shoot those kids.” When he once again accidentally shoots a minority child, he is fired. The townspeople blame him for the violence and refuse to accept responsibility for telling him the children were terrorists.
In true South Park form, no one is exempt from criticism and satire. The episode features insults against gentrification, progressives, minorities, gays, ISIS, Jews, and of course, police. What becomes most apparent, however, is that while police are often aggressive individuals who join the force to use violence carte blanche, it is the townspeople who enable them.
After all, it is P.C. principal who calls the police on a girl for talking. Once the townspeople become so overwhelmed with fear and disgust at the pseudo-Islamic State and homeless people, they ask the police to do their violent bidding, once again. This is one of the fundamental problems spurring America’s growing police state.
As the episode illustrates, Americans are so engulfed in fear they are willing to tolerate police violence for the sake of comfort and security — whether that comes from combating ISIS or shunning the homeless. Though the episode is a clear indictment on police violence, it points the finger of responsibility squarely on the citizens who enable it.
Perfectly illustrating this sentiment, the episode concludes with the police force going back to work, clearing out the homeless from the gentrified part of town.
“Thank you, officers,” Randy says. “We’ve got a deal, right?” the chief asks.
The mayor confirms as the officers begin brutalizing the homeless people, and South Park returns to normal.
You can watch the episode in its entirety below:
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