There hasn’t been a lot to laugh about over the past two years, which might be why South Park has been relatively dormant. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s animated Comedy Central hit has long rooted its humor in timely concerns, and while that’s continued to be true during the pandemic, it’s resulted in only a quartet of COVID-era specials, the last of which—November’s and December’s follow-up, South Park Post Covid: The Return of Covid—imagined a dismal future in which the world was still grappling with the viral plague. Thus, as the series finally returns for a proper season (its 25th), it remains to be seen how regularly Parker and Stone will address our ongoing global nightmare—although at least on the basis of its eagerly anticipated premiere, the show doesn’t seem likely to stop pushing topical buttons.
“Pajama Day” kicks off the latest South Park run with Kyle, Stan, Cartman and their colorful classmates going back to school following a break marred by “a few distractions.” While it’s not hard to deduce what that refers to, COVID isn’t overtly mentioned once during the ensuing, extremely silly half-hour. Rather, the initial center of attention is Mr. Garrison, who regales his students with tales about his new affair with a gray-haired and mustached gentleman named Rick, whom he far prefers to his “narcissistic psychopath” prior beau Marcus. This wholly inappropriate narrative is soon interrupted by both an appearance by Rick (who finds his presence in the classroom awkward), and a call from Marcus that goes haywire when the kids—who’ve been ordered by Mr. Garrison to stay quiet—refuse to help back up their teacher’s claims to his ex. Their silence sends Mr. Garrison into an abject tizzy, thereby attracting the notice of PC Principal, who views the fourth graders’ disobedience as so disrespectful that he does the unthinkable: He prevents them from wearing pajamas at the school’s upcoming Pajama Day.
“We keep not doing anything wrong, and we keep getting fucked!” laments Cartman about this punishment, and that sentiment is one of the episode’s many thinly veiled allusions to America’s present state of mind. When Wendy asks PC Principal to reconsider, he counters by declaring that in order to project strength and leadership, he has to stick to his guns—and then derides Wendy and her friends for making Nazi Germany references just because they haven’t gotten what they wanted. It’s not long before just about everyone is slandering PC Principal’s stance as the sort of measure that only a goose-stepping Third Reicher might love, including a local TV news reporter who goes from casually dropping German phrases into his broadcasts to wearing an SS uniform and screaming at kids as a Deutschland band plays in the background.
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