“ME STAN!” – An Elephant Makes Love To A Pig (Or, the creator’s preferred title: ‘An Elephant F*cks A Pig’
September 10, 1997
“Kyle tries to crossbreed an elephant with a pig to win a science contest.”
South Park has already fallen into a charmingly offensive rhythm, finding a concept that’s ridiculous and could even be a children’s show episode, but cramming in as much social commentary and bathroom humor as possible.
The main plot revolves around, as the title would imply, crossbreeding an elephant with a pig. This ridiculous concept’s explanation is just as silly. Apparently Stan ordered the elephant in the mail from Africa. Is this a commentary on the commercialization and poaching of African culture? Probably not, but it’s amusing nonetheless to imagine exotic critters being shipped to middle America in cardboard boxes with holes in them.
Here’s where things get tricky — the elephant gets mistaken by the bus driver as a “retarded kid.” This gag is pushed further by showing a bus filled with outlandishly stereotypical handicapped kids. I suppose you could make the argument this is some kind of critique, but it reflects worse on Trey and Matt for making a cheap crack at special needs kids, playing into some kind-of ignorant fear that they’re wild and crazy. Obviously Trey and Matt’s use of the handicapped for Adam Sandler type humor isn’t over by a long-shot in the series (AHEM Timmy, Jimmy, Nathan).
Unfortunately, that type of cruel humor has even worse subtext. When a mutant Stan is created (we’ll get to that later), his dialog is apparently inspired by a handicapped MTV character from “How’s Your News?” Yet, as discussed in previous episodes regarding topics like sexism, it’s hard to pin Matt and Trey as hateful people.
They, like their show, reflect their culture — and as comedians, they intentionally push boundaries and try to get a rise out of people clutching their pearls. Does that make offensive jokes OK? Not necessarily (although it really depends on the circumstances), but there are surrounding factors to jokes that don’t necessarily equate edginess with genuine hate from the creators.
But wait, we’re still not done talking about elephants. The main thrust of this plot is about genetic engineering, which is mocked savagely. It’s explained as a way to “fix God’s horrible, horrible mistakes — like German people,” which could be taken as a common complaint about the Judeo-Christian god and how messed up the world is.
But the genetic engineering is immediately ripped of legitimacy, since the greatest achievement made are four-assed animals and bunny ears tied to fish. I doubt the creators actually have major qualms with genetic research as Tamara Ikenberg from The Baltimore Sun suggests, but it fits in with their knack for finding topics of cultural discussion and incorporating it to surreal effect. In the previous year, ’97, Dolly the sheep was cloned, which was likely the impetus for the episode.
I’ve talked before about how zany South Park is willing to go, so let’s not forget that the geneticist, despite being a phony at first, actually clones a human foot and then a massive Stan mutant just from one strand of hair! Of course the geneticist dismisses it because it just has one ass.
There’s a whole added element about Chef saying they could sell pot-bellied elephants along with the contest between the geneticists son — but it all starts just because they want a smaller pet because Kyle’s mom doesn’t want an animal so big. Again, Trey and Matt take a kid’s show idea (parents not liking a kid’s pet/s) and blows it gloriously into absurdity.
To make things nice and confusing, the pig gives birth to offspring that looks just like Mr. Garrison. Um…throw-away joke about Garrison’s vanity…? Or bestiality?
This is the first appearance of Shelly, and apparently her abuse of Stan was inspired by Trey actually being abused by his sister. What’s that line about writers using their projects for free therapy? Interestingly, the abuse is shrugged off by Mr. Garrison who tells Stan to, “Stop being a wuss.” This theme of misunderstanding, conservative value parents is a running theme we keep encountering. It’s especially a staple of kid’s content so the viewers will relate more, but South Park, of course made by adults, still proudly punches down to authority figures.
Apparently there’s a cut scene where Shelly sets Stan on fire and it was cut because Beavis and Butthead’s own fiery antics tragically inspired a child to play with fire and inadvertently killed his two year old sister. Media usually shouldn’t be blamed for influences the youth in matters like violence (which has been categorically proven false), but it’s trickier when it comes to very young children trying to replicate what they see. However, although South Park is a cartoon, it’s an adult cartoon, so you’d think the responsibility would lie more on the parents.
Let’s not forget Jesus and Pals playing in the background as Stan is assaulted. Commentary on holy indifference and commercialization? Also note that when Stan wrecks the studio, Jesus doesn’t do anything.
By the time the Stan clone is unleashed, the residents are somehow completely oblivious to the difference between the mutant and the real kid. There’s comedy ignorance for you. But it’s outright disturbing when the newscaster encourages people to kill 8-year old Stan.
South Park pulls out their penchant for subversive, cruel endings with Shelly protecting Stan only to run him over with a lawn mower. This cruel twist is apparently based on Trey’s own sister.
You saw it coming: but let’s talk about how creepy Chef is. Chef has to go on and talk about getting women real drunk and equating an elephant having sex with a pig to him and white women…in front of children. Even Trey and Matt felt uncomfortable asking Isaac Hayes to say the line. At this point you just have to accept it as a creepy joke and move on. But can I ask where “the children” got a party keg?
There’s an odd moment where the show comes to a grinding halt just to make jokes about Pip. Apparently it was cut from the first episode and shoved here for some reason despite the fact that the animation is paper-cut for this one exchange.
Cartman continues to develop into a loathsome little guy with a hot slather of sexism out of the gate. However when he’s actually confronted by an actual girl, Shelly (Stan’s now abusive sister who’s the main antagonist here), he chickens out and blames others. Yes, he’s being gross, but the joke is that he’s spineless, as most trolls are. And to think this was before Twitter…
While Cartman is a scumbag, it’s impossible not to feel empathy for him when he naively talks about his mom smoking crack and having sex in his dad’s bed. Perhaps this was character inspiration for Charlie from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
Overall, this episode starts off a little too mean spirited with cheap shots at those with mental disabilities. However, it’s quickly able to turn around and play to its strong suits: taking the plights of children and blowing it up to a massive scale while incorporating social commentary. But unlike the previous episode that positively dealt with the topics of LGBTQ+ issues, Trey and Matt clearly don’t have as much passion about the topic of genetic engineering, using it more as a springboard for absurd animation.
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