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Goin' Down to South Park Guide S 1 E 7: 'Pinkeye'


Goin’ Down to South Park Guide S 1 E 7: ‘Pinkeye’

South Park covers Halloween–and racism?


October 29, 1997

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Season 1

Episode 7

“The living dead beset South Park after a bottle of Worchestershire sauce mixed with embalming fluid at the mortuary; Tiny Yothers judged a costume contest.” 

The episode refers to the eye infection, but there’s more pressing matters at hand, like, maybe Cartman being his most loathsome yet? On the South Park DVD, there’s a live action segment with Trey and Matt where they say they wanted to do something regarding disease. Could that also be referring to the racism present? 

Before we move on, I have to mention the damn impressive Halloween intro. In fact, the whole episode has a lot of spooky craft going on, like the score, which has always been surprisingly versatile and effective throughout the show.

Goin' Down to South Park Guide S 1 E 7: 'Pinkeye'
Comedy Central: South Park

Specifically, as for the animation, it’s leagues more impressive than the previous episodes. All the blood and gore effects look great, the shadowy mood and colors are impressive, and the movements are smoother than ever (especially in regards to action and scale). Even the camera movements, like the follows and zooms, are well done. The reason for this, is that Pinkeye was the first new episode Trey and Matt made upon Comedy Central officially picking up the show for a whole season. Long gone are paper cutouts. 

Cartman dressed as Hitler for Halloween is, to say the least, quite shocking. While at first it seems to just be a cheap gag for shock value (which you could still argue it is), it goes for seemingly something deeper. Trey and Matt stick to their guns in the commentary arguing that Cartman being an asshole kid is the joke. Apparently Trey was inspired by John Clease’s Monty Python impressions of Hitler because he made Hitler sound “like such a weenie.” Hitler is not glorified, he’s mocked by Cartman’s fetishization. 

south park 1.7.2
Comedy Central: South Park

Let’s not skip over the fact that Cartman’s mom MADE the Hitler costume for her little man and that the principal gives him a KKK costume as a replacement. When the teachers find out about the Hitler costume, they show Cartman a very derivative video about how Hitler was merely “naughty” and you shouldn’t dress up…uh, just…because. The video doesn’t make the Nazis either terrifying nor does it deprive them of power like Mel Brooks did with his comedies. The parents and authority figures are complicit and also to blame. 

Reportedly, Comedy Central was worried about Hitler being used — but ultimately the creators received “very few” letters about the issue. Trey and Matt chalk it up to people recognizing Cartman’s foul nature as a character. This opens up interesting questions: is it OK to have racy jokes so long as it’s clear they’re from a mean character? Or further more: is there something wrong with audiences if they’ll tolerate racy jokes in a different context? In this case, the mockery is so centered on Cartman, it’s hard to imagine any real Nazis finding joy by seeing this depiction of Nazi paraphernalia and Hitler. 

comedy central 1.7.3
Comedy Central: South Park

We’ve talked a lot about adult indifference, and it shows up in Pinkeye from the very beginning. After a Russian satellite crashes right next to the kids waiting at the bus stop, an ambulance comes and they nonchalantly grab Kenny to drain him — but completely ignore the gory, visible Russian astronauts. Obviously this is also a meta joke about convenience and coincidence for plot movement. Back to the idea of indifference: inside the morgue, the duo of paramedics eat hot dogs next to the draining bodies and joke about necrophilia. 

Another theme covered a lot in this first season is the idea that the plots originally come from typical third grade experiences. So is there anything more central to the third grade experience than getting pinkeye? No matter how crazy things get, this series has a central authenticity that shines through and argues for South Park being an auteurist work. 

Now that South Park has been renewed for a full season, we can enjoy more fluid animation and increasing story confidence and streamlining; and “Pinkeye” is an astoundingly ambitious piece in every regard, impressing even today. It only gets better and more complex from here. 

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