By far one of the lowest rated South Park episodes on IMDb, “Not Without My Anus” is a big “f*ck you” by Trey and Matt to fans awaiting a conclusion from the season 1 finale regarding Cartman’s father.
Obviously this pissed off a lot of fans and kicked off what is widely regarded as a rough season for South Park. A big suspicious note: Trey and Matt didn’t record a commentary track for this season, which might give us an indication that the creators themselves weren’t crazy about this period of work. There isn’t a lot of extra trivia for this episode or S2 on whole. Most if any tidbits for “Not Without My Anus” are about how much hate mail Trey and Matt received.
But despite the absence of South Park (the town) and its main characters, there are still a lot of details to unpack here.
Terrance and Phillip were notoriously created to be a straw man version of South Park. Detractors said the show was just fart jokes, so Trey and Matt made a mock version to contrast with their own show. Weirdly, Terrance and Phillip watch American TV in one scene, laughing at how bad it is, and we see Jerry Springer lumped in with South Park.
In the beginning of this fake episode of TV starring the farty Canadians, we witness Terrance on trial for murder and with the help of his lawyer, Phillip, he’s acquitted. There’s a line about how Terrance gets off with murder every week — a dark subversion of lawyer shows like Perry Mason or Matlock where a lawyer solves and acquits an innocent accused every week. While Terrance and Phillip are often thought of as light-hearted creations, its funny that their origins are quite dark. One wonders if Terrence being absurdly acquitted is a reference to OJ…?
However, standing in Terrance and Phillip’s way — is Scott — who functions as a lawyer in the show, but on a meta level is an audience surrogate. Scott is more upset about how farts aren’t proper humor than Terrance getting away with murder constantly.
There’s a subplot involving Celine Dion cheating on Terrance with a fellow named Ugly Bob, which calls to mind Trey’s own sordid love life (don’t forget Cartman’s mom is a caricature of Trey’s cheating fiancé).
Intertwined with that plot is a thread involving a long-lost, abandoned daughter Terrance has. But the inherent sadness in that premise is darkly undercut and not given any emotional weight; once again reminding us how dark Terrance and Phillip are behind all the, uh, farts.
And yes — Saddam Hussein is the villain of this episode, which makes this really stupid April fools’ joke strangely anchored to real world issues of its era. There is a cruel line referring to “Smelly Iranians”, but it’s more directed at Saddam to degrade him of power, so I’m not going to make any sort of ruling about whether that term/joke is crossing the line into actual racism or not.
What is surprisingly pointed about this episode is a brief moment when the US military steps in as Saddam is taking over Canada. It’s a surprisingly brutal moment of commentary: the military is cast as totally stupid, not picking up that Saddam is clearly taking over, giving him too much time to leave, and saying basically that whether or not Saddam clears out, they’ll bomb the sh*t out of Canada.
South Park already has a lo-fi, intentionally “crappy”, elementary aesthetic, but Trey and Matt take it to further heights in “Not Without my Anus” with their stripped down Canadian aesthetic. Despite the awful look of the episode, there are some impressive moments that simulate camera movements (most notably the end shot) and there’s some effective key framing, which was likely harder for computers to pull-off in the 90s as opposed to now.
On one hand, it’s frustrating and hard to believe Trey, Matt, and company “wasted” an entire episode on an April fools’ joke. Yet, there’s enough layers and commentary woven throughout to make this a worthwhile episode. Is it really that different than any other early episode featuring the South Park boys? And did we think the creators wouldn’t troll us on April Fools’ Day in such an over-the-top way? Like many auteurs before them, Trey and Matt tested their audience after a big first success, daring to define themselves and separate the wheat from the chaff.
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