“RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!”
May 27, 1998
“Mr. Barbrady goes back to school after it is discovered that he is illiterate. As he learns to read, a criminal is on the loose molesting all the chickens in South Park.”
Admittedly, there’s not a lot to cover in this episode. The themes are fairly broad and there’s little to no information from the creators about “Chickenlover.” However — this is the episode that gave us: “Respect my authoritah” so there’s that.
It turns out that the chicken rapist is a worker at a book fair, a clear parody of Scholastic Book Fairs. I wondered if this was based off Trey and Matt’s childhood experiences at book fairs, but I wasn’t sure Scholastic was around when they would have been in school. So after looking at the Scholastic website, I uncovered that they began hosting schools in 1981. Therefore, it’s possible Trey and Matt attended or saw evidence of Scholastic while they were in school since Trey was born in ’69 and Matt in ’71. However, there’s no verbal evidence from the creators that they ever felt creeped out by the workers. (And that concludes my investigative segment no one asked for.)
By far the biggest target in “Chickenlover” are the police, which is still relevant today. Officer Barbrady is illiterate and seemingly incompetent, boring a Cops crew following him around. Interestingly, once he resigns, South Park devolves into chaos, which seems to reference the likes of The Andy Griffith Show, whose whole schtick revolved around folksy incompetence doing good in the end. But Barbrady being somehow good is stifled by him murdering the Chicken Lover, which isn’t revealed until the last shot.
Barbrady even enlists the kids to help him, deputizing Cartman, which leads to the iconic “respect my authoritah” line. Clearly, Trey and Matt posit that Cartman fits right into the power trip of being a cop and isn’t an outlier.
Further, the incompetence of the police is actually proclaimed on their own vehicles and signage saying things like: “to serve and neglect” and “to patronize and annoy.” Despite some political right and left leaning from Trey and Matt, a seeming libertarianism really rears its head here. Trey and Matt don’t go after the police for racism and corruption but more out of general annoyance.
I think if you need evidence that the earth expands and contracts, you just need to look at South Park, because sometimes the town feels tiny…and other times it’s big enough to host a huge news conference just for Office Barbrady.
Overall, while a simple episode, it makes its points well through comedy, revealing how even a throw away gag with Cartman blossomed into a pop culture phrase we’re still quoting from the backs of our throats. Like master hit writers in pop music, Trey and Matt know how to give us what you could call ear worm comedy.
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