Before South Park started playing around with a more serialized format, each episode was somewhat self-contained, its ending capped with a final statement. Even if that statement was stubbornly about not making a statement at all, there was a sense of there being some kind of lesson. The image of Stan or Kyle stepping front and center to deliver some overwrought, beyond-their-years moralizing became another one of the series’ many running jokes.

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Nowadays though, the show’s message is constantly morphing, never fully crystallizing until the very end of the season. And even then, it’s not always clear-cut. Every now and then, this results in narrative dragging or flat-out incoherence in some of the episodes leading up to the finale. But other times, the constant mutation tickles the brain, forcing you to mull over just what Parker and Stone are getting at.

“Wieners Out” is one of those episodes, more concerned with a broad yet relevant and sometimes complicated theme than any kind of concrete lesson. It all starts when Butters becomes outraged over Charlotte, who has followed the other girls’ leads and broken up with him in the wake of the troll debacle. So he takes action. First, he quietly protests at their volleyball game by whipping out his penis and throwing his left fist in the air. Later at school, the other boys all follow suit, dropping trou and marching down the hallway.

They’re never framed as being right. Rather than actually try to understand where the girls are coming from, they resort to victimization, then anger, then self-empowered masculinity, essentially becoming the elementary-school equivalent to #NotAllMen. Even Kyle, usually the voice of reason, gets more caught up in trying to make a move against Butters instead of actually listening to what Wendy, Bebe, or any of the other females have to say. Then, unable to take down his friend, he simply joins the half-naked mob.

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But it isn’t just the boys of the Wieners Out movement who are wrong, and that’s where the episode gets more complex. Parker and Stone did a great job last season of making PC Principal somewhat sympathetic, sometimes framing him as being right and sometimes framing him as being dangerous. That comes into play again here. If we’re just going off the most common stereotype of someone who’s seen as politically correct, or a social-justice warrior, or whatever the current buzzword is, PCP should, by all accounts, be on the side of the girls. But instead, he lets Butters and his gang do their thing, pointing out that the boys aren’t being violent or aggressive.

Only they are. No, they’re not physically assaulting anyone, and yes, their tiny members are animated to look harmless and insignificant; more cherub-like than sexually graphic. But the girls are still right. At the end of the day, it’s gross, offensive, childish and just plain fucked up for the boys to protest getting dumped by parading around school with their dicks out.

Even Cartman, who, as far as the audience can tell, really has become a somewhat better person, isn’t completely absolved. While he rightfully abstains from both wienering out and refusing to help Kyle strike back against Butters, I wouldn’t say he’s now enlightened when it comes to his treatment of the opposite sex. He’s more of a white knight, wearing his compassion as a badge of superiority over other males. Despite him being kinder toward the girls, he’s condescending toward anyone who isn’t just like him, similar to a newly sober person who chides others for drinking. Like Kyle, Butters, and PC Principal, he doesn’t quite seem to get it.

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And that’s the through-line to be gleaned from the Wieners-Out half of the episode: that many men fundamentally misunderstand or just don’t listen to women on a regular basis. That’s not exactly a lesson. Not yet anyway. It’s just a presentation of how things are. Just look at the current election. It’s telling that, directly before and while the episode aired, a slew of new sexual-harassment allegations came to light about Donald Trump. The phrase “locker-room humor”—rapidly becoming a euphemism for vulgar yet damaging conversation in both the real world and South Park—even comes up in “Wieners Out”’s other big storyline.

Those words get uttered by Gerald while trying to defend his online bile to another fellow troll. Like the boys’ arc, his struggle isn’t a completely black and white journey. While there’s no denying the despicable nature of all the trolls in the episode, it’s also hinted that the Danish site trolltrace.com—a good idea on the surface—could be equally as dangerous. As the BBC anchor points out to its creator, what happens when it’s used on someone who’s not a troll? That may not be exactly where the show’s headed with this, but I’d be surprised if the final outcome is just a hunting down of all the trolls with zero consequences for anyone else.

Because Parker and Stone have given themselves more time to resolve this, as well as the episode’s other in-flux storyline, they’re able to detour into the kind of nasty sight gag that’s become a staple of the South Park universe. When Sheila catches Gerald holed up in the bathroom, now physically resembling a troll as he hunches over his iPad, he lies and said he was looking at porn; not just the usual porn he seeks out, but the weird stuff. Piss porn. Wanting to please her husband, Sheila’s soon strutting around in her see-through lingerie before jetting a stream of urine directly into Gerald’s face. The site of him—an internet troll—shuddering and pretending to get turned on by a mouthful of pee will surely go down as one of the show’s finest moments. It’s nice to see that South Park’s capable of pulling off another classic gross-out, even as the creators may still be figuring out their season’s endgame.

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Stray observations

  • I’m wondering if any of the troll-hunting will be an explicit homage to Troll Hunter. As with that film, I appreciated that one of the trolls was dwelling under a bridge.
  • It was also nice to see the gamer from “Make Love, Not Warcraft” return as a troll.
  • Was Dildo Schwaggins wearing a Three Wolf Moon t-shirt?
  • Other great Schwaggins moments: him smoking an e-cigarette and, later on, sitting crosslegged like Pan while charming Gerald with his flute.
  • “I watch porn on the internet. I’m sorry. I’ll try to stop.”
  • “Memba Corellian Corvette?” The Star Wars references keep getting more and more obscure.

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