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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Slash art gives way to blind tolerance in this week’s South Park

Illustration for article titled Slash art gives way to blind tolerance in this week’s South Park
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I have to admit, until tonight, I was unaware of the phenomenon that is Tweek x Craig yaoi. For my fellow uneducated South Park fans (if any of you are actually uneducated on the matter), the slash art depicted as overtaking the elementary school this week is very real, with countless romantic/sexual images of the two boys—usually of the anime variety—having surfaced online since they fought in the similarly titled episode “Tweek Vs. Craig” back in 1999. It’s hard to pinpoint why this trend exists beyond there somehow being a considerable number of people out there who just want to see the two characters get it on in the most empathetic, tender way possible. I guess it’s for the same head-scratching reason why there are those who paint Gandalf and Legolas boning, or Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, or any other fictional character combination under the sun. I don’t exactly understand it, but I accept it.

And that’s what makes it perfect fodder for another PC-centric episode of South Park. PC Principal and every other person in town is too busy worrying about the community’s insistent acceptance of Tweek and Craig’s relationship to realize that neither boy is actually gay. To Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s credit, they portray everyone’s open-mindedness as being sincere, which is a nice change of pace from the ugly, cynical (still funny, mind you) dishonesty on display in several of the other episodes this season. When watching “The City Part Of Town,” for example, it’s clear that Randy Marsh doesn’t give a rat’s ass about actually being socially progressive—he just wants South Park to appear that way.

But in “Tweek x Craig,” everyone seems to be genuinely cool with homosexuality, so much that they tiptoe around the fact that the non-existent couple at the episode’s center is straight. That tolerance ends up being a nightmare for the two boys, forcing them to create a pretend relationship for the public so that the harmony can continue and they can keep being an inspiration for anyone seeking their own romantic happiness. It’s a sham, but a well-intentioned sham, as Tweek and Craig recognize that tolerance is a good thing that’s not often seen in South Park, especially with this much sincerity (even Cartman comes around to it here). At the end of the day, Parker and Stone posit that it’s better when people overextend themselves to be accepting rather than secretly (or openly) being bigoted, as is the case with Craig’s dad (at least at first). Also, Tweek and Craig really are good buddies.

So if anything, “Tweek x Craig” is critical not of homophobia, but of something much more general, something that’s become the target of many, many South Park episodes since the show first aired: following a trend without doing the research. The only reason anyone thinks Tweek and Craig are gay in the first place is because of the aforementioned erotica, which gets drawn by a bunch of Asian schoolgirls simply because they think the two boys are cute. There’s no logical reasoning behind any of it other than the girls’ own sexual quirks, but that doesn’t stop everyone from taking the romance seriously. And that central joke—an entire community buying into something that’s so untrue and so silly—is a hallmark of South Park if there ever was one. The plot of “Tweek x Craig” isn’t as scathing as it is universal and observant, its lightness also making room for one of the funnier and odder Cartman storylines we’ve seen in quite some time.

Ironically, Cartman ends up being the character who might actually be gay—not that he should be called out for it. It’s just that he’s clearly repressing some feelings that are manifesting themselves in unhealthy ways, the most alarming instance being a masturbation fantasy where he imagines his miniaturized Cupid doppelgänger playing with his ass. Is this a symbol of repressed homosexuality, or is it just further proof that Cartman’s an especially sick kind of narcissist, the kind who desires to literally fuck himself? Either way, it seems like something that needs to be addressed by those close to him. But no one does, not even his mother, who walks in on Cartman jerking off in the bathroom at the episode’s end. Instead of talking to her son, however, she smiles, hums to herself, and goes back downstairs. Like everyone in South Park, she’s too caught up in fake hype to notice the more real and interesting thing right in front of her.

Stray observations

  • The long-game narrative continues thanks to Butters’ neck-brace.
  • You’re probably all already aware of this, but the various pieces of slash art seen throughout the episode were created by fans thanks to an open call from Parker and Stone.
  • There are many things I love about Cupid Me, but his most amusing trait (outside of “tee-hee”-ing and giggling while peeing in peoples’ mouths) is how he takes Cartman’s vernacular to the extreme. “You” becomes “Yeeewww” and so on.
  • Apparently, there’s a great deal of Kyle/Cartman slash fiction out there, too, appropriately titled “Kyman.” Is there a bigger instance of hate-fucking in this world?
  • It warmed my heart to see that Butters and Charlotte hadn’t cut off all contact.
  • Was that Parker singing his own cover versions of “The Book Of Love” and “Say Something”? It sounded like it. If so, I’m going to count that as another musical number this week.
  • “Our town has only had a Whole Foods for three weeks, and we already have our first gay kids.”
  • “Now Craig, what would you say if you wanted to take a gander at Tweek’s asshole?”