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By Zack Gutin · June 13, 2011
Now Departing: South Park, CO. Destination: New York City
If you haven’t seen the mid-season finale of South Park, properly titled “You’re Getting Old,” that’s an easy problem to rectify. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the tireless creators of the heavy-hitting off-color cartoon, SOUTH PARK, make every piece of their 15-season long puzzle available for free viewing at www.southparkstudios.com. It makes it very easy to stroll down Memory Lane and examine the lives of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny.
It’s a stroll that the creators, amidst watching their talents flourish into new mediums (i.e. their Broadway hit The Book of Mormon), have had the chance to take. The mid-seasons finale, as is well documented elsewhere on fan sites, Twitter and Facebook, certainly smacked their loyal following with a surprising realization of it’s own aging. Via a storyline that explores Stan reaching age 10 and immediately recognizing a change in his interests and tastes, we see what may be weighing heavy on the minds of Matt and Trey, and what may lie ahead on the horizon for the boys of the tiny Colorado town. It felt like an emotional confession: the beginning of the end.
As the episode starts, the tween music (music made during the years 2009-2012) revolution has swept-up the children of South Park, along with every other youth across the nation. The music itself, to the parents of South Park, sounds like crap. Literally. To the ears of adults, the music sounds like a loud release of human waste. The problem soon becomes, as Stan turns 10, that he begins to hear the same thing. The tunes that every kid is listening to sounds like waste-spewing explosions. Before long, movie previews, video games and even ice cream seem disgusting to Stan. He seeks help from a doctor and is diagnosed with an ailment known as “Being a Cynical Asshole.”
The immensely self-aware episode uses the “sounds like crap” device to explore the shows’ often used vulgarity and the possibility that, there is just nothing left for the creators to, well, shit out. No matter how hard the older members of the town try to understand or accept the nonsensical music, the more and more we realize the metaphorical perspective they’ve been given – as the eyes and ears of Matt and Trey. They make clear observations that their beloved world may be reaching the bottom of the proverbial “water well” (“I feel like we might not have much more time,” says a character in the third act)that has so generously given to them since they first emerged with it in 1992 (and then again in 1995) as the earliest form of a viral sensation with their short films featuring the foul-mouthed kids that became fodder for office email chains throughout the holiday season.
The fact that Stone and Parker feel themselves settling into this older point of view won’t be lost on their fanbase. This has been a long journey for the two legends. When the series started, surely their perspective was filtered through their cartoon youngster creations. How impressive for them to recognize that once they begin relating more to the parent figures instead, it’s time to leave while still on top, before anything gets ugly. No reason to cite the many-a-awkward series wrap-up we TV fans have seen over the years. They know who they are. Better to honor the “boulder” (Colorado joke) decision to prepare a graceful exit. If these two amazingly talented creators are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, fifteen seasons is certainly a nice run and a nice round number with which to tie it all up in a pretty bow for Comedy Central (especially for DVD/Digital packaging – “South Park – The Complete Series: All 15 Seasons” sure has a nice ring to it).
As The Book of Mormon takes a perch atop the all-time elite productions on Broadway, it appears the always-wild Stone and Parker have indeed matured and once again conquered. Their personal horizons seem to be chock full of something new, and dare I say, perhaps something more fulfilling for them as they each round past the 40 year marker. Poop jokes with something of a deeper meaning have been their bread and butter, but their sharp-witted take on government, war, and religion have also shone through in their films, and now their visit to Broadway seems as if it might be a long-term opportunity to give even more.
With another 7 episodes guaranteed to fulfill the second half of this fifteenth season, this certainly was not the last we’ll see of the show. But, the wrap-up of Stan pondering his future certainly leads this reviewer to believe that those final episodes will be the series’ last and will likely explore similar character-defining stories as they bring closure and understanding to each circle-headed lad. The fans of Matt and Trey are completely devoted to them and – through one form or another – the lifelong writing duo will no doubt continue to deliver their brand of humor through new mediums. But, this midseason finale was undoubtedly a signaling of their plans – a symbolic ‘tearful smile,’ the start of a long goodbye, from two artists to their fans. It appears that the bright lights on the street blocks of Broadway are a guided detour, leading Matt Stone and Trey Parker onto a highway out of South Park.