The South Park Pandemic Special is Free Therapy For Millennials
On Wednesday night South Park returned to Comedy Central for the show's first-ever hour long episode, “The Pandemic Special." As fans could predict, almost every controversial and non-controversial event that's swept through the 2020 news cycle was turned into a joke: Police brutality, COVID-19, lockdowns, wildfires, protests, Zoom meetings, mental breakdowns, and of course, Donald Trump. The punchlines for this episode practically wrote themselves. Let's face it - society today is blurred in satire.
The show plays out around the main plotline of Cartman, being the unruly child he naturally always has been, not wanting to go back to school "in the middle of a pandemic." Meanwhile, Randy Marsh, Stan's dad, was dealing with paranoia about how this whole pandemic began.
The South Park writers were consistently on-brand offending anyone and everyone through absurd yet retrospective commentary. All the jokes were so shamefully true. South Park is a show catered to a generation that embraces dark humor as a valid coping mechanism. In terms of resonating with its audience in this fashion, the South Park Pandemic Special hits the ball out of the park.
Millennials can be considered the generation who never grew out of their angsty teenager phase as every other generation did. Some experts believe the internet and television have something to do with our rather pessimistic and sarcastic take on life. TV was our escape from whatever awful reality we were dealing with at the time so we turned on shows like South Park for example. When social media gained popularity we then had a space to collectively complain about the dooming inevitable together using humor. This only perpetuated the concept of dark humor functioning as a coping method amongst our generation.
Psychology Today best describes this humor as "the kind that treats threatening or disturbing subjects (i.e. death, combat, disease, deformity) with levity or amusement." It offers a way to examine negative experiences from a "less threatening" point of view. This idea that dark humor is almost therapeutic, especially during these unprecedented times, is even humbly admitted throughout the South Park episode.
Half of the battle of living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been dealing with the emotional and mental challenges that have stemmed from it and a variety of other issues plaguing our society simultaneously. The South Park Pandemic special was just what the doctor had ordered for the generation that thrives on existential suffering.