After President Donald Trump’s unexpected victory more or less upended South Park’s post-election episode last fall, co-creator Trey Parker vowed to avoid the “same trap” that he said Saturday Night Live and CNN fell into when the show returned for its 21st season this week.
“We’re becoming: ‘Tune in to see what we’re going to say about Trump.’ Matt and I hated it but we got stuck in it somehow,” Parker told the Los Angeles Times, speaking for himself and partner Matt Stone. “We probably could put up billboards—‘Look what we’re going to do to Trump next week!’—and get crazy ratings. But I just don’t care.”
South Park may have kept Trump and his surrogate on the show, Mr. Garrison, out of Wednesday night’s premiere. But Parker and Stone did not steer clear of the firestorm caused by the president this summer when he blamed “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The episode opens with Cartman cracking up his fourth-grade friends by making his Amazon Alexa device say dirty things like “big hairy balls” and “stinky poop.” Meanwhile, across town a group of redneck-looking South Park residents led by Darryl Weathers are complaining that devices like Alexa and Google Home are pushing them out of their jobs.
“Automated personal assistants? Self-driving trucks? Whatever happened to people jobs?” he asks, before repeating that classic refrain from the show: “They took our jobs!” This time, the group takes the protest out onto the streets, where they wield tiki torches, wave Confederate flags and chant, “You will not replace us!” But instead of targeting Jews as the neo-Nazi demonstrators did in Charlottesville, these protesters were against technological automation guaranteed to take away far more jobs than any immigrant population ever could.
The protests keep interrupting the taping of Randy Marsh’s new reality-show “White People Renovating Houses”—also this week’s episode title—and he confronts them, asking, “Will you assholes knock it off? Don't you know every time you wave Confederate flags around you make the rest of us look stupid?” Ultimately, he takes them to court and accuses them of taking his “white people” brand and “running it through the gutter.”
Later, Randy comes up to the group of protesters and offers a truce. “Now look, there’s been a lot of hurt here. Hurt from both sides,” he says. “It’s time to end it. What if I told you I could get you all jobs?”
Much to Cartman’s horror, his solution is to replace everyone’s Alexa devices with human beings who are fully subservient to everything their owners ask them to do. The problem, of course, is that just as many native-born Americans don’t want to do the types of “degrading and menial” jobs some immigrants are willing to perform, and the Alexa replacements are not thrilled about their new careers as glorified slaves.
Finally, Darryl reaches a breaking point. “This whole country’s going to shit!” he exclaims. “Muslims tryin’ to kill us, black people rioting, and Mexicans poppin’ out babies. Pretty clear it’s either them or us, so I say kill ’em all!” By the end of the premiere, Randy is helping Darryl “tear down the foundation” of everything he knows about himself—in other words, renovating his house.
“Remember,” Randy concludes, “no matter how bad the country gets, you can always count on ‘White People Renovating Houses.’” If only solving America’s growing white-supremacy problem were so easy.