South Park fans will be long familiar with the cheerful poo character Mr Hankey. In the world of South Park, Hankey is a beloved icon of children's Christmas entertainment. But, like so many celebrity icons before him, Mr Hankey is about to find himself on the wrong side of public opinion.
After a few late-night Twitter tirades fueled by Ambien, the generally good-spirited Mr Hankey finds he is on the wrong side of public opinion, in this week's episode. It is a very obvious tip-of-the-hat to the real-world incident with sitcom star Roseanne Barr, whose show was cancelled after a series of racist tweets that she at first appeared to claim had been enhanced by pharmaceuticals. With this timely premise, the South Park team seizes the opportunity to rip into the supposed 'cancel culture' that brought her down.
What follows is an episode that takes some bold swings as it deftly points to the backlash against everyone from Roseanne, to US Supreme Court Justice and accused sex offender Brett Kavanaugh, to the writers of The Simpsons. The conversation itself is an unexpected pop culture landmine.
The forward-thinking citizens of South Park determine that the controversial Mr Hankey is a bit on the nose. After being told that there was no room for negotiation and that "it's just time to go", Mr Hankey is bundled into a Lyft (the more socially acceptable car ride service) and sent on his way to somewhere that we're told is a place where nobody cares whether anyone is offensive: Springfield.
Cue Mr Hankey meeting The Simpsons iconic characters Homer, Bart, and Apu.
This is where the episode starts to get meta-textual, ensuring this episode of South Park will be one of the episodes that we'll be talking about for years to come. The episode culminates with the hashtag #CancelTheSimpsons, referencing the shows own ongoing commentary that South Park has been running for so many years that it no longer has relevance (this season the show has promoted its own #CancelSouthPark hashtag). And if South Park is now out of date, then so too is The Simpsons. And in making that point, they're also taking a swing at the fascinating The Trouble With Apu documentary.
For an episode interested in pushing the idea that outrage culture is going too far and suggesting it is exerting energy in the wrong places, it's interesting to see South Park commenting on the outrage surrounding its animated sitcom progenitor The Simpsons.
The Problem With Apu is a documentary essay by comedian Hari Kondabolu about his own relationship with the Apu character from The Simpsons, a character that he views as a racist stereotype that is out of touch with the times.
The documentary has been an eye-opener for a lot of viewers who have been forced to evaluate the lengths to which the Apu character satirises or perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The issues raised in The Problem With Apu have fuelled criticism of The Simpsons beyond the fact it stopped being good after season 9.
Will South Park successfully #CancelTheSimpsons? Probably not, but this is South Park doing what the show does best, which is poking a stick at conventional thinking and provoking audiences to consider their position. Which is something The Problem With Apu is asking of viewers too. Both are required viewing this week.
South Park continues to push buttons. And you can watch The Problem With A Poo episode on Monday at 8:35pm on SBS VICELAND, with the episode streaming soon after at SBS On Demand.
You can also see The Problem With Apu documentary on Tuesday night at 9:35pm on SBS VICELAND and anytime after at SBS On Demand: