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"Dances With Smurfs"
South Park episode
A male, fourth-grade animated character stands by a chalkboard on which he has written "Keywords: Integrated, Leftist, Liberal" in the left-hand column, and "Socialist, Modern, Utopian, Reformed, Farce, School" in the right-hand column, and has circled the first letter of each word to form the acronym "KILL SMURFS"
Cartman alleges proof of a "KILL SMURFS" agenda on a chalkboard, a prop often used by political commentator Glenn Beck
Episode no. Season 13
Episode 13
Written by Trey Parker
Directed by Trey Parker
Production no. 1313
Original airdate November 11, 2009
Episode chronology
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List of South Park episodes

"Dances with Smurfs" is the thirteenth episode of the thirteenth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 194th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 11, 2009. In the episode, Cartman becomes the reader of the elementary school announcements, and starts making politically charged accusations against class president Wendy. The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States.

"Dances with Smurfs" served as a parody of the political commentary style of Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio show host and Fox News Channel pundit. The episode also satirized the 2009 James Cameron film, Avatar, suggesting the plot borrows heavily from the film Dances with Wolves, and comparing Avatar's blue aliens to the cartoon Smurfs. The episode received generally positive to mixed reviews. According to Nielsen Ratings, "Dances with Smurfs" was seen by 1.47 million households among viewers aged between 18 and 34.

Contents

Plot

Gordon Stotlski, the third grader who reads the South Park Elementary morning announcements, is murdered by a gunman who mistakes him for a truck driver who slept with his wife. During a memorial service at the gymnasium, guidance counselor Mr. Mackey announces the school will seek a replacement. Cartman gets the job after sabotaging the efforts of a talented student named Casey Miller. However, during his first announcement, Cartman is very critical of the school and makes politically charged accusations against class president Wendy. Principal Victoria asks Cartman to stick to the script during announcements, but he accuses her of trying to silence him, and brings in the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure his freedom of speech. Cartman starts projecting his announcements into television screens in the classrooms, where his claims grow increasingly politically charged. He accuses Wendy of wanting to kill the Smurfs, which concerns Butters and some other students. When they confront Wendy, she simply refuses to acknowledge Cartman.

Cartman starts selling copies of his book, What Happened to My School?, which includes sexually explicit rumors about Wendy. Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey again confront Cartman, who accuses them of turning the school into a "socialist whoreland", and insists he is leaving the school. The next day, however, he appears on his show and tells the students he went to live with the Smurfs, fell in love with Smurfette and became integrated into the culture. Cartman claims Wendy bulldozes Smurfland and slaughtered the Smurfs to get their valuable Smurfberries, which he has chronicled in his DVD, "Dances with Smurfs". Butters and a furious mob of students go to Wendy's house to confront her. Butters pees on her front door and demands that she go on Cartman's morning announcements show to answer his questions. It also included references to the Tea Party protests, radio personality Casey Kasem and former-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Wendy reluctantly agrees to appear on the show, and Cartman promises her he will stick to school-related questions and go easy on her. However, as soon as filming begins, he immediately asks about promiscuous rumors and the killing of the Smurfs. To Cartman's surprise, Wendy claims she indeed bulldozed Smurfland to get the valuable Smurfberries, but alludes that Cartman was involved with the plot, and that the Smurfs would have left Smurfland if Cartman did not integrate himself with them. She agrees to secede her class president title to Cartman and announces she has written her own book about the Smurfs. Cartman is angry that she has turned the tables on him and stolen his Smurf idea, particularly when she announces she sold the movie rights to director James Cameron, who turned the book into his new film, Avatar. The next day, Cartman is no longer doing morning announcements because the class president cannot hold both jobs, but he is angry to learn the president is a meaningless position with no real power. The episode ends with Casey Miller reading the announcements, which include student letters extremely critical of Cartman's performance as president.

Production

"Dances with Smurfs" was written and directed by series co-founder Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. It first aired on November 11, 2009 in the United States on Comedy Central. The episode marked the final appearance of Gordon Stoltski, the third grade student who read the morning announcements for South Park Elementary.[1][2] The day after "Dances with Smurfs" was originally broadcast, four T-shirts based on the episode were made available at South Park Studios, the official South Park website.[3][4][5][6] All four featured Cartman wearing a suit and tie, saying a quote from the episode. These included "I'm not some dog on a leash",[3] "We're in the poop box, my friends",[4] "I'm a normal kid...I just ask questions",[5] and "I ask questions".[6]

Theme

Political pundit Glenn Beck (pictured) and his commentary style was heavily satirized in "Dances with Smurfs".

"Dances with Smurfs" served as a parody and social commentary of the political commentary style of Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio show host and Fox News Channel political pundit.[1][2][7][8] Cartman's makes outrageous claims with no basis for fact under the guise that he is simply asking rhetorical questions and seeking further discussion. Beck has been criticized for utilizing a similar style of commentary in his radio and television shows, such as asking loaded questions in the style of "have you stopped beating your wife?" and voicing worst-case scenarios despite no evidence that such a scenario might come true.[1][7]

Cartman's televised morning announcements are patterned after the Glenn Beck television program, utilizing the same types of music and imagery, as well as a logo with the initials "EC" that closely resemble the logo of Beck's show, which use the initials "GB". Cartman also writes comments about Wendy on a blackboard, utilizing a prop often used by Beck on his television program. The day after "Dances with Smurfs" originally aired, Beck himself discussed the episode on his radio program. Beck said he had not watched the episode himself but took the parody as a compliment, and that he particularly enjoyed Cartman's hair, which was combed in a style similar to Beck. Steve "Stu" Burguiere, the executive producer of Beck's radio show, also complimented the episode, and said of Parker and Stone, "These guys skewer everybody and they are always very good at it".[9]

Cultural references

"Dances with Smurfs" satirized Avatar, the 2009 science-fiction epic film directed by James Cameron, which tells the story of humans in the distant future mining for minerals on an alien planet inhabited by blue aliens.[7][10] Although Avatar had not yet been released in theaters by the time the episode aired, the script of "Dances with Smurfs" compares the plot of Avatar to that of Dances with Wolves, a 1990 drama epic film in which a United States soldier becomes integrated with a tribe of Native Americans.[11][12][13][14][15] At the end of "Dances with Smurfs", Cartman watches Avatar at a movie theater and grows angry that his idea was stolen, expressing the idea that Avatar borrows from other previous films.[10] Avatar had already been compared to Dances with Wolves prior to the broadcast of "Dances with Smurfs", and James Cameron said he welcomed the comparison.[16] Cartman's movie prominantly features the Smurfs, a fictional group of small blue cartoon creatures, which draws a further parallel to the blue alien creatures in Avatar.[10] The use of the cartoon Smurfs has also been interpreted as a joke that although Avatar had a famously large budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, the film amounted to little more than a Smurfs-like cartoon.[9][17]

When Wendy resigns as student body president, she announces the publication of her book, Going Rogue on the Smurfs. This is a reference to Going Rogue: An American Life, the 2009 autobiography of former United States Vice President candidate Sarah Palin, who had recently announced her resignation as Governor of Alaska.[7][8] The nature in which Butters and band of gullible students blindly agree with everything Cartman says is a parody of the Tea Party protests, a conservative political activism movement protesting such issues as the presidency of Barack Obama and big government.[7] Casey Miller, the student who competes against Cartman for the morning announcements, speaks in a manner similar to radio personality Casey Kasem.[8][2]

Reception

"Dances With Smurfs" had a few brilliantly funny moments, but overall the humor wasn't of the laugh out loud, nose coming out of your nose humor. It was smart comedy for those politically savvy viewers out there. Or fans of Smurfs. Your choice."
Carlos Delgado
iF magazine[2]

In its original American broadcast on November 11, 2009, "Dances with Smurfs" was watched by 1.47 million overall households among viewers aged between 18 and 34, according to Nielsen Ratings. It ranked behind a special 90-minute episode of Sons of Anarchy, the FX series about an outlaw motorcycle club, which was the most watched cable program of the week with 2.5 million households among 18-49 viewers.[18]

The episode received generally positive to mixed reviews. Ramsey Isler of IGN said Cartman worked well for a Beck satire, and said, "The real accomplishment of this episode is how it totally roasted a semi-political figure, without being political at all." However, Isler said the script loses focus with the appearance of the Smurfs, and that Gordon's death was disturbing and inappropriate in the light of recent school shootings in the United States.[1] The A.V. Club writer Sean O'Neal, a vocal critic of Beck, said mocking Beck is an easy task, but the episode "handled it with just enough of the show’s usual surrealist bent that it was never wholly predictable". He praised some of the episode's unexpected elements, like Cartman's Smurf film and Wendy's surprise resignation.[7] Carlos Delgado of iF magazine said "Dances with Smurfs" became "a little strange" starting with Cartman's Smurf story, but he called the episode "smart, sharp, and poignant". Delgado said the episode had less "laugh out loud" humor than traditional South Park episodes, in factor of intelligent satire.[2] AOL Television writer Donald Deane called it one of the funniest episodes of the season.[8]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Isler, Ramsey (November 12, 2009). ""Dances with Smurfs" Review". IGN. http://tv.ign.com/articles/104/1044572p1.html. Retrieved 2009-11-13.  
  2. ^ a b c d e Delgado, Carlos (November 12, 2009). "TV Review: South Park - Season 13 - "Dancing With Smurfs"". iF magazine. http://www.ifmagazine.com/review.asp?article=3639. Retrieved November 13, 2009.  
  3. ^ a b "Southpark: Not Some Dog". Zazzle. 2009-11-12. http://www.zazzle.com/southpark/gifts?cg=196214109570967227. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  4. ^ a b "southpark: The Poop Box". Zazzle. 2009-11-12. http://www.zazzle.com/southpark/gifts?cg=196063700495161378. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  5. ^ a b "southpark: Normal Kid". Zazzle. 2009-11-12. http://www.zazzle.com/southpark/gifts?cg=196527257002360088. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  6. ^ a b "Southpark: I Ask Questions". Zazzle. 2009-11-12. http://www.zazzle.com/southpark/gifts?cg=196225637953824923. Retrieved 2009-11-19.  
  7. ^ a b c d e f O'Neal, Sean (November 11, 2009). "South Park: Dances With Smurfs". The A.V. Club (The Onion). http://www.avclub.com/articles/dances-with-smurfs,35286/. Retrieved January 8, 2010.  
  8. ^ a b c d Deane, Donald (November 12, 2009). ""South Park" Episode Skewered Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Others". AOL. http://insidetv.aol.com/2009/11/12/south-park-episode-glenn-beck-sarah-palin/. Retrieved January 8, 2010.  
  9. ^ a b "November 12, 2009". Beck, Glenn; Burguiere, Steve; Gray, Pat. Glenn Beck Program. Premiere Radio Networks. Radio City Music Hall, New York City. 1:40 p.m.–1:50 p.m.. Transcript.
  10. ^ a b c Tyler, Josh (November 12, 2009). "South Park Parodies Avatar With The Smurfs". Cinema Blend. http://www.cinemablend.com/new/South-Park-Parodies-Avatar-With-The-Smurfs-15674.html. Retrieved January 8, 2010.  
  11. ^ Ryzik, Melena (January 4, 2010). "Dances With Smurfs". The New York Times. http://carpetbagger.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/dances-with-smurfs/. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  12. ^ Telese, Chauncey (December 30, 2009). "Avatar: The LeBron James Of Movies". KHTS (AM). http://hometownstation.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18860:avatar-cameron-movie-2009-12-28-04-38&catid=26:local-news&Itemid=97. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  13. ^ King, Randall (November 27, 2009). "Dashing through the shows: Your guide to holiday movie fare". Winnipeg Free Press. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/entertainment/movies/dashing---through-the-shows-75722177.html. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  14. ^ Clarke, Donald (December 18, 2009). "Avatar". Irish Times. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/theticket/2009/1218/1224260863624.html. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  15. ^ Chipman, Bob (December 18, 2009). "Going Native". The Escapist. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/moviebob/6909-Going-Native. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  16. ^ Boucher, Geoff (August 14, 2009). "James Cameron: Yes, "Avatar" is "Dances with Wolves" in space...sorta". Los Angeles Times. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2009/08/james-cameron-the-new-trek-rocks-but-transformers-is-gimcrackery.html. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  17. ^ "James Cameron's Avatar premieres in London". BBC News. December 11, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8406868.stm. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  18. ^ Seidman, Robert (November 18, 2009). "Again, FX's, Sons of Anarchy Rides to the Top of Cable Adults 18-49 Heap". TV by the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/11/18/again-fxs-sons-of-anarchy-rides-to-the-top-of-cable-adults-18-49-heap/33965. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  

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