Thursday, July 31, 2008

Go On, Fulfill Your Sick Pleasures: A Tribute To South Park's Mr. Garrison

I still think South Park is a funny show. Yes, it has changed drastically over the years, becoming more overtly political and at times heavy-handed in its delivery of a "message" (quite a few of which I don't necessarily agree with), but for my money South Park remains unpredictable and funny every time I watch it. Even in its twelfth season, it's still exciting for me to watch, with recent shows like the three-part "Imaginationland" and "Super Fun Time" being excellent examples of South Park's vitality. It's still the only show I loved in my youth that's still producing quality, and in the aftermath of The Simpsons's sad decline, that's gotta count for something.

But of course I miss the old days. South Park's first few seasons were wonderfully crude adventures, filled with bratty kids and bitter adults, not to mention constant references to B-list celebrities like Eric Roberts and Fred Savage. It's weird to think that such a lousily-animated, cutesy show stirred up such a nasty controversy back in '97, especially in the wake of all that Scientology riffraff, but those first seasons do maintain a crude, foul-mouthed charm. It was a time where people still considered South Park a flash-in-the-pan thing (before Bigger Longer and Uncut became a huge critical hit) and as such Parker and Stone were willing to make their show as nasty and weird as possible. And no other character exemplified this like schoolteacher Mr. Garrison.

"Kids, you have to understand. There is a huge difference between gay people and Mr. Garrison." -Randy Marsh

During those early days, Mr. Garrison was - quite franky - an awful teacher, and an awful person. Teaching-wise, his lesson plans consisted of constantly watching re-runs of Barnaby Jones, discussing why Chubby Checker left the Beatles in 1972, and figuring out how to discern a policeman from a prostitute. He saw no problem in calling his students retards, making crude sexual jokes in front of them, or even threatening them outright with violence; as such, everybody at the school hated him. Personality-wise, he was a sexual deviant with a bizarre Southern drawl who would channel any and all homosexual urges into his hand puppet Mr. Hat, which he barely ever took off. If ever accused of being gay, he would ramble on about his love for "poontang" and "screwing hot chicks" - not to mention his outright hatred of homosexuals. Despite this, he would get caught with soliciting sex from children or having sex with various animals several times during the show. All in all, he was a fucked-up mess of a human being, and as such he was probably the best character ever. While most people point to the potty-mouthed Eric Cartman as the source of South Park's early success, Mr. Garrison was just as important, representing the absolute bottom rung of the show's ladder of deviancy.

But like everything else, Mr. Garrison has changed over the years. Once Garrison finally admitted to being gay in season 4, everything changed - he ditched Mr. Hat for the bondage-gear manwhore Mr. Slave, became the kids' fourth grade teacher again, and most drastically became a woman (although he did recently change back). The fact that these bizarre, deplorable actions have actually tamed his character since the early days is a pretty clear indication of how awful he used to be. While it's nice to see that Mr. Garrison's still around, I doubt he will be able to reclaim that special kind of evil that made him such a staple in South Park's early seasons.

But hey, we've still got the old episodes, right? Here I'd like to list off some of my favorite Mr. Garrison South Park episodes from the first few seasons. For the sake of this list I will only pick episodes before Mr. Garrison's coming out, as I feel that was a big turning point in his personality. And hey, since you can watch all of these episodes for free at, I'll link to each one! Ain't that a stinker!!

So here are my favorite Mr. Garrison episodes. Enjoy.

102 - Weight Gain 4000

It's obvious that Matt and Trey had a special love for Mr. Garrison from the beginning - he's probably the first character on South Park to have an extensive flashback / backstory, as early as the show's second episode. Of course, it's also telling that said backstory leads to him attempting to kill Kathy Lee Gifford from a book depository with a rifle, a la Lee Harvey Oswald. It's also a good showcase for Mr. Hat's personality - mean, dominating, and pretty much forcing Garrison to indulge in his worst tendencies.

104 - Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boatride

Notable for introducing Mr. Garrison's views on homosexuality - namely, that homosexuals are evil inhuman monsters. When his own fey personality is challenged by Chef, Garrison typically replies: "I only act like this to get chicks, dumbass."

111 - Tom's Rhinoplasty

Mr. Garrison gets a nose job that somehow transforms his face into David Hasslehoff's; as such he immediately quits teaching to become a model (??) and, as he tells his own students, to pursue his dream of "hanging around and screwing hot chicks." Of course, Garrison gets sick of being harassed by women constantly (we all know why) and gives it up. While Garrison's flagrant disregard for his students is on full display here, some of the funniest moments occur when the class is asked about their opinion of Garrison. When instructed to treat their substitute with the same amount of respect they had for Mr. Garrison, Stan responds: "We don't have any respect for Mr. Garrison." There you go.

208 - Summer Sucks

Mr. Hat leaves Mr. Garrison, so Garrison sees Dr. Katz (yes, that Dr. Katz) for therapeutic advice. Katz, of course, tells Garrison that he is a gay man channeling his homosexual urges through his hand puppet. And of course, Katz is killed by a giant ash snake (just watch the episode) prompting Garrison to say "Serves you right, you gay bashing homo!" A mess of contradictions.

Oh, and this one also introduces Mr. Hat's shoddy stand-in, Mr. Twig. Man I miss season 2.

214 - Chef Aid

Mr. Twig is sabotaged, and Mr. Garrison goes insane. As such, he is carted off to jail (??) where he is inexplicably saved by Mr. Hat driving a truck somehow. Mr. Twig, with his faux-French accent, encourages Garrison to be with Mr. Hat. "Do you love him?" he asks. "Then go to him." An unforgettable moment of Garrisonness.

217 - Gnomes

Mr. Garrison is on the verge of being fired because he is a terrible teacher, so he is forced to have his kids present projects on "current events" to the school board. Kyle, Stan, Cartman, Kenny, and Tweak present a fantastic project, obviously written by Tweak's dad - the board loves it, but Garrison knows they faked it. For the rest of the episode, we see Garrison at his absolutely most violent - he constantly threatens the kids to never reveal who really wrote the paper, claiming that if they do come forward, "Mr. Hat is gonna smack you bitches up."

317 - World Wide Recorder Concert

Quite possibly my favorite Garrison-centric episode. When said recorder concert is scheduled to take place in Garrison's home town of Little Rock, Garrison is afraid to go due to his parents living there, claiming to Mr. Mackey that his father sexually assaulted him. The reality - of course! - is that Garrison's father didn't molest him, and Garrison wants him to. So he spends the rest of the episode trying to get his own father to rape him. It's one of the most bizarre displays of Garrison's weird sexual nature, but probably the best - good enough that I'm pretty sure other shows have ripped off this premise since.

Oh, and this episode also has a great "Mr. Hat is not just a hand puppet" moment in which Mr. Mackey and Mr. Hat actually get into a fistfight on the school bus. And Mr. Hat wins. Wow.

407 - Cherokee Hair Tampons

After awkwardly trying to solicit sex from Eric Cartman in the previous classic "Cartman Joins NAMBLA," Mr. Garrison is - finally - fired. On Mr. Mackey's advice, he finally decides to pursue his dream of writing the Great American Romance Novel, hoping to prove to the world his love of poontang. Of course, he uses most of the novel's sex scenes - including the lesbian scenes - to describe the glory of penises in great detail. When his publisher confronts him about the constant usage of the word "penis," Garrison typically claims that he just wants to give "chicks" what they want. There's also a scene in which Mr. Hat jerks off Mr. Garrison, which will always stand as one of the most bizarre moments in their "relationship." This episode has to be one of the most sexually frustrating for Garrison, and it's probably the last episode to revel in the glory of his confusion - shortly after this, he'd finally fess up.

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