South Park is a show that isn’t averse to having its fair share of ‘Wait, what?’ moments. Witness a giant spider secretly running the Catholic church, or ‘I Should Never Have Gone Ziplining’, an episode from the first half of season 16 that had an unexpected transition into live action that didn’t really work. So the sudden appearance of James Cameron in ‘Raising The Bar’ might have been unexpected in the context of the episode, but not totally surprising given the show’s previous ‘Huh?’ moments.
But Cameron will come later. The episode begins with the boys at the local Wal-Mart, and they are irritated by the number of obese people taking advantage of the rascals (mobility scooters) provided to them. When Cartman spots candy corn Oreos, Kyle warns him that if he’s not careful, he’ll be one of those obese people too. It’s a message that seems to finally get through to Cartman, as he turns up at Kyle’s door to tell him that he’s finally accepted that he’s not big boned or big muscled, but he is in fact, ‘f**king fat as f**king f**k’. But this isn’t Cartman’s first steps towards losing weight, instead he’s got himself his own mobility scooter, and all he needed was a few extra pounds of weight for the insurance company to pay for it. This of course really annoys Kyle, and Cartman further antagonises his friend when he complains about the lack of access Kyle’s toilet provides for his new form of transport.
South Park is always at its best when it lets Cartman run wild with something, and he certainly does that this week, taking advantage of his new ‘disability’ to file lawsuits against Best Buy (because he can’t take a crap in their toilets), and give rallying speeches in front of his class-mates. But what Cartman doesn’t realise is that he’s about to be exploited. Token approaches Kyle and tells him that he should film Cartman for a documentary, to try and show Cartman that if he doesn’t lose weight, he’ll die. Kyle agrees, but when he presents it to his school, something very different appears on the screen.
Because Token has produced a reality TV show, starring Cartman, in an attempt to rival the (horrifyingly real) ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’. Honey Boo Boo is an obese beauty pageant contestant, with a disgusting slob of a mother who makes her ‘sketti’ (spaghetti and butter) for most meals. I thought this was something that Matt and Trey had just invented themselves, but it is in fact a genuine reality TV show in the US, although it’s exaggerated (only a little) in South Park. Cartman is outraged by Token’s betrayal, until he discovers that Honey Boo Boo beat him in the ratings, which prompts him to call out Honey Boo Boo for a fight.
You might be wondering where James Cameron fits into all of this. Well, as you may know, Cameron’s been in the headlines recently for his deep sea adventures, and although his crew (aboard the USS James Cameron) have become incredibly bored by him, he’s heading under water again, to look for the apparently not metaphorical ‘bar’ that has been lowered by shows like ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’. South Park’s James Cameron is an arrogant egomaniac who believes he’s the most important person on the planet, so it’s a spot on representation of James Cameron who is indeed an arrogant egomaniac who believes he is the most important person on the planet.
Cameron manages to find the bar, and raises it, but not before he’s had an underwater fight with Randy Newman (who wrote the theme tune to Token’s Cartman reality show). The raising of the bar means that people are turned off by Cartman’s fight with Honey Boo Boo, and the episode ends with Michelle Obama giving Cartman a proper beating.
It’s a wonderfully weird episode of South Park, featuring Cartman at his best (or worst, depending on your point of view) and a brilliantly skewed take on currents events.