“The Ring” suffers from a bad case of déjà vu. Mr. Hankey is South Park‘s own-brand Mickey Mouse, as “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” makes clear. High School Musical had already been made fun of by South Park four months previous to “The Ring.”
Kenny’s dying of syphilis as a result of girlfriend Tammy Warner’s fatal blowjob is reminiscent of “Kenny Dies” and “Spontaneous Combustion,” as Kenny is given a proper funeral. “The Ring” is even similar to “Christian Rock Hard.” Replace secular lyrics in Christian songs with the purity ring’s role in selling sex to minors, it’s the same concept. Never mind “Simpsons Already Did It,” South Park is cannibalizing its own ideas at this point.
Despite this, “The Ring” is a fairly spot-on thirteenth season premiere. “Elementary School Musical” was essentially “High School Musical is gay” brought to a moderately funny extreme. “The Ring” goes after the selling of a semi-religious item, the purity ring, to a secular audience.
The Walt Disney Company is also given a skewering. Mickey Mouse is revealed as a greedy corporate bastard. Using the character in this fashion is obvious, but South Park keeps the Mouse surprisingly on-model. Mickey punctuates his sentences with his trademark laugh, a surprisingly funny verbal tic.
The last time Mickey was this funny, it was during a Saturday TV Funhouse cartoon. Mickey’s never funny in his own cartoons. Then again, no one is, not even Goofy.
Other Walt Disney Company-related items are also lampooned. After Kenny wears his potentially blowjob-nullifying purity ring, he becomes boring enough to want to watch Grey’s Anatomy. The Jonas Brothers also sing about Netflix, a great place for Disney Channel’s more homogenized offal, as an alternative to sex.
“The Ring” works as it’s not about how The Jonas Brothers and Disney suck. How The Jonas Brothers are portrayed in the episode versus what they’re really like is irrelevant. What is relevant is how commercial interests can take something like The Jonas Brothers’ evangelical beliefs and use it as a selling point to shift units. Mickey Mouse is the only character in the episode openly disdainful of Christianity (“they believe in a talking dead guy!”), but that’s because he’s actually a Norse demon. Or something. Ha ha.
Overall, “The Ring” makes for a strong South Park season premiere. It’s a better debut for its season than “Tonsil Trouble” was for the twelfth. I’ll go so far as to say it’s the best season premiere since season ten’s “The Return of Chef.” “The Ring” is familiar in spots, but it’s above-average for South Park. I can’t wait to see how South Park makes fun of The Princess and the Frog.
Hell, I’d like to see if South Park acknowledges Robot Chicken‘s existence and/or the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer brouhaha. Those topics would make for fun episodes.
By the way, Mickey as depicted in South Park would not have come from Valhalla. He would most likely have come from Múspellsheimr, the realm of fire. I’m reading too much into a throwaway gag near the end of “The Ring,” but it’s still lazy writing.
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