That Moment When South Park Makes You Feel Bad About Standards of Beauty

Butters telling Wendy he wants a "real woman", the photoshopped Kim Kardashian.

Butters telling Wendy he wants a “real woman”, the photoshopped Kim Kardashian.

I love South Park, I have always admired the way they make fun of everything and no one is safe. Sure, sometimes they push they envelope a bit far, but it’s South Park, and that’s just what they do. Their recent 3 part Game of Thrones parody was absolutely hilarious, and I also loved their Halloween episode this year with the goth kids versus emo kids in which they summon the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe to stop the emo plague from spreading. If you haven’t seen either of these episodes I mentioned, GO WATCH NOW!

Last Wednesday was the season finale, and the main subject of the episode was Photoshop and how it is warping ideals of beauty. The episode begins with the cheerleaders practicing, and one awkward and “ugly” girl named Lisa Berger is very unsure of herself. She admits she has a crush on Butters and Wendy encourages Lisa to ask Butters out on a date to raise her confidence. When Lisa attempts to ask out Butters, he pretty much waves her off, saying she’s “too fat for him.”

Angry at Butters’ shallow behavior and flippant rejection of Lisa without even giving her a chance, Wendy confronts Butters on the matter and Butters says he wants a “real woman” and shows Wendy the photoshopped images of Kim Kardashian that line his locker. Wendy points out that the images are manipulated and Kim looks different in real life, and Butters goes to the student councilor, Mr. Mackey, telling him that Wendy “insulted his girlfriend”. Wendy takes a picture of Lisa, and attempting to show Butters how easy it is to photoshop anyone into looking attractive, she alters Lisa’s photo to make her look more desirable. Butters believes the image is real though, and so does everyone else in the school–even Lisa begins to buy in and believe the fake image is real. Soon, other girls begin photoshopping their images and passing them around at school, and all the boys believe the images to be real.

Whenever Wendy tries to point out that these images are manipulated and that in real life all of these people have imperfections and flaws, she is labeled a hater and told not to be “jelly” (short for jealous). The joke becomes a recurring feature of the episode, with multiple characters threatening to send Wendy to “jelly school”. Stan eventually comes to Wendy and asks that she photoshop herself. Wendy is furious, and refuses to do it, and decides to begin a campaign against photoshop which ultimately has no support because everyone wants to believe the false images are real, and they claim Wendy is a hater for pointing out imperfections.

At the end of the episode, we see Wendy in the computer lab, photoshopping her image, and she starts to cry as she sends it to everyone in the school.

This episode hit me hard, especially at the end. Wendy caved in to pressure and threw her self respect out the window to be like everyone else and it hurt to see her do that. The commentary on Photoshop through this entire episode was very relevant. Many celebrities (Kim Kardashian was the main example, but there are countless others) have their images altered to make them look as if they have no flaws, but it’s not real. We all have flaws. Even the most beautiful people in the world have flaws and by masking them in these images we are doing the world a disservice. More and more people (young people especially) have no concept of what real people look like because they are bombarded by so many altered images. Sure, photoshop is great for taking away minor imperfections in what could otherwise be a perfect image and can be a gift from god for photographers and models at times when minor adjustments are needed; but once we photoshop someone to the point that they look nothing like what they really look like, or ever COULD look like, it’s a major problem.

If South Park is addressing the issue in a serious light, that’s when we know that this isn’t to be taken lightly. Thoughts?

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