South Park sidelined Kenny, Kyle, Cartman, Butters, and Stan in favor of a supporting star in recent seasons, but the show knows this is a problem.
In The Streaming Wars Part Two, South Park addressed the biggest issue that the show has faced in recent years and promised to fix the problem with the show’s formula. South Park has a five-day turnaround process, making it one of the most timely programs on television. This means that South Park often has the luxury (or nightmarish responsibility, depending on one’s perspective) of commenting on events as they unfold, something that traditional satirical comedies can’t achieve.
When rival shows like The Simpsons add timely topical satire into their scripts pre-broadcast, these unpopular gags only prove how unique South Park’s ability to make quick-response satire is. However, despite this unique production process, South Park has trouble admitting when the show has made a mistake. For example, it took South Park over a decade to admit that mocking climate change was a reactionary misstep. This is why it was both surprising and positive to see that South Park’s streaming special The Streaming Wars Part Two admitted the series relied on Randy Marsh’s wacky persona too much and that this derailed South Park season 25.
Why Randy’s Role In South Park Changed
In the early years of South Park, Randy was a lot like most of the parents in the show. As an individual, he was relatively reasonable, but he was often swept up in absurd fads and panics that the town’s adults fell for en masse. However, when Randy became a South Park main character, this changed. Randy became a more heightened, absurd self-parody, with all of the character’s personality traits being amplified to ridiculous heights. Randy was no longer just another close-minded small-town parent but instead became a hyper-competitive boorish egotist. He was no longer a lovable loser with a boring job, but instead a feckless, delusional hedonist.
South Park Season 25’s Randy Problem
The problem with Randy’s new role in South Park was that this character shift pulled focus away from the show’s real heroes. The more absurd Randy’s antics became, the less time South Park had to spend on the travails of Kenny, Butters, Kyle, and Stan. The more monstrously thoughtless Randy’s actions were, the less of a purpose South Park’s resident villain Cartman had in the series. South Park’s co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone claimed that the series aimed to show the world through the eyes of eight-year-olds. However, when Randy Marsh was the main character, South Park was simply another show about the world as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged, middle-class, middle-American man.
Randy’s Streaming Wars Role Mocked His Character
Fortunately, South Park addressed the issues with Randy’s character head-on in The Streaming Wars Part Two. Initially, the special mocked Randy’s hyper-sensitivity by branding him a “Karen,” a reference to a meme about hyper-vigilant privileged people who use their status to make life hell for the less fortunate. However, The Streaming Wars Part Two took fixing Randy’s South Park character arc further with a comical song about how much he had strayed from his roots as a small-town geologist and one of the show’s many minor supporting stars. The song asked where the humble Randy of earlier seasons had been and ended with a hilariously auto-tuned Randy triumphantly promising to return to his bland day job.
How South Park Justified Randy’s Devolution
This sequence alone allowed South Park to admit that Randy’s character had been thoroughly derailed in recent years, but the self-parody didn’t end there. In a later reprise of the same tune, South Park asked where the explosive, arrogant Karen had gone since the heroes needed Randy to be an insufferable nuisance again to help save the day. The joke was an effective reminder that, even when South Park admitted the Tegridy Farms story needed to end, the show still mocked itself and its viewers for caring about things like characters arcs and consistency from such an openly silly series.
By mocking Randy’s character devolution and then immediately providing a purpose for his Karen persona, South Park conceded that his changes had altered the character too much without turning him back into a forgettable supporting star for good. This way. South Park season 26 can have the best of both worlds, using Randy as a comical supporting character without relying on him as the show’s new hero. By reinstating the boys as the leads of the series while also pointing out that Randy’s Karen persona has its uses, The Streaming Wars Part Two fixed a problem while also poking fun at the issue as only South Park can.