Matt Stone and Trey Parker kick off the second half of the new season of South Park with simple and obvious satire that pretty much anyone can understand in “Poor and Stupid.” Most people (except NASCAR fans) will appreciate the mockery of NASCAR and the redneck audience it’s stereotyped to have.
Cartman and Butters carry this episode since the central message of the episode that NASCAR fans are mainly poor and dumb rednecks is pretty obvious and not very complex. Cartman’s attempts to become poorer and dumber so that he can be a NASCAR driver are hilarious, peaking when he decides to eat Vagisil after seeing a commercial listing short-term memory loss as a side effect. Yes, it is disgusting. But it does serve a purpose.
After Cartman attempts to drive in a NASCAR race, crashes, and is sent to the hospital, one of the best lines of the episode comes up when the doctor reads off his injuries and finishes by telling him he has “three small vaginas in his stomach, but they’re all sparkling clean.” Butters’ innocence and enthusiasm for “helping the needy” and his easily sway-able nature create more humor, especially when both boys take on a redneck accent, throwing out phrases like “That’s gay as hell” and “That pisses me off!” This is also where the Vagisil joke peaks, as Eric dips using Vagisil.
The humor involved with Eric and Butters’ stereotyping of the NASCAR population is easy to understand, but why the Vagisil? Well, if you’ve ever seen South Park, you should know that this brand of satire almost always makes everything way more extreme to make the point clearer. This time, it’s used because it’s so disgusting it’s just downright funny. Shock value laughs never hurt.
South Park usually focuses on something timely to make fun of, but some things in American society just need to be made fun of, especially if they haven’t already. NASCAR is no exception. The redneck accents, Cartman running Danika Patrick over, dipping, the poor and stupid jokes, and Cartman getting a Vagisil-sponsored car to race with are all testaments to the stereotype that NASCAR is a hick sport. Whether or not you agree is sort of irrelevant because it is too funny to dismiss. That’s the great thing about South Park: when it makes fun of its subject, it is unrelenting, and if you identify with that particular subject, it might be offensive. But because these guys hit every topic, every race, every religion, every school of thought, and every issue, it is nearly impossible to stay mad or not find the humor in it.