South Park Recap: “Faith Hilling”

On this week’s episode of South Park, the boys become obsessed with meme culture. Though it’s a little early to be making any grand pronouncements about the strength of the season as a whole, “Faith Hilling” is certainly the best we’ve seen so far. It’s funny, pertinent, full of quotable lines, and reminds just how insane the Internet can make us.

Faith Hilling, we discover, is a meme where you pull the chest of your shirt out with both hands to look like breasts while someone takes a photo of you. Like Tebowing and Planking before it, Faith Hilling is the latest and greatest thing. Everyone on the Internet is doing it. I don’t think that Faith Hilling exists in real life, but I also once thought ORLY was just a funny thing my friends said, so there’s that. Anyway, after the boys arrange an elaborate Faith Hilling at a GOP Presidential Debate, they face some unexpected public scorn when they discover in the newspaper (THE NEWSPAPER!) that “Faith Hilling is So 2000-Late.” Even Newt Gingrich is quoted in the article as saying that “Faith Hilling is pretty stale. If they’d have crashed the Republican Debate by Taylor Swifting, that would have been impressive.”

This information is distressing. “How can we be passe, we’re only in 4th grade!” Cartman and Kyle desperately want to hold on to Faith Hilling. Kenny and Stan don’t want to be left behind, so they embrace Taylor Swifting. And you’re lying if you haven’t experienced this sort of dilemma on some level in your Internet life. Do you keep going with what you think is fun or do you just move on to the next thing? We’re obsessed with being current, and it can be kind of nauseating sometimes, fretting about whether tweeting an article from two days ago requires a “this is old’ disclaimer, wanting to be ahead of the curve and inevitably failing. It’s not even worth describing or analyzing too deeply here because what’s the point? That’s been said, too. There were even South Park fans posting photos on twitter of themselves Faith Hilling WHILE the show was still going on. I’m surprised the Internet didn’t collapse on itself.

The B and C threads are fun to watch too, and worth noting since they all tie into the same overriding theme of memes. Over in B-story land, scientists start freaking out that cats are evolving, as evidenced by the overwhelming ubiquity of bread cats and also Oh Long Johnson. “There are two ways that species evolve. Physically with genes, culturally with memes. Genes and memes, they mutate and adapt.” And in the C-story, thanks to the media hype, we are introduced to the dangers of meme-ing, along with a great public safety video (Copyright 2010 and looking like it was filmed in 1986, right down to the cheesy graphics and wobbly soundtrack) about all the meme-related deaths. It advises that we stick with classic memes only — peace sign, bunny ears, and the fake weiner.

The episode closes with another GOP Debate. Cartman is prepared to do the latest meme, but halfway through the set-up, he decides that it’s stupid. We think he’s going to denounce meme culture as a whole in some sort of classic South Park “this is all insane” monologue, but the episode as a whole does that already. Instead, Cartman defiantly and proudly revives Faith Hilling with a take on Faith Hill’s Sunday Night Football song. The audience, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Oh Long Johnson cat (who’s participating in the debate obviously), and Mitt Romney all join in too. It’s sublime. In fact, I kind of can’t wait to watch it again.

Here’s hoping that next week has something to do with Broccoli.

Lindsey Bahr agrees that saying something “is so 2000-anything” is so 2009. But “2000-Late” still makes her laugh.

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