Author : Christianna Tsigkou
What do you do when your town is being ridiculed by comedian Jimmy Fallon? You try to improve the town’s image. How do you do that? By opening a Whole Foods market. Where? At your recently gentrified part of town, opposite the “Historic So(uth of)Do(wntown of)So(outh)Pa(rk)”.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone truly know what they are talking about. And even though their sense of humour may step on certain boundaries at times, they manage to hit the nail on the head when addressing current social phenomena. The South Park episode “The City Part of Town” that aired on the 30th of September is no exception.
Revitalising a deteriorated urban neighbourhood by turning it into an “arts and entertainment district” which then later causes the prices of housing at the area to soar has been a common tactic this past decade. As the creators of South Park suggest, the small businesses are the first to open in an effort to boost the local economy. Then, come the hip bars and cafes and lastly the lofts, the residencies, the villas. All this is campaigned under the slogan “Welcome home” and is promoted with a high class video presentation of the life at SoDoSoPa, that could pass off as an actual project, complete with renders, relaxed music and the appropriate amount of people having fun and enjoying themselves.
There is something that bothers you, though. Even though you know it’s for a laugh, you notice that something has gone too far when you see it being satirized. And the fact that on the same episode we get to see 4 different aspects on the problem is really enlightening. First, there appear the local authorities, Mayor McDaniels who vows to not make hasty changes, yet the next day the SoDoSoPa has already been built, all for the sake of the town’s image. Then, there are the supporters of the idea, those who live in the “nice” houses, as Randy, a main character of the show, puts it. They love the design and the quality of life that the revitalised district offers. However, it’s not the first time that we see them getting this excited with something and it usually is because it is a current fashion trend. So, for them the SoDoSoPa is the shiny brand new place to hang out with the cool kids, the hipsters as it is mentioned (and shown). Another aspect of the problem comes from Kenny’s family, whose “historic” house is the epicentre of the whole commotion. The shops, the lofts, the villas, they are all connected to this small building mainly because it’s the only thing that can bring the element of authenticity in the area. Their dislike is obvious throughout the whole episode, expressed cleverly in the promotional videos, where what we are being promised as “the view” is domestic arguments, angry faces behind windows and closed curtains. Lastly, we get to experience the side that we tend to forget; the owner of the Chinese restaurant situated in the “City Part of Town” that is outraged by the new urban tactics and manages to fight the competition by launching another campaign, much like the SoDoSoPa ones, proving that it all comes down to marketing and promotion.
It is true the episode has some hilarious moments, especially if you are familiar with the problem in question. It also manages to offer a pretty accurate description of the situation. And although you cannot help but laugh at jokes like “We’re gentrifying. It’s all good!”, at the same time it makes you realise the social impact that this type of urban regeneration inflicts. Maybe the answer to this problem lies in the motives behind such moves. This seems to be the message that we get at the end of the episode, when as soon as a Whole Foods market opens next to the City Wok reastaurant in the C(i)t(y)Pa(rt of)Town, we catch a glimpse of an abandoned SoDoSoPa, where the construction of the Lofts and Villas has stopped and the whole neighbourhood is left lifeless.
Featured Image : SoDoSoPa at Night © FANDOM TV
About this Author : Christianna Tsigkou