|South Park character|
Garrison as a Male
|First appearance||"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe"|
|Created by||Matt Stone
|Voiced by||Trey Parker|
Ethan P. Garrison (pen name)
|Gender||Male (female from "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina" until "Eek, a Penis!")|
|Occupation||Elementary school teacher|
|Residence||South Park, Colorado|
Herbert Garrison is a recurring character in the American animated television series South Park. He is voiced by Trey Parker. For the first eight seasons of the series, the character was known as Mr. Garrison but underwent sex reassignment surgery in the season 9 episode "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina". The character was thereafter known to the other characters as Mrs. Janet Garrison, despite being unmarried. In the season 12 episode "Eek, a Penis!", he undergoes yet another sex change operation (back to being a man). Garrison is particularly cynical, especially in comparison with the rest of South Park's adults, and he is one of the few characters to ever break the fourth wall on the show.
Mr. Garrison was in part inspired by a kindergarten teacher whom Trey Parker had in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. This teacher used a puppet named Mr. Hat as a teaching resource. Mr. Garrison was also inspired by a British literature professor Parker had at the University of Colorado; Parker said the voice he uses for the character is a dead-accurate impression of him. Parker said he believes Mr. Garrison has become one of the most complex characters on South Park, particularly due to his ever-growing relationship with Mr. Hat and his sexuality and gender issues; Parker said of Mr. Garrison, "He's the soap opera element to the whole series. [He] has a real story going on."
Born September 26, Garrison grew up in Arkansas, speaks with a Southern accent, and claims to have a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Denver Community College (as seen in the episode "The Entity"). Mr. Garrison is sexually confused. During the entirety of the show he has had heterosexual and same-sex relationships, both while living as a man and living as a woman. Across the series he displays myriad conflicting and ambiguous sexual identities, which he clings to exclusively for long periods of time. This may have some relation to the multiple personality disorder, which Mr. Garrison manifested in earlier seasons through Mr. Hat and Mr. Twig.
Garrison also revealed racist tendencies in many episodes. In the episode "Chef Goes Nanners", Mr. Hat, his puppet, was a member of the local Ku Klux Klan, which Mr. Garrison resented and insisted to Chef that he wanted nothing to do with. However, in the later episode "Here Comes the Neighborhood", he tries to get rid of the "richers" (who were all black) using Klan techniques, such as wearing their robes or burning crosses. Although throughout the episode, both Mr. Garrison and the rest of the townsfolk make no reference to the "richers" being black (seemingly oblivious to the fact), in his last line of the episode that his intentions were at least in part racist ("at least we got rid of all those damn ni....." [transition to credits]). In the season one episode "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" he quotes: "Genetic engineering erases all of God's mistakes, like German people". In the season three finale "Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo" and "It's Christmas in Canada", he suggests that the town get rid of all the Mexicans, but Mayor McDaniels repeatedly declines to do so. Exactly why he wishes to do this has not yet been explained. These are two examples of the many instances throughout the show's history where Mr Garrison has expressed contempt for the Mexicans, though in the episode "D-Yikes", Garrison relies on Mexicans to help him in a plan to thwart Persian Nightclub owners. Despite the fact that he seems to portray racist manners, he sometimes will inform his student Eric Cartman of when the nine year old is doing something intolerant or offensive (as seen in "The Snuke").
For the first three seasons, Mr. Garrison was the third-grade teacher at South Park Elementary School. He was portrayed as a closeted homosexual and was ashamed and afraid to be open about it as a result of this. Garrison constantly held a puppet known as "Mr. Hat", which he used as a sort of second, more aggressive personality, as well as for emoting his internal conflicts. It was suggested that Mr. Hat (and subsequently Mr. Twig) were manners through which Mr. Garrison could express his repressed gay feelings. Though Garrison emphatically denied he was gay and tried to completely keep it a secret, he acknowledged that Mr. Hat and Mr. Twig had homosexual fantasies. He first announced he was gay in the season four episode "4th Grade".
It has been established that Garrison has had heterosexual relationships, as with Liane Cartman, with whom most of the town has had sex at some point. Possible same sex relationships include Stephen Stotch in "Butters' Very Own Episode", and he sought a tryst with Eric Cartman in "Cartman Joins NAMBLA", in which Garrison solicited sex from a minor in an online chat room, and after meeting him near the South Park docks for sex (only then discovering then that it was Cartman, his own student), he was charged with soliciting and subsequently told by the school to take time off from his job. In his sabbatical, Garrison wrote a romance novel that he intended to be purely heterosexual in nature; titled In the Valley of Penises, it contained 6,083 instances of the word "penis". Along with his other works, it sold well until he learned that it won the Gay Pulitzer Prize and was deemed to be "the best work of homoerotic literature since Huckleberry Finn". At some point after that, Garrison had a nervous breakdown and fled South Park to become a hermit, where he eventually came to terms with his gay tendencies. At this point, he openly embraced his homosexuality, and informed everyone of this fact. He even went so far as to cheerfully proclaim himself a "fag" repeatedly to anyone he encountered. He was re-hired by South Park elementary, but as the kindergarten teacher, as his old job was then held by Ms. Choksondik. By the end of the sixth season, in the episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance", he was promoted to the fourth grade after the death of Ms. Choksondik. This was a move on the principal's part to avoid any semblance of sexual-orientation discrimination against him. However, when Garrison found that he could sue the school for substantial compensation if he were discriminated against, he attempted to be so offensive he would be fired. To that end, he abandoned his puppet counterpart in favor of a human assistant, "Mr. Slave", his personal BDSM slave and lover. He then proceeded to perform several sexually explicit homosexual acts in front of his students, including putting the class gerbil into Mr. Slave's rectum. His plan, however, did not succeed, and he was instead praised for being "courageous". It has been implied he has scatophilic tendencies in "Proper Condom Use" when the majority of sexual acts he taught to the kindergarten class involved feces or defecation. Chef refers to Mr. Garrison as a "complete pervert."
His changing sexual identities are a continual source of problems. Despite having come declared himself gay, Garrison continued to be ashamed of it as part of his continual emotional and psychological problems. In the season three finale, "World Wide Recorder Concert", he also was in despair over the fact that his father had not sexually assaulted him as a boy, believing that he did not love his son. Garrison's father considered having sex with his son in order to save his life, but he instead had recording artist Kenny G., whom Mr. Garrison thought was his father, sexually assault him. In "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" as well as "Jakovasaurs", it was implied that Mr. Garrison has practiced bestiality with Cartman's pig and a pigeon, respectively.
In the season nine premiere, "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina", Garrison transitioned from living as a man to living as a woman and took the identity of "Mrs. Janet Garrison." He was then rejected by Mr. Slave, who no longer found Mrs. Garrison appealing, as Mr. Slave is gay. During this period, Mrs. Garrison remains attracted to men, just as Mr. Garrison had been. However, in the season eleven episode "D-Yikes!", fed up with rejection by men, Garrison turns to lesbianism, and begins having relationships with women.
By Season 12 Garrison is frustrated with living as a woman—seeing it as a bad mistake—and was suspended from teaching until he had learned how to cope with his situation without bothering his fourth graders with it continuously. Utilizing a penis grown on the back of a mouse, Garrison underwent surgery again in Eek, a Penis! and became, once again Mr. Garrison. Immediately following surgery, Garrison displayed the contempt for homosexuality that was one of his trademarks in the early shows.
As a teacher, Mr. Garrison is almost completely inept, regularly teaching bizarre and pointless lessons, such as showing Barnaby Jones videos to the class for eight days, asking the class why Chubby Checker left The Beatles in 1972 (even though he was never in The Beatles to begin with, who broke up in 1970) and teaching the students how to tell the difference between a prostitute and a police officer. On the other hand, he will occasionally teach the children advanced subjects such as theories on evolution, Stalin and Communism. He also failed to punish Cartman for making jokes about breast cancer in Breast Cancer Show Ever, and only punished him when he defecated on his desk. Despite his cynical nature he appears to genuinely enjoy his job, falling into a depression when he is fired or is suspended from teaching. He also carries a gun and badge with him in class at all times.
In the ninth season premiere, "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina", Garrison, unhappy with being a gay man, decides to try living as a transsexual woman. Following a vaginoplasty, Mr. Garrison becomes Mrs. Garrison. In the episode "D-Yikes!" it is revealed that he had adopted the first name "Janet". Despite also receiving breast implants, he continues to have male-pattern baldness and a masculine voice. He often asserts his femininity, though in a somewhat unfeminine manner, including male-bashing and open proclamations of sexuality. After the sex change, he would state "I'm not gay, I'm a woman!"
The gender transition leads to the end of his relationship with Mr. Slave, who had not been consulted before the operation and declines Mrs. Garrison's sexual overtures because of his current gender expression. Mrs. Garrison also realizes that there have been no menstrual periods after the operation, leading him to believe that he is pregnant. While attempting to have an abortion, Mrs. Garrison is told that a vaginoplasty does not result in the ability to have periods, pregnancies, or abortions, because sexual reassignment surgery does not include the creation of reproductive organs. He finally accepts his new situation after Kyle causes his testicles to explode during a basketball game, when they were used as kneecap implants that Kyle put too much stress on. Like many veteran characters, Garrison has appeared with less frequency following "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina", but was given an important role. In the episode "Follow That Egg!", he attempts to prevent legislation granting gay citizens the right to marry after discovering that his ex-lover, Mr. Slave, is planning to marry Big Gay Al.
In the episode "Go God Go", Mrs. Garrison was ordered by the school district to teach evolution to his class. Due to his personal aversion to the concept of evolution, he deliberately presents the theory in an extremely skewed light, and is subsequently replaced by another teacher, Richard Dawkins. Although Mrs. Garrison continues to inject snide and insulting remarks into Dawkins' lecture, Dawkins becomes drawn to Mrs. Garrison's masculine boldness and directness. He does not find out about Mrs. Garrison's gender history until later. They start to date and are even shown having sexual intercourse. Dawkins converts Mrs. Garrison to atheism, and they subsequently decide to eradicate all religion from the world. However, due to Mrs. Garrison's influence, there is also the belief that mere logic will not work, but one must be "a dick" about it, leading to wars about the answer to "The Great Question". During that same episode Cartman cryogenically freezes himself so he can skip the wait to purchase a Nintendo Wii in the future. When he finally wakes he discovers that he actually slept for 500 years, and that the entire world now embraces atheism.
In the following episode, "Go God Go XII", Cartman calls Mrs. Garrison's home from the future. Dawkins answers the phone while he and Mrs. Garrison are in the middle of having sex, and in the course of asking to talk to Mrs. Garrison, Cartman reveals that Garrison previously lived as a man. Repulsed, Dawkins runs from Mrs. Garrison's home and ends the relationship. Mrs. Garrison then returns to his own religion. It is revealed that Mrs. Garrison was the motivation that convinced Dawkins to teach atheism to the world, and now that they had broken up, the future changed again.
In the episode "D-Yikes", Mrs. Garrison starts to have lesbian relationships. After being dumped by an unnamed boyfriend, Garrison goes to the local "Curves" gym in a huff, cursing men for the entire time. It is there that he meets Allison, a lesbian who is quickly attracted to Garrison's "strong-woman" attitude. Garrison, unaware of Allison's sexual orientation or growing affection, unwittingly joins her at a lesbian bar. When Garrison discovers the truth, he is initially shocked and repulsed, but quickly becomes attracted to Allison and begins a sexual relationship with her. By the end of the episode, Garrison has had sexual relationships with at least two women (including one who attempted to take over the lesbian bar earlier in the episode) and now openly identifies as lesbian.
Second sex change
In the episode "Eek! A Penis!", Mrs. Garrison becomes tired of living as a woman and wants to start living as a man again. After seeing a news report on TV about using genetic engineering to growing human body parts on mice, he pays all of his money to the laboratory to grow a penis on a mouse. The mouse escapes, and throughout the episode Mrs. Garrison looks around various places. But the penis eventually comes to him and Mrs. Garrison completes the procedure. Upon returning to the school, he then proclaims that the key difference to anyone being male or female is whether they can get pregnant or not. He even claims that whoever cannot make babies is a male, including infertile women. When a man tells Garrison about his wife's ovarian cancer, Garrison dismissively tells him "your wife's a dude, faggot" and that he should get tested for AIDS. In the following episode Over Logging, Garrison can be seen smoking a pipe and parading around in a red smoking jacket; a la Hugh Hefner, and this could indicate an attitude of 'straightness.' Also, in the episode "About Last Night", he is shown to be a John McCain supporter, playing on the fact that gays do not usually support conservatives. He also does not appear with the South Park gay people in The F Word.
In 200, he at first assists Stan, Kyle, and Cartman in angering Tom Cruise, but also later is consulted by Cartman regarding the events of Cartman's Mom Is Still a Dirty Slut, after Mitch Connor tells Cartman that the allegations Ms. Cartman was intersexual and Cartman's father are a lie - while Garrison tries to steer Cartman away, Cartman convinces him to bring out Mr. Hat, and Mr. Hat confesses the declaration of Ms. Cartman being his father (and intersex) was fake and that Eric Cartman's real father was in the room. The episode ends with an abrupt cliffhanger while Garrison is about to reveal the identity of Cartman's father.
Mr. Garrison was commonly known as "Mr. Garrison" without a first name until the episode "The Entity" where it was revealed as "Herbert Garrison". However, in the episode "Cherokee Hair Tampons" when he wrote his book "The Valley of the Penises", his name on the cover read as 'Ethan Garrison', though this may simply be a pen name. Beginning with the episode "D-Yikes!", Garrison goes by the name 'Janet Garrison'. In the episode "Eek, A Penis!" he receives a sex change and is re-introduced by Principal Victoria as "Mr. Garrison". He has since reconfirmed his first name, "Herbert".
Mr. Hat initially appeared to be simply a puppet used by Mr. Garrison as a teaching aide. However, it was soon apparent that Mr. Hat was actually somewhat different and later appears to perform activities not possible if he were merely a puppet. It is not entirely clear how much autonomy Mr. Hat and Mr. Garrison have from each other. In the episode "Chef Aid", Mr. Hat is able to drive a car through a prison wall to rescue Mr. Garrison and Chef, to which Chef remarks, "How the hell did he reach the gas pedal?"
Mr. Hat has been able to move his eyes at Mr. Garrison, and in a fictional crossover psychotherapy session with Dr. Katz (from another Comedy Central series) in "Summer Sucks", Katz suggests that Mr. Hat was a personification of Mr. Garrison's gay side. Garrison rejected this, and Katz was never able to counterpoint because he was killed shortly afterward by a gigantic novelty firework. Further evidence of Hat's autonomy is in "The Brown Noise", where Mr. Hat beats up Mr. Mackey, but also in the self-titled game where Mr. Hat owns, and runs, a robot factory by himself, or in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" when Satan picks up Mr. Hat as a companion to replace Saddam Hussein. Satan speaks Mr. Hat's lines in a voice very similar to Mr. Garrison's.
Mr. Hat is also a racist, as seen in "Chef Goes Nanners", where he is a member of the South Park branch of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Hat argues with Mr. Garrison and seemingly disappears to attend a meeting without him. Mr. Hat also appears to be somewhat psychotic. In "Weight Gain 4000", furious at Kathy Lee Gifford for a talent show he and Mr. Garrison had lost years ago, Mr. Hat convinces Mr. Garrison to kill her, which he attempts to do. Again, whether this indicates that Mr. Hat is independent or if Mr. Garrison's own psychosis is simply projected to his puppet is impossible to say.
Even though Mr. Hat was often used as a character device for Mr. Garrison's "gay side", Mr. Garrison retained use of Mr. Hat even after coming out as gay, during the period when both were seen to be teaching kindergarten. Mr. Hat is permanently abandoned in favor of Mr. Slave once Mr. Garrison begins teaching fourth grade, and was not seen again until the climax of the episode 200, when Eric Cartman demands to speak with him, at which point Mr. Garrison produces Mr. Hat from a dresser drawer.
Parker and Stone have said that the disappearance of Mr. Hat was symbolic of the show abandoning its original style as a surreal comedy in favor of its current format of satirizing real-life issues and events.
Mr. Garrison temporarily replaced Mr. Hat with Mr. Twig (starting in the episode "Summer Sucks"), who consisted of a twig wearing a purple shirt with a pink triangle symbol. His voice was identical to Mr. Hat's until his final scene in "Chef Aid", where he spoke with a French accent. Mr. Twig was not well received by the children in Garrison's third grade class, who repeatedly called for the return of Mr. Hat and suggesting Mr. Twig would be better used as a coat rack, to which Garrison took much offense. Eventually, Mr. Hat returns in "Chef Aid", heralding the fact by some psychopathic attacks on Mr. Twig. Though Garrison constantly assured himself that Mr. Twig was a better choice than Mr. Hat, he came to terms with his attachment to Mr. Hat at the end of the episode upon being broken out of jail by him. Garrison got back with Mr. Hat after Mr. Twig advised him to follow his heart.
- Trey Parker, Matt Stone (2003). South Park: The Complete First Season: "Weight Gain 4000" (Audio commentary) (CD). Comedy Central.
- Established in the episode "The Brown Noise".
- "Garrison". South Park Studios.
- "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina Script". South Park Scriptorium.
- "Eek, A Penis!". South Park Studios.
- Garrison at South Park Studios
- Garrison at the Internet Movie Database
- Line-O-Rama: Mr. Garrison's Best Lines