Dances with Smurfs
|"Dances with Smurfs"|
|South Park episode|
|Episode no.||Season 13
|Directed by||Trey Parker|
|Written by||Trey Parker|
|Original air date||November 11, 2009|
"Dances with Smurfs" is the thirteenth episode of the thirteenth season of the American animated television series South Park. The 194th overall episode of the series, it originally aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 11, 2009. In the episode, Cartman becomes the reader of the elementary school announcements, and starts making politically charged accusations against student body president Wendy. The episode was written and directed by series co-creator Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States and M (as) in Australia.
"Dances with Smurfs" served as a parody of the political commentary style of Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio show host and former Fox News Channel pundit. The episode also satirized the 2009 James Cameron film Avatar, suggesting the plot of that film borrows heavily from the 1990 film Dances with Wolves, and comparing Avatar's blue aliens to the cartoon Smurfs. It also included references to the Tea Party protests, radio personality Casey Kasem, and former-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The episode received generally positive reviews. According to Nielsen ratings, "Dances with Smurfs" was seen by 1.47 million households among viewers aged between 18 and 34.
Gordon Stoltski, a third grader who reads the South Park Elementary morning announcements, is shot to death by a jealous husband mistaking him for a 40-year-old truck driver with a similar name (Gordon Saltski) who had an affair with his wife, which the entire school hears due to it being heard over the intercom. During a memorial service at the gymnasium, guidance counselor Mr. Mackey announces the school will seek a replacement. Cartman gets the job after sabotaging the efforts of a talented student named Casey Miller. However, during his first announcement, Cartman is very critical of the school and makes politically charged accusations against student body president Wendy Testaburger. Principal Victoria asks Cartman to stick to the script during announcements, but he accuses her of trying to silence him, and brings in the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure his freedom of speech. Cartman's announcements are soon broadcast as the politically themed "EC" show on televisions placed in each classroom. On his set's chalkboard he uses the first letters of keywords that he writes to spell out Wendy's intent to "kill Smurfs" which concerns Butters and some other students. When they confront Wendy, she simply refuses to acknowledge Cartman.
Cartman starts selling copies of his book, What Happened to My School?, outside the cafeteria where Stan confronts him. Angry because of Cartman's outrageous sexual lies about Wendy in his book, Stan tries to convince Cartman to stop selling his books to no avail. Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey again confront Cartman, and force him to stop selling his books on school grounds. This upsets Cartman, who accuses them of turning the school into a "socialist horrorland", and insists he is leaving the school. The next day, however, he appears on his show and spins a portrayal of himself in blue face-paint and suspenders, having somehow found Smurfland, becoming part of Smurf culture and eventually falling in love with Smurfette. Cartman then claims that Wendy bulldozed Smurfland and slaughtered the Smurfs to get their valuable Smurfberries, the complete story of which he has chronicled in his DVD, "Dances with Smurfs". Despite the fact that it is extremely obvious that the footage of "Wendy" was Cartman in disguise, Butters and a furious mob of students go to Wendy's house to confront her. Butters pees on her front door and demands that she go on Cartman's morning announcements show to answer his questions.
On the "EC" set the next morning a reluctant Wendy joins a gray side-burned Cartman who promises he will stick to school-related questions and go easy on her. However, as soon as filming begins, he immediately asks about her rumoured promiscuity and involvement in the Smurf genocide. To Cartman's surprise, Wendy claims she indeed bulldozed Smurfland to get the valuable Smurfberries, but alludes that Cartman was involved with the plot, and that the Smurfs would have left Smurfland if Cartman had not integrated himself with them. She steps down as student body president, turning the title over to Cartman, and announces her own new book Going Rogue on the Smurfs. Cartman is angry that she has turned the tables on him and stolen his Smurf idea, particularly when she announces she sold the movie rights to director James Cameron, who turned the book into his new film, Avatar. With being the student body president, Cartman can't do the morning announcements anymore because a student can't hold both positions at the same time. Cartman, much to his anger, also learns that being the student body president is a meaningless position with no real power. The episode ends with Casey Miller reading the announcements, which include a student's explicit letter of disgust for Cartman's performance as president, causing him to run out the room crying, "I'm doing the best I can!"
"Dances with Smurfs" was written and directed by series co-founder Trey Parker, and was rated TV-MA L in the United States. It first aired on November 11, 2009, in the United States on Comedy Central. The episode marked the final appearance of Gordon Stoltski, the third grade student who read the morning announcements for South Park Elementary. The day after "Dances with Smurfs" was originally broadcast, four T-shirts based on the episode were made available at South Park Studios, the official South Park website. All four featured Cartman wearing a suit and tie, saying a quote from the episode. These included "I'm not some dog on a leash", "We're in the poop box, my friends", "I'm a normal kid... I just ask questions", and "I ask questions".
"Dances with Smurfs" served as a parody and social commentary of the political commentary style of Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio show host and former Fox News Channel political pundit. Cartman makes outrageous claims with no basis for fact under the guise that he is simply asking rhetorical questions and seeking further discussion. Beck has been criticized for utilizing a similar style of commentary in his radio and television shows.
Cartman's televised morning announcements are patterned after the Glenn Beck television program, using the same types of music and imagery, as well as a logo with the initials "EC" that closely resemble the logo of Beck's show, which use the initials "GB". Cartman also writes comments about Wendy on a blackboard, which is a prop often used by Beck on his television program. The day after "Dances with Smurfs" originally aired, Beck himself discussed the episode on his radio program. Beck said he had not watched the episode himself but took the parody as a compliment, and that he particularly enjoyed Cartman's hair, which was combed in a style similar to Beck. Steve "Stu" Burguiere, the executive producer of Beck's radio show, also complimented the episode, and said of Parker and Stone, "These guys skewer everybody and they are always very good at it."
"Dances with Smurfs" satirized Avatar, the 2009 science-fiction epic film directed by James Cameron, which tells the story of humans in the distant future mining for minerals on an alien planet inhabited by blue natives. Although Avatar had not yet been released in theaters by the time the episode aired, the script of "Dances with Smurfs" compares the plot of Avatar to that of Dances with Wolves, a 1990 drama epic film in which a United States soldier becomes integrated with a tribe of Native Americans. At the end of "Dances with Smurfs", Cartman watches Avatar at a movie theater and grows angry that his idea was stolen, expressing the idea that Avatar borrows from other previous films. Avatar had already been compared to Dances with Wolves prior to the broadcast of "Dances with Smurfs", and James Cameron said he welcomed the comparison. Cartman's movie prominently features the Smurfs, a fictional group of small blue cartoon creatures, which draws a further parallel to the blue alien creatures in Avatar. The use of the cartoon Smurfs has also been interpreted as a joke that although Avatar had a famously large budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, the film amounted to little more than a Smurfs-like cartoon. On the commentary Trey Parker and Matt Stone described the Na'vi who are natives of Pandora in Avatar as "ten foot tall sexy Smurfs".
When Wendy resigns as student body president, she announces the publication of her book, Going Rogue on the Smurfs. This is a reference to Going Rogue: An American Life, the 2009 autobiography of former United States Vice President candidate Sarah Palin, who had recently announced her resignation as Governor of Alaska.
In its original American broadcast on November 11, 2009, "Dances with Smurfs" was watched by 1.47 million overall households among viewers aged between 18 and 34, according to Nielsen ratings. It ranked behind a special 90-minute episode of Sons of Anarchy, the FX series about an outlaw motorcycle club, which was the most watched cable program of the week with 2.5 million households among 18–49 viewers.
The episode received generally positive reviews. Ramsey Isler of IGN said Cartman worked well for a Beck satire, and said, "The real accomplishment of this episode is how it totally roasted a semi-political figure, without being political at all." However, Isler said the script loses focus with the appearance of the Smurfs, and that Gordon's death was disturbing and inappropriate in the light of recent school shootings in the United States. The A.V. Club writer Sean O'Neal, a vocal critic of Beck, said mocking Beck is an easy task, but the episode "handled it with just enough of the show's usual surrealist bent that it was never wholly predictable". He praised some of the episode's unexpected elements, like Cartman's Smurf film and Wendy's surprise resignation. Carlos Delgado of iF magazine said "Dances with Smurfs" became "a little strange" starting with Cartman's Smurf story, but he called the episode "smart, sharp, and poignant". Delgado said the episode had less "laugh out loud" humor than traditional South Park episodes, in favor of intelligent satire. AOL Television writer Donald Deane called it one of the funniest episodes of the season.
"Dances with Smurfs", along with the thirteen other episodes from South Park's thirteenth season, were released on a three-disc DVD set and two-disc Blu-ray set in the United States on March 16, 2010. The sets included brief audio commentaries by Parker and Stone for each episode, a collection of deleted scenes, and a special mini-feature Inside Xbox: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour of South Park Studios, which discussed the process behind animating the show with Inside Xbox host Major Nelson.
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