South Park Warns Against the Dangers of Memes

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Tebowing, planking, Bradying, breading, and that one talking cat all make appearances. If that seems like a lot of memes to keep up with, that’s precisely the point. This week, South Park offered up some sober advice for its audience: memes are dangerous, and it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. There’s also the recurring idea that if you show off a meme in public, you will be hit by a train.

Wednesday’s show (which was previously teased as a GOP debate mocking episode), finds the characters taking pictures of themselves at the debate pulling out their shirts in a meme they call “Faith Hilling.” Cartman discovers that this meme is passé and spends the rest of the episode trying to revive it, eventually sticking to his guns with the past-its-prime meme and getting everyone else to join. too — even the likes of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

(MORE: What Were the Memes of the Year? Depends on How You Define ‘Meme’)

Aside from their made-up “Faith Hilling” meme, the South Park characters focus on one specific meme from the Internet, breading–literally putting a slice of bread over a cat’s head–that seemed to be popularized ironically. In January, Gawker noticed and help kick-start the meme (before declaring it dead) to generate page views.  One bit character in the South Park episode notes: “If cats are putting slices of bread on their heads and taking pictures, they’re proving to be almost as intelligent as we are.”

At the end of the episode, when everyone joins in with Cartman’s “Faith Hilling,” a banal South Park reporter concludes: “The message is unclear, but it doesn’t matter, as long as you give the audience a song, celebrity-bashing and Republican hopefuls dancing around with boobies. It’s called pandering…”

MORE: South Park’s ‘Cheesy Poofs’ Are Becoming a Real-Life Snack