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South Park Issues a Rare Mea Culpa for One of Its Oldest Mistakes

South Park Issues a Rare Mea Culpa for One of Its Oldest Mistakes  Vanity FairSouth Park attempts to atone for one of its most egregious sins when ManBearPig Returns  The A.V. ClubFull coverage

This post contains spoilers for South Park Season 22, Episode 6, “Time to Get Cereal.”

Twelve years later, it appears South Park has had a change of heart about one of its oldest mistakes. In a 2006 episode, during the animated comedy’s 10th season, a hysterical Al Gore showed up in South Park to issue a dire warning about a monster that only existed in his imagination. In real life, Gore was just a month away from releasing An Inconvenient Truth; the beast, ManBearPig, was an obvious stand-in for climate change. In the world of South Park, however, the creature did not actually exist—indicating that South Park was pooh-poohing a proven and very dangerous global phenomenon.

It appears that now, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have seen the error of their ways. On Wednesday night, ManBearPig returned to the show—and this time, he was definitely real, despite what anyone who denied his existence might have said.

In this week’s episode, the kids discover Gore was right all along when Stan witnesses an attack. They run to the former presidential candidate for help, which he provides—after rubbing his triumph in their faces for a while. (You knew this apology wouldn’t come without at least a little fun at Gore’s expense.) Still, not everyone believes in ManBearPig; in one scene, a man questions whether the monster really exists, even as it attacks people directly behind him.

Eventually, the kids go to their local library, where they discover that ManBearPig is a demon whose bargains with mankind will eventually spell doom. Unfortunately, before they can do anything about it, they get arrested on the suspicion they’re school shooters—a thread that’s continued from the season’s premiere. In a final twist, we learn it was Stan’s grandfather who made the original deal with ManBearPig. Why, exactly, remains to be seen—hopefully after he bails the kids out of jail.

Stone and Parker were typically merciless with Gore back in 2006, and on Wednesday it appeared that they were trying to make amends for not taking climate change as “cereal” as they should have at the time. While it’s not unheard of for this show to admit it was wrong, it’s certainly still a rare occurrence. In this case, it appears that Stone and Parker have decided that the show’s old philosophy—caring too much about anything is stupid—simply does not hold water. At least, not when the threat is this imminent.

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