South Park season 1 episode 4 review

Our look back at South Park's maiden season reaches Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride...

4. Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride

George Clooney features in this episode as the guest star, except he’s lending his vocal talents to that of Stan’s new dog, Sparky, and as such only gets to utter a few “woofs” for the duration of the episode. Which is a good thing.

The plot revolves that of masculinity, and the fact that Sparky shows signs of being a gay dog. He inexplicably turns up in a pink scarf one day, and can’t seem to refrain from banging all the other male dogs in South Park. Upset with his dog’s sexuality, Stan turns his back on Sparky, leaving his abandoned pet to find a new home.

The home he finds is an animal sanctuary belonging to a mysterious man called Big Gay Al. When Stan feels remorse at having kicked his dog aside, he sets out looking for Sparky and stumbles across the sanctuary himself, wherein Big Gay Al takes him on a big gay boat ride and explains the story of homosexual oppression through the ages. A dance floor full of animals and thumping 90s house is a laugh-out loud moment here.

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Having come to understand that ‘being gay is okay’, and having his mind opened, Stan learns to accept Sparky for the dog he is, and immediately races back to South Park in order to compete in the big football game, of which he is the star player. Things finish up with Stan giving everybody a speech on prejudice and letting people be themselves.

I’m not sure how successful or how serious this episode is when it comes to dealing with homophobia. The message conveyed is positive, which is probably the most important thing, but at the same time the gay character featured is an uber-gay camp nightmare possessing every stereotypical feature you can imagine. Maybe it should just be taken as a joke. There’s no denying Big Gay Al’s outbursts such as “ooh, my carrot cake!” are funny, but at the same time you can imagine this episode doing little to change people’s opinions of the gay community. Perhaps that’s too big an ask for this show at such an early stage, eh?

Favourite bits here include the pink scarf Sparky keeps turning up with, the music in the gay animal disco, and Big Gay Al’s outburst of “of course, silly buns!” 

Read our review of episode 3 here.