South Park season 1 episode 8 review

Our journey through South Park season one leads us to Starvin' Marvin...

8. Starvin’ Marvin

The boys witness a television advert appealing for donations to third world countries where every day children die of starvation. The appeal is made by Sally Struthers (again, a celebrity I am not aware of but whom Trey and Matt clearly dislike), a morbidly obese woman perhaps not best suited to preaching about lack of food. For sponsoring one of the starving children, the advert declares a free sports watch up for grabs, and so the boys call up to sponsor a child. Only, instead of a sports watch, an Ethiopian child is delivered to South Park, by the name of Marvin.

There are some very effective scenes here which perfectly highlight the injustice of the world, in regards to the abundant, wasteful west and the poverty-stricken east. At an all you can eat banquet, Cartman introduces Marvin to the pleasures of starter dishes and appetizers and side dishes, before abandoning it all when the main meal arrives. Cartman simply tosses the food aside onto the floor while Marvin looks on in abject horror. Even though it’s a crudely-drawn animation, the shock on that character’s face is quite potent in making us realize just how selfish, greedy and careless we are in this part of the world.

Cartman, having spent the entire episode unable to relate to the plight of people suffering famine, ends up confused with Marvin and sent to Africa, where he spends some hilarious scenes trawling through the desert, before stumbling across a secret shack filled with food. Inside, he finds Sally Struthers stuffing her face with cake. Outraged, Cartman alerts everybody to what is really going on, and soon Ms Struthers finds herself tied to a spit-roast.

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Meanwhile, violent turkeys genetically mutated by the brilliantly crazed Mafesto attack the town, foaming at the mouth and slaughtering all who stand in their path. In a somewhat tired parody of Braveheart, Chef rallies everybody round to lead an attack on the turkeys, driving them from South Park.

A very strong episode here that manages to balance comedy with weightier issues. Here Trey and Matt explore the mindset that throwing money at a problem will make it go away, how people are reluctant to get involved physically, believing a donation here and there can ease their conscience. They also deal with the slightly patronising behaviour of celebrities preaching to people to save stricken countries, and highlight the chasm of difference between east and west in a subtle, clever manner.

The fact that Cartman starts crawling around on all fours believing he is going to die of starvation after only a few hours in the desert is a perfect example of the spoiled, western mindset.

Favourite bit: Sally Struthers screaming, “Nooo, this is my caaaake!” when Cartman tries to wrestle it from her.

Read our review of episode 7 here.