"South Park" premiered its 24th season Wednesday by tackling the one thing on everyone's minds: 2020 and everything that comes with it.
In true "South Park" fashion, the one-hour "Pandemic Special" took fiery jabs at President Donald Trump, the COVID-19 pandemic and police brutality.
"South Park" is known for making commentary on current social issues, but this special really hit home as scene after scene reminded us of at least a few things we've experienced in the pandemic over the last seven months.
Here are five reasons why the "Pandemic Special" was such a talker.
The great mask debate
The episode kicks off by diving head first into a contentious point in our current climate — masks. After scolding Butters for wanting to go to Build-a-Bear, a "non-essential business" during a pandemic, Stephen Stotch begins reprimanding his neighbors for improperly wearing their masks.
"Looks like you're wearing a diaper for your chin. Chin diapers don't help." Stotch yells at his neighbors who have a mask on, but are wearing it neither around their mouth or their nose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, wearing masks helps slow the spread of COVID-19, and they should cover your mouth and your nose to be effective.
Then, an animated Dr. Anthony Fauci comes to town to plead with people to wear their masks correctly. It didn't go over any better in South Park than it has in real life. "You expect people to wear a chin diaper over their mouth and nose?" one man yells. "That's disgusting. [Expletive] you, Fauci!"
The drama of virtual schooling
"South Park" also addressed the nuances of Zoom school, parents' worries and teachers being overwhelmed with the new system. Eric Cartman logs on to virtual school in the morning and does what many students have been known to do: fake a computer glitch to get out of attending.
When the school holds a town hall with parents to discuss getting the kids back to school, it gets as chaotic. Parents start attacking other parents for their improper mask-wearing and questioning the safety of their children being in school. When parents ask if teachers will also be returning, Mr. Mackey assures them that is correct.
"Our teaching staff does not feel safe to return, but we have hired all new teachers. These are people who have recently lost their jobs due to recent events and are desperate for work. So they'll do just about anything," Mr. Mackey says.
The reason why Black Lives Matter protests are happening
The special also captures the subtleties of Black Lives Matter protests over police brutality. In one segment, police officers have been hired as the new teachers after losing funding. When a fight between Cartman and Kyle erupts in the classroom, the officers start shooting at the kids and their bullets end up hitting Token, the only Black kid at the school.
"Got 'em," the officer says. To cover up the officer's shooting, Mr. Mackey says Token was taken to the hospital after contracting COVID-19.
The call to vote
In the episode's most demonstrative scene, the show encourages people to vote. President Garrison, the show’s Trump stand-in, breaks the fourth wall near the end of the episode, calling on viewers to vote.
"Don't forget to get out and vote, everybody," he says. "Big election coming up."
Subtle as it was, the scene is still a stark departure for a show whose prime directive has long been to never show it cares – especially when it comes to politics. After all, we are talking about a show whose 2004 election episode featured a contest between “Douche” and “Turd.”
The COVID-19 'cure'
Ultimately, Stan’s dad finds the cure for COVID-19 and it’s worse than the disease. Pot farmer Randy Marsh, whose COVID-inspired strain Pandemic Special gave the episode its title, realizes he was responsible for bringing the virus to the United States.
It all goes back to the “Band in China” episode when he flew to Beijing to market his Tegridy Farms marijuana there, partied with Mickey Mouse and had sex with a Chinese anteater. Mickey, portrayed on “South Park” as a ruthless businessman who sells out Disney characters in order to operate in China, threatens to have him killed and anonymously send his DNA to the scientists for their vaccine. Randy then realizes that if he gets his DNA into COVID-19 patients through his pot (featuring one particularly gross ingredient), he can sidestep the blame for getting them sick in the first place.
While the episode touched on multiple points of 2020, Stan summed up how a lot of people feel: “I can’t take these shutdowns anymore and I’m scared of what it’s doing to me … The truth is I just want to have fun again… I want my life back.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'South Park' pandemic special has everyone talking. Here's why