Last night’s episode of South Park focused on body shaming, America’s favorite topic after Donald Trump these days. Thanks to the Internet, everyone can be a bully 24/7, which has led to much-needed discussion about the way in which we talk about women’s (and occasionally men’s) bodies.
Everyone can agree one one thing: No one should call anyone fat.
And yet, it happens all the time. Last spring, Selena Gomez shut down the haters on her Instagram account by responding, “I love being happy with me y’all #theresmoretolove ” In the summer, Demi Lovato came under fire for her sexy Cosmopolitan cover, firing back, “It’s so liberating to be able to show the world how confident a woman can be once she learns to love herself.” Just a few weeks ago, Gigi Hadid posted a lengthy note on Instagram asking everyone to stop bitching about her body (seriously, who are these people??). She wrote, “If I didn’t have the body I do, I wouldn’t have the career I do. I love that I can be sexy. I’m proud of it.” With each note comes a greater swell of support, and of course more trolls.
And yet, South Park’s “Safe Space” episode doesn’t troll. Instead, it asks a totally legitimate question: If you call public attention to your body, are you not opening yourself up to criticism? If you post a picture of yourself nearly naked on Instagram, doesn’t that mean you want people to talk about your body? It’s harsh, sure, but it’s true. And if you don’t want to hear the bad with the good, there’s always that unspoken option: Stay off social media.
In the episode, the character of Butters is tasked with weeding out all the negative comments on social media. “Lena Dunham a put a picture of her a**hole on Twitter and only wants the positive comments,” he panics, while Lovato (in cartoon form) sits behind him and says, “People have to accept my body the way it is!” Later, the cast sings a song with lyrics like, “Everyone likes me and thinks I’m great in my safe space / People don’t judge me and haters don’t hate in my safe space / Bully proof windows, troll-safe doors rainbows all around me / There is no shame in my safe space.”
The “safe space” is a magical world in which only the positive comes through, sort of like the oft-criticized generation in which kids are told they’re perfect and deserve everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. It might sound like a good idea, but it’s actually a nightmare.