|"Raising the Bar"|
|Episode no.||Season 16|
|Original airdate||October 3, 2012|
|List of all South Park episodes|
Plot details follow.
While shopping at Wall-Mart, Cartman and Kyle get into an argument over Cartman's weight. Cartman insists that he is not fat, arguing that he is not like one of the morbidly obese people using Rascal mobility scooters. Kyle argues that those people represent what Cartman will soon become if he does not change his lifestyle.
After a brief reflection, Cartman admits to Kyle that he is fat. Now that he has accepted this, Cartman reveals to have gained a few more pounds so that his insurance company would pay for his own mobility scooter. Cartman claims that no one understands the "shame" and "embarrassment" that those like him feel as a result of being ostracized or ignored for their weight, while shamelessly exploiting the privileges that come with the handicapped status of using a mobility scooter user. Cartman and other scooter users also engage in lawsuits against property owners for not making their bathroom facilities accessible to them, which results in a widespread modification to these properties. The cost is passed down to taxpayers, who express their outrage by engaging in "Rascal tipping", in which they knock over scooter users. The Department of Health reacts to this by spending twenty-five million dollars to outfit scooters with "tip assist" arms with which the scooters can upright themselves mechanically.
When Kyle expresses outrage at this, Cartman excoriates Kyle for condoning Rascal-tipping, and for glorifying anorexia, saying that just because he uses a scooter does not make him "white trash" like Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. Kyle, not knowing who this is, watches the TV show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and is astonished at how the societal bar has been lowered to the point where no one seems to feel shame any more.
Aboard the USS James Cameron, film director James Cameron embarks on an undersea journey into the ocean depths to find this "bar" and raise it back, despite his support team's attempt to explain to him that this is a metaphor.
Kyle decides that something has to be done to raise the public consciousness about the distinction between being sensitive to overweight people and allowing them to bully and exploit the rest of society. Tolkien proposes that Kyle secretly videotape Cartman's activities so that Tolkien to edit it into a documentary to educate the public. Kyle agrees to this, but when he presents the edited program to an audience, he is appalled that, far from a 60 Minutes-type story on the issue, Tolkien has turned it into a reality television program called "Here Comes Fatty Doo Doo" that includes a light-hearted theme song by Randy Newman, in order to humiliate Cartman and profit from him. Tolkien explains that if a network called The Learning Channel can air a program like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo without remorse, then he can as well. Tolkien further argues that "the bar" is determined by society, and cannot be raised up by any one person. Kyle then begins to question whether he himself should continue to profit from this venture, until he learns from Stan that Honey Boo Boo has suffered heart failure resulting in a heart transplant from a pig - yet Honey's mother doesn't seem ashamed at all.
Meanwhile, Cameron's Bathysphere-like submersible reaches a depth of 50,000 feet, and he is angered to find Randy Newman already there in a diving suit. Newman explains that he does not want "the bar" raised because then no one will hire him, and engages in combat with Cameron's submersible.
After Kyle informs Cartman of the reality program based on his life, Cartman hires a lawyer to file a cease and desist order barring Tolkien from airing the program. Tolkien informs them that the program aired the previous night, though he concedes that Honey Boo Boo beat it in the ratings by a wide margin. This infuriates Cartman, who ends up wrestling Honey Boo Boo in "sketti" (spaghetti topped with a mixture of ketchup and butter, a culinary staple of the Thompson family, as seen on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) in a public event held by Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House.
At the bottom of the ocean, Cameron finally finds the bar, and attempts to drag it to the surface with his submersible's grappling hook.
As Kyle remorsefully wonders how and when the bar was lowered to such depths, he and Stan realize that attendees at the event are suddenly beginning to feel distaste about it. This also includes Michelle Obama, who puts a stop to the wrestling, and announces that from now on, she will dedicate her husband's administration to fighting childhood obesity, literally, as she starts beating up Cartman and destroys his mobility scooter.
Back on the USS Cameron, Cameron emerges from his submersible, and announces that he is done, and will next embark on making Avatar 2. When his support team tells him that the public should know that he saved them by heroically raising the bar, Cameron responds that he does not do what he does for his own interests.
- This episode won a 2013 Emmy Award in the category of "Outstanding Animated Program". This is the show's fifth overall Emmy Award.
AV Club gave "Raising the Bar" a "B+" rating saying: "The end of the show is anti-climactic after this moment, but still manages a funny resolution, especially with Michelle Obama beating up Cartman and Cameron finally checking his ego… sort of. But it’s that one moment of navel-gazing, something the show has done before, that gives the episode a nice punch to it, an acknowledgement of the show’s crude beginnings and how far it’s come. The lowering of the bar for our culture would have happened whether South Park was around or not. And even if those early episodes did fall on the more trivial side of that kind of shock humor, they still managed to evolve into something beyond that, something that feeds off this continual of schlock we digest in a way that forces South Park to hold up a mirror to our culture. It’s its own weird self-propelling cycle, one that doesn’t show any signs of letting up any time soon, and I'm guessing Matt and Trey are totally okay with that."
IGN gave "Raising the Bar" a "8.7" rating saying: "With a premise centered on the absolute horror that is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, South Park's "Raising the Bar" didn't exactly sound like it was reaching for top-shelf parody fodder. And in truth, it would have been very easy for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to make an entire episode out of the televised exploitation of obesity. Fortunately, the creators took it a step further to point out the real source of the problem: the viewers."
James Cameron • Randy Newman • Alana Thompson • Michelle Obama • First Lady's Symposium on Obesity • June Shannon • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo • The Bar • USS James Cameron • Disneyland • Here Comes Fatty Doo Doo • Mobility Scooter • "Ballad of James Cameron" •