Thirteen Years Later, ‘South Park’s ‘You’re Getting Old’ Still Hits Too Close to Home

‘South Park’s most miserable, cynical and flatulent two-episode plot line hits even harder as it gets older
Thirteen Years Later, ‘South Park’s ‘You’re Getting Old’ Still Hits Too Close to Home

Thirteen years after the most depressing double feature in South Park history, everything is still crap, and Stan still isn’t old enough to legally drink it all away.

Halfway through South Park Season 15, Trey Parker and Matt Stone made the bold move to buck the usual formula for a South Park episode. Thus far in the series, regardless of the heavy topics tackled, almost every entry ended on a lighter note, either in the form of a lesson learned by the boys in the early seasons or a convenient resolution that reset the town to the status quo for the next preposterous plot line. Then, the mid-season finale “You’re Getting Old” aired, closing out with a melancholy montage set to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” And, in a more comically named but equally depressing follow-up, the next episode, “Assburgers,” annihilated our emotional states even further with its own ending scene preceded by an equal dose of flatulence and Fleetwood Mac. 

Over in the South Park subreddit, some fans are still reeling from the curveball South Park threw at them more than a decade ago. In a thread dedicated to the South Park moments that “hit you a bit too close to home,” fans commiserated over the devastatingly relatable existential crises that “You’re Getting Old” and “Assburgers” delivered to fans during those sleepless nights in 2011. And all because of a bunch of poop jokes.

In both episodes, the throughline of Stan Marsh’s struggle to process his own maturity and the dismal state of the parts of his life that once propped him up — like his family unit, his friendships and, of course, the crappy media he consumed — hits a low note not typical for the series that delighted in taking absolutely nothing too seriously. The problem starts in “You’re Getting Old” when Stan receives a “tween wave” CD from Kyle for his birthday and finds the music to sound like shit — literally. Soon, everything around Stan, from new music, to new movies, to ice cream, looks, sounds and smells like shit as he’s diagnosed with “being a cynical asshole.” Meanwhile, Sharon and Randy come to realize how much they see shittiness in each other, and the Marsh family splits in two.

Following the events of “You’re Getting Old,” Parker and Stone let South Park fans marinate on their misery for five months before bringing “resolution” to the plot line, when Stan’s depression is misdiagnosed as flu shot-induced Aspberger’s syndrome by anti-vaxxers. While Cartman has an absolute field day with the wordplay potential of the unfortunately named condition, Stan gets taken in by a Matrix-esque coalition of alcoholics who also see shit everywhere they look in the world. Though Stan’s world hastily starts to come back together as Randy and Sharon make amends and his friend group returns to normal, the episode closes with Stan sneaking a swig of whiskey, thus traumatizing untold thousands of South Park fans with similar coping mechanisms. 

Parker and Stone have admitted that, following the carefully planned and cuttingly personal story of cynicism and the cruel passage of time in “You’re Getting Old,” they didn’t exactly know how they were going to stick the landing in “Ass Burgers.” On the DVD commentary track for the latter episode, Parker summarized the first writers’ meeting for the episode after the extended break as the team wondering, "Now what the hell do we do?" Ultimately, the staff decided that, though the world of the series had to “reset” to its original place before the events of “You’re Getting Old,” they needed to end the story without the comforting conclusion of everything returning to normal — hence Stan’s infamous swig that’s still making South Park fans emotional today.

In the subreddit, fans shared their own stories of growing old, coping with alcohol and falling into the same cynical traps that Stan did back in 2011. One even lamented, “Life sucks and nothing is ever as good as it was when I was younger, and will probably continue to get worse as time goes by. Alcohol is the only thing that makes social outings even bearable now. ‘Landslide’ was the perfect song for this sad sad moment of realization. Don’t turn 30 guys and gals.” 

However, as easy as it is to be lulled into delirious cynicism by both this South Park arc and the testimonials of those affected by it, even the biggest pessimists must eventually face the fact that, if everything smells like shit to you, its probably time to check your own shoes.


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?