South Park has been running for 18 long seasons, but it still has an incisive wit unmatched by most shows, and real power to change our viewpoints: if you didn't think the Washington Redskins' name and imagery was offensive before, it's hard to argue after watching its newest episode. The episode, titled "Go Fund Yourself," is an incredibly effective piece of satire that attacks Kickstarter, startup companies, and the NFL, but saves its most potent ammunition for the Redskins' owner, Dan Snyder. Viewers in the United States can watch it now at South Park Studios.
The show is a sustained blast aimed at the offensively-named football team after six of its trademarks were cancelled by the US patent office. It characterizes Snyder as ignorant and callous, unaware of or unwilling to consider the racist implications of his team's name, logo, and branding until it's whipped out from under him by a crack team of 10-year-old boys.
Those boys make the decision to use the football team's name for a new company after discovering that all the good startup names — including "Boner Forest" and "Lubricated Titty Burgers" — are taken. Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman want to build a company with the express aim of doing nothing, using Cartman's eerily accurate four-step startup plan.
Randy Marsh tries to tell his son that "there's more to starting a company than a catchy name," but Stan replies "no, there's not." The younger Marsh is right. The new Washington Redskins quickly earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kickstarter, and attract the attention of the existing Washington Redskins' owner. Snyder shows up at Cartman's office to demand his name back. Admitting that with the trademark gone, he has no legal recourse to ask the new Washington Redskins to change its name, Snyder appeals to Cartman's human decency. Cartman, being Cartman, has none. He refuses to acquiesce because it's "like super hard" to change the name of a company, and he says he just doesn't want to. "But hey," he says as Snyder is about to leave, "from one Redskin to another, go fuck yourself."
The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell have proven to be muddled and achingly slow in reacting to serious issues of domestic violence, racism, and drug use by its players and personnel. South Park hits out at the league, showing it to be presided over by a cabal of owners so desperate to avoid making decisions or being implicated in any scandal that they use a lifeless Goodell in their place to spew platitudes and maintain the status quo. One of the episode's most outlandish moments sees Goodell making vague and incomprehensible promises to Snyder that the NFL "will get better." Incredibly, the quotes are taken from an actual speech Goodell made earlier this month, which was subsequently savaged by satirist John Oliver.
Kickstarter, too, is the target of acerbic attacks. The company is revealed to be Cartman and company's ideal employers, having realized the boys' dream of being able to sit in place and skim percentages off the top of other successful startups, and its backers are shown to be acne-faced weirdos who only provide money for ironically funny projects. Even the infamous potato salad campaign is referenced.
But it's the Washington Redskins that bear the brunt of the assault. The episode is peppered with direct analogs to the struggles Native American groups have faced in trying to stop racist depictions of their heritage and culture from being used in daily life. Cartman defends his use of The Washington Redskins name by saying he has a deep appreciation for the people and culture — of Dan Snyder's football team. On finding a newspaper blown across a road that shows that terror group ISIS has renamed itself the Washington Redskins, Snyder turns to the camera and lets a single tear roll down his cheek, a reference to the iconic "Keep America Beautiful" ad from the 1970s, featuring a crying Native American. The episode even builds to a climactic last stand — between the Redskins and the Cowboys.
As has slowly happened to the real Washington Redskins, people start to turn against Cartman's company, railing against the insensitive use of another group's name for his own benefit. But as in real life, it's a question of how long the company owner's obstinate nature will allow him to keep the racist nomenclature and imagery. As Cartman says earlier in the episode, "digging in our heels and pissing on public opinion is what the Washington Redskins are all about!"