South Park’s ChatGPT Joke Is a Meta Shot at Its Happy Endings

The following contains spoilers for South Park Season 26, Episode 4, “Deep Learning,” which aired Mar. 8 on Comedy Central.

As Season 26 of South Park proceeds, it’s unsurprisingly divisive. The show has tread old ground, poking fun at celebrities the way it did in the 1990s. This carved out an iconic style, with South Park joking about Prince Harry and Meghan’s media tour.

Sadly, South Park leaned into Randy Marsh’s Japanese toilet antics, which felt like it was returning to the overdone drama of Tegridy Farms. Thankfully, Season 26 changes gears to a more relevant, timely topic. This revolves around ChatGPT and in the process, the comedic cartoon burns itself, those idealistic endings it prides itself on, and its viewership for consuming basic content.

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South Park Has Stan Using ChatGPT To Cheat

The ChatGPT issue reminds fans the show can react to real-time drama. South Park joked about Kanye West again to prove this, and now, it has teens like Stan and Craig using ChatGPT to write essays and cheat in school. In addition, both boys are using the open source A.I. to write texts to their girlfriends. They’re lazy and not into romance, so this program makes them sound like poets.

Even Mr. Garrison’s using it, which leads to chaos when the school district sends a shaman to suss out the cheaters. Stan turns to the program and asks it to script an ending to the episode after realizing the shaman may blame his girlfriend, Wendy, for the use of ChatGPT. It’s meta and hilarious and leads to a happy finale. That said, South Park Season 26 makes another strong point under the clutter.

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South Park Makes Fun of Its Writing & Audience

South Park's Mr. Mackey and the shaman AI tracker

Stan blames corporations for putting out these tools, exploiting people in need and making them victims. He prattles on, gets the school to forgive everyone, and most importantly, has Wendy forgive his sins and fall ever more in love. Simply put, it’s the idealistic and rudimentary ending many have chided South Park for over the years, where fictional problems ended with someone learning a lesson, offering a speech, and the show moving on without consequences. It’s why some disliked South Park for not detailing how Stan and Kyle’s friendship was fixed this season after a rift, thinking the series loves fairytale endings.

South Park leans into such people who hate these rushed conclusions, making fun of itself as it has Cartman making nasty jokes, which has nothing to do with the situation. It’s addressing the formula naysayers say the show follows. Again, it is cheeky banter, and South Park not taking itself too seriously, acknowledging how viewers think Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s writing is simplistic and, sometimes, lacking heart and soul.

It’s a very South Park thing to do while parodying how schools are now using A.I. detectors to discern which students are cheating. That said, Stan does leave a message to people who complain yet still give in to being exploited. Ultimately, he makes it clear people will still use the things they hate, akin to how audiences still watch South Park despite bashing it, which “insults” the show and the audience in a clever bit of satire.

South Park airs Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. on Comedy Central.

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