(S1511) I know that this might come as a shock to some of you out there, but I don't know the slightest thing about musicals. I've never been to a Broadway show. I saw a local production of The Sound of Music once, but only because my mom dragged me to it. The names Schwartz, Lloyd Weber, and Sondheim ring a bell, but if you told me they were famous architects instead of composers, I wouldn't argue. I certainly wouldn't be able to pick any of them out of a line up.
Last night's South Park episode, "Broadway Bro Down," was -- at least I assume it was -- a parody of musical theater and commentary about being the new guy, the outsider, in the Broadway world. But, given that I really have no frame of reference, I can't be one-hundred percent sure. If someone had never heard "Beat It," would they be able to tell that "Eat It" was a parody? Or would they just assume that it was a goofy song written by the frustrated father of a picky eater? If I didn't know that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were the creators of a Tony Award winning musical, I might assume that "Broadway Bro Down" was little more than an excuse to talk about blowjobs for a half an hour. The episode itself is all about "subtext" within musicals, but I can't help feeling like the subtext within "Broadway Bro Down" flew right over my head.
Having said all of that, I'll refrain from making any value judgements about the episode. I honestly can't say whether or not it was genius or infantile. Early buzz about the episode seems to indicate that "Broadway Bro Down" is an instant classic, but coming from a position of ignorance regarding the subject matter, I can neither agree nor refute anyone's opinion. Instead, what I'll do is provide a quick overview of the episode and hope that readers with a more nuanced understanding of the "subtext" will fill in the blanks in the comments section.
"Broadway Bro Down" begins with Randy Marsh discovering a secret about musicals. He learns that if you take your wife/girlfriend to a show, it's pretty much guaranteed that she is going blow you afterward. All musicals feature subliminal messages, "subtext" if you will, that encourages -- hell, mandates -- the performance of oral sex. Desperate for BJs, Randy takes Sharon to see Wicked in Denver, and lo and behold, the secret turns out to be true. With neither party satisfied after just one show, Randy takes Sharon to New York and they embark on a whirlwind trip around Broadway, seeing every show. And Randy gets blown after every one.
Having seen all of the shows in New York and Denver, Randy isn't ready for the BJ train to stop just yet. So he decides to put on his own musical in South Park. But his show, "Splooge Drenched Blow Job Queen", violates the cardinal rule of Broadway. He turns "subtext" (blowjobs) into "actual text" (also blowjobs). His cavalier attitude toward show business attracts Broadway bigwigs Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen Schwartz, Stephen Sondheim, and Elton John to town. They must put a stop to Randy's show before the secret gets out and musical theater is ruined for everyone.
Elton, Andrew, and the two Stephens are portrayed as "bros" who hang out at Hooters and drink beer. I assume that this is a way for Trey Parker and Matt Stone to turn the perception of theater people as "feminine" on its ear. But, again, I'm not completely sure exactly what point the jokes are supposed to be making. To my untrained ear, the most of the jokes were little more than the words "blow" and "job" repeated ad infinitum.
Randy's love of the theater (and BJs) is suddenly halted when he gets word that his daughter Shelly is going to see Wicked with "her little boyfriend", Larry Feegan. Apparently what's good for the goose isn't always good for the gander, at least when your daughter is involved. Randy can't bear the thought of Shelly blowing little Larry after the show, so he races down to the theater to "put and end to Broadway, once and for all." He throws on a Spiderman costume -- a thinly veiled allusion to Turn Off The Dark, I presume -- and proceeds to swing through the theater on a cable trashing the place. Ultimately, he puts and end the show, as well as Larry's life.
"Broadway Bro Down" ends on an up-note, however. Randy comes clean to Sharon about his reason for taking her to all of those musicals. Initially, Sharon is disgusted, but she forgives Randy soon enough. She realizes that they both got something out of their trips to the theater. She got a great night out with her husband, and he got a hummer. It's a win-win scenario.