Spontaneous Combustion (South Park) - Theme


The episode satirizes religion in more ways than its reenactment of the Stations of the Cross. A church prayer, in which the priest prays for the success of the Denver Broncos, an NFL football team, has also been described as a satire on the way sports can take on a religious status due to the seriousness with which fans regard it. The priest also suggests Kenny might not have been killed if the South Park residents had attended church more regularly, which satirizes the use of guilt to encourage participation in religion; this is further demonstrated by Mr. Garrison's comment, "Oh, here comes the guilt trip again!" Religious writer Michel Clasquin said the episode also demonstrates the way in which people "go through the right motions" in practicing religion by attending church, but disregard religion in their everyday lives; he cites the example that when Stan asks his father where their copy of the Bible is, he says it's in the attic "with the old LPs". Clasquin said "Spontaneous Combustion" also demonstrates the ease with which people blend their religious convictions with lessons from pop culture, particularly with Stan's confusion of a biblical verse and a Star Trek quote. Nevertheless, Clasquin said Stan does ultimately learn lessons of sacrifice and selfishness from the story of Jesus' crucifixion, so the episode ultimately upholds some of the more positive aspects of religion and Christianity.

The episode also satirizes adult pretentiousness, a common theme in South Park episodes, by portraying the children as wiser and more reasonable in seeking a solution to the spontaneous combustion problem. Although the adults follow trends and solutions that contradict common sense, namely avoiding spontaneous combustion by passing gas at all times, only the children are able to find a reasonable solution in the middle of two extremes: only passing gas when absolutely necessary or when it is "really, really funny".

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