Season 15Episode 12
Original air date
November 2, 2011 (2011-11-02)
"1%" is the twelfth episode of the fifteenth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 221st episode overall. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on November 2, 2011. In the episode, Cartman feels persecuted after he is blamed for causing his school to attain a low score on a national fitness test. As he confides in his stuffed animals, they end up becoming targeted for mutilation.
The episode was written by series co-creator Trey Parker, and is a parody of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the late-2000s recession.
The assembled student body of South Park Elementary is informed that they have scored the lowest in the entire country on the Presidential Fitness Test due to Cartman's extremely poor health, which single-handedly ruined what would have been the school's otherwise acceptable average; as punishment, the students are forced to alternate physical education in place of recess for four weeks. When they rebuke Cartman for this, he accuses them of being "the 99%" that is "ganging up" on him, the 1%, but when Craig dismissively tells him to go home and cry to his stuffed animals as usual, Cartman does just that. As he commiserates with his five stuffed animals, he carries on an imaginary conversation with them. When the toys "tell" him that the Fitness Test is Barack Obama's fault, Cartman concludes that he is being blamed because it is politically incorrect to blame a black president, even accusing the student-filled cafeteria of being a "99% rally" being held against him.
This inspires Butters and Jimmy to form a 99% club to protest their being punished for Cartman's poor health. An angry group of fifth graders agrees, saying that it is time to make Cartman suffer. When the head of the Colorado Division of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition refuses to drop Cartman's test scores from the school's average, Butters and Jimmy stage a two-man protest outside his office that despite its size, attracts the attention of the police, who create a two square mile perimeter around them, and the news media, who mistakenly report that they are occupying the Red Robin two doors down from the Council office.
Meanwhile, Cartman discovers his beloved stuffed animals being mutilated and destroyed one by one, beginning with his long-beloved Clyde Frog, nailed to a tree with his stuffing ripped out, and the word "VENGEANCE" written beneath him. Cartman regards his animals' destruction as their "murders", and even holds a funeral service for Clyde Frog. When Stan, Kyle, and Kenny ask the fifth-graders whether they are behind the mutilations, they do not give a straightforward answer, but state that Cartman has had a comeuppance coming his way for a long time, and that because Stan and the other fourth-graders have failed to rein in Cartman's problematic behavior, the fifth-graders have something big planned to remedy the problem, in which they warn Stan and his friends not to interfere. When Peter Panda, another of Cartman's toys, is destroyed by a fire set in Cartman's bedroom one night, he seeks refuge with his three surviving stuffed animals at Token Black's house, because, according to Cartman, black people are not subject to criticism or harassment.
Meanwhile, the fifth-graders stage an "83%" protest right next to Butters and Jimmy's 99% protest, proclaiming that as the 83%, they are tired of being punished for the fourth grade class. This begins an argument between the two groups that degenerates into a physical altercation that media characterize as "class warfare".
Despite being at Token's mansion, Cartman discovers Muscle Man Marc melted in a boiling pot of water and Rumper Tumpskin chained to a wall with explosives, which Cartman triggers with a tripwire. He finds the remaining toy, a doll named Polly Prissypants, sitting in an armchair with a revolver, claiming responsibility for all the toy "murders". Polly "explains" that she did this because his friends were right when they said that he needed to grow up. Unbeknownst to him, Cartman's stunned friends watch the bizarre scene unfold from a balcony, as do Cartman's mother and Token's parents from outside a window. Cartman is incredulous that Polly murdered her friends, but Polly explains they were holding her and Cartman back, and that now, with the latter deaths occurring at Token's house, the blame will fall on him, while she and Cartman can grow up together. When Cartman points out that black people cannot be blamed for anything any more, Polly realizes her catastrophic error, and convinces Cartman to shoot her to death in order to escape blame himself, which Cartman tearfully does. Shocked at what they have just witnessed, Stan asks "what the hell?" Kyle, knowing how psychologically disturbed Cartman is, explains that "we told him to grow up so he got rid of his stuffed animals".
The protests eventually fall apart, as the 99% and 83% are replaced by various smaller percentages, according to a reporter, who then rushes away when he is informed that protestors are now "occupying" a Macaroni Grill.
Ryan McGee of The A.V. Club graded the episode an "A−", stating: "What worked in this episode didn’t really have much to do with what was funny about it. While there were a few laughs to be had, humor wasn’t really the focus. The focus instead lay on the twisted mind of Eric Cartman actually going through a potentially life-changing part of his existence."
Ramsey Isler of IGN gave the episode a "Great" rating of 8 out of 10, noting the "clever bait-and-switch" on the part of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who indicated in their pre-air press that the episode would parody the Occupy Wall Street movement, only to focus more on Cartman's psychological growth. Though Isler felt it followed past formula for Cartman, he thought it enhanced the episode's theme, lent itself to memorable humor, and found Cartman's maturation, much like the plot of "You're Getting Old", to be surprising and interesting, if not exceptionally funny.
Katia McGlynn of The Huffington Post, who found the episode's themes funny, praised Parker and Stone for their ability to make a topical episode in only six days, and to use the fourth grade class as a microcosm to parody current events.
Asawin Suebsaeng of Mother Jones stated that despite Parker and Stone's libertarian leanings and their tendency to skewer orthodoxies in general and the political left and right in particular, the episode's "blatant" analogs did not merely target the Occupy Wall Street movement, but what Suebsaeng calls "the whiners, paranoid excuse-makers, and irrational Obama-blamers", as well as overreaction on the part of police and the media, and panic over class warfare. According to Suebsaeng, this underscores Parker and Stone's formula for mining politics for crude, contrarian humor rather than taking it too seriously.
Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly did not find the episode particularly funny, owing to what he felt was its uncharacteristically mild obviousness, and the number of different targets of its parody, which he felt rendered the humor mostly aimless and "flimsy".