Mahalo cards, “haoles,” Elvis and poke made their way into South Park‘s season premiere Wednesday night, which also shed light on – or rather, made fun of – the Garden Isle of Kauai. I’m not a hardcore South Park fan by any means, but this one I had to watch. And I’m so glad I did because the “Going Native” episode offered some much needed comic relief to several issues happening right now in the islands. Plus, it was hilarious! While not true for everyone, the satirical references to Hawaii and its culture got people laughing instead of continuing to bicker; best of all, it got people talking about Hawaii all over the world.
Aloha shirts and lei, a must for the “South Park” episode set in Hawaii.
It’s not that we particularly need the help; after all, these beautiful Hawaiian Islands will (hopefully) continue to be a destination of choice for travelers seeking a tropical getaway. The half-hour episode, instead, helped to educate those not familiar with Hawaii. Of course, most of the references had a slightly fictional twist on the culture and people, but after reading several forums online and in the realm of social media, it’s clear that visitors learned a thing or two from locals who chimed in with explanations to those satirical references.
Being exactly 18 days away from Election Day, it’s no surprise that politics have become the most talked about issues to date. In Hawaii, campaign ads seem to be getting harsher by the day, as local politicians extend their wrath to political opponents, one 30-sec ad after another. So when cartoon versions of former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and current Gov. Neil Abercrombie showed up on South Park, almost everyone who recognized the characters in the background, found themselves chuckling. Even Lingle (or her campaign team) talked about the episode in good spirits on her website and Facebook page.
Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (top) and Gov. Neil Abercrombie (bottom) as “extras” in “South Park.”
Although small references to Hawaii, explanations of Hawaiian words hopefully had the biggest impact on the worldwide audience. For instance, one character uses the word, kapu, and goes on to explain its meaning as something taboo. The show used words like, keiki (children) and mahalo (thank you), and of course, what would Hawaii be without mentioning its unique foods? Poke, poi and saimin appeared on the episode; as for that vodka “chi-chi” drink, sorry to say, but that’s not something you can order on the menu here!
Mahalo Cards, however, are actually a real thing. In the episode, mahalo cards are similar to the kamaaina discounts that residents get at certain businesses. In real life, the Waiohai Mariott offers Mahalo Cards to those with timeshares. It’s apparently good for discounts at various shops, as well as a free piece of hula pie from Duke’s restaurant. Ha!
Turns out, one of the creators of South Park owns a home in Waialua, Kauai. That explains the “insider’s perspective” portrayed throughout the writing and illustrations of the episode. Years ago, creator Trey Parker’s parents got married at the now-decaying Coco Palms Resort, which was devastated by Hurricane Iniki two decades ago. In fact, it was big news on the island when Trey donated about $20k to the Friends of Coco Palms, a group that hopes to restore the resort.
The legendary Coco Palms, destroyed by Hurricane Iniki, still remains in a dilapidated state on Kauai. It made a debut on the season 16 premiere of “South Park.”
If you’re curious about the episode or some of the satirical references, I’d suggest watching it (again). Here’s the link: https://www.southparkstudios.com/news/u9i90w/watch-episode-1611-going-native-now. But this time, watch it with a critical eye and see how many of the previously mentioned references you can find.