South Park‘s “City Sushi” of Season 15 is a true “Butters episode,” featuring said character at his quintessential best. He, innocently enough, opens the show working as a flyer distributor for the new local sushi place. The Chinese owner of City Wok is outraged because the Japanese are cutting in on his territory, just like they’ve continuously done throughout history. An Asian turf war breaks out and the authorities believe Butters is involved. Upon examining him, the psychologist says Butters suffers from multiple personality disorder, but what he offers in support of this diagnosis makes it clear to viewers that the doctor is simply observing Butters’ incredibly creative and playful mind. These “personalities” are simply characters that he has created so as to entertain himself while being drastically sheltered by his parents, who proclaim themselves to be “awesome.” Once again, Butters finds himself surrounded by people, usually adults, who drag him into a situation of some peril. Sure, Butters suffers from a bit of extreme naivete, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made efforts to develop very subtle layers to Butters, as he has emerged into a more (ironically) perceptive, less reserved staple of the show.
Early on, Butters was not as prolific and was inserted into spot episodes as an easy target of ridicule for the cast mainstays and audience alike. In the second half of Season 4 (2000), Butters briefly appears in “4th Grade.” On behalf of their peers, the core four decide to pull a prank on their new teacher to establish their dominance in the classroom. They propose the act of pulling down their pants while shouting “Kiss my ass!” Butters asks for clarification. “Should we stand front ways or back?” he stutters. “Do we show our behinds or our weiners?” Surprised at the lack of thought behind the question, Stan stares, pauses and deadpanly explains that showing their asses would be “sufficient.” Such scenes were the norm for poor Butters, the mere fringe character.
Butters would become more prevalent by the end of the 5th season though, when he was the focal point of the aptly, humorously entitled “Butters’ Very Own Episode.” This is when the audience would become more in tune with what makes Butters tick. Setting up his increased role in the next season as the possible replacement of Kenny as the fourth friend, Parker and Stone take viewers into the Scotch household-a pretty terrifying place. Like in the aforementioned “City Sushi” episode, Butters is asked to be involved in some unsavory activity. Looking to please his mother, he complies to spying on his dad, only to unknowingly reveal his father’s secret gay life. Mrs. Scotch snaps and decides that the only way to protect her son from the impurities of a life with a homosexual for a father is to kill Butters. He survives and by the end of the show lectures his parents about the pitfalls of lying.
By the time he creates his alter-ego, “Professor Chaos,” Butters has suffered many-a-pangs at the hands of Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, while serving as their stand-in friend. Finally, after an ultimate rejection as their confidant, Butters becomes the super villain, looking to create displeasure for anyone in his presence. Sure he only performs crimes against others that are more cute than harmful, like swapping people’s soups at Bennigan’s, but this is a turning point for Butters as he would come to assert himself amongst the group more and more.
Of late, Butters has been increasingly vocal and, dare I say, confident in his voice. By the premiere of the current Season 15, “HumancentiPad,” viewers behold him actually pointing out a poor choice on Kyle’s part to accept, without reading, the exceptionally verbose agreement between Apple and their users of the frequently updated ITunes application. It is Butters, of all people, who calls into question Stan’s defense of the entrapped Kyle. After reading aloud the portion of the agreement that clearly indicates that Kyle had agreed to be a part of the Apple experiment in which Kyle’s face would be sewn to the rear end of another user, Butters slowly, moves his mouse into place and sarcastically enunciates, “Yeah, I’m going to click…’Decline.'” In “The Last of the Meheecans,” Butters is the unheralded hero. After (once again innocently) becoming a recognizable symbol of Mexican pride in the neighboring country, the gang fail to be aware of his leadership capabilities and refuse to appoint him head-Mexican should they once again play “Texans vs. Mexicans.” With dramatic irony at work, Butters simply raises his arms, thus manipulating the native Mexicans into a chant for their new idol, a chant that can be heard all the way to Colorado. And at the end of “City Sushi,” Butters is again the hero, having unmasked Janus and put an end to his Japanese brand of terror in South Park. During the course of the episode, Butters is literally pissed on by Janus, who was pretending to be his therapist, while he slept. It is as though Parker and Stone created a visual reminder of what had been happening to Butters throughout his tenure on the show, while, at the same time, pointing out the new irony present in his character, having become smarter, stronger, and more assertive. It will be interesting to see how many more times the creators of South Park use Butters as a purveyor of keen perception, while trumping Stan and Kyle’s level of cognizance and intelligence.