WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for South Park's Season 23 episode, "Board Girls."
When Netflix brought Stranger Things to fans in 2015, the series evoked a deep sense of nostalgia for '80s fans. One aspect that stood out amongst the familiar feeling was the boys of Hawkins, Indiana, and their board game nights playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin reminded so many of us geeks of our youth and the spotlight on such a big series pushed the board game back into the pop culture spotlight in a big way. However, courtesy of its 23rd season, South Park takes a shot at the Stranger Things D&D crew and male gaming culture in general thanks to its Dice Studz squad.
The latest episode "Board Girls" is definitely one of the show's most provocative in terms of gender equality, kicked off by Cartman, Butters, Stan, Clyde and Scott arguing about Bugbears being able to procreate on game night as they play D&D. They're suddenly interrupted by the school counselor, Mr. Mackey, who brings in Tammy and Nicole, who on the advice of vice-principal Strong Woman, want to join the activity.
Initially, boys are hesitant to let the girls play, especially the sexist Cartman, but the girls immediately display a superior knowledge of the game. It stuns the boys, and with their pride and ego dented, Cartman, Butters and Scott complain to Mackey about girls in their club. They're dismissed, though, as shade is thrown on all-boys clubs who keep girls out or who have no interest in extending invitations in small podunk towns, a clear dig at the Hawkins crew. Honestly, when you think about it, Stranger Things has excluded Eleven and Max from their boys' nights so Matt Stone and Trey Parker are calling it as they see it, not to mention close-minded men in video game culture often attack women or get insecure to the point that threats are made and misogyny comes out in full-force, as the Gamergate controversy has shown us.
In South Park, however, Stan wants them to be more progressive and not like the Stranger Things gamers but Cartman insists they switch their games to tabletop miniature games to make games too difficult for the girls to play. Still, the girls come in with their research, prepared for the game, to the point Stan believes they belong there as they're just better than the boys. Cartman is, of course, pissed as he doesn't like how the girls keep winning, running off of statistics and rules as opposed to the boys who just want to play with emotion and make it up along the way. So much so, Cartman, Butters and Scott plead to the United States Congress to return their club to the way that it was in what's effectively a disgusting tantrum.
In response, the girls start up their own gaming club, Board Girls, and it's a major hit. It's well-run, the variety of games (like Flick 'em Up, Warhammer) is better, and they're even creating YouTube videos and podcasts, getting new products to review before they hit shelves. The boys are fascinated by this new club because this is what Cartman promised them but never delivered. Karma bites them minutes later, though, when Mackey kicks them out of the club as a new rule in school no longer allows boys in girls clubs -- a direct result of the pleas to Congress made by Cartman who now realizes how badly he's shot himself in the foot. His friends want in but thanks to his infantile antics, they can't enjoy the amazing club the girls have.
It comes full-circle when the Macho Man parody, Heather Swanson, brags about her ability to beat any woman at any contest as a motivational speaker at school, taking shots at Strong Woman as part of a vendetta. The Board Girls defend their leader and engage Heather (who only transitioned as female to get back at Strong Woman following a breakup) in various games. Heather loses every single one, however, as she makes it clear because she grew up a boy, she never read the rules or learned to play fair. She calls the losses unfair and tries to play victim, but the girls have simply embarrassed Heather, who's left in anger to now form a new club with, you guessed it, a bitter Cartman. Stan and Co. abandon ship because they don't want to be like Stranger Things anymore, as they believe that the girls do indeed make board games a much better experience.
Starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park Season 23 airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/PT on Comedy Central.