Fans of the irreverent, not-for-kids cartoon South Park (1997 to present) went wild this week, as they were again treated to what one of them described as an experience akin to “seeing a unicorn”: Kenny’s face.
In the fifth episode of the series’ current season, titled DiKimble’s Hot Dogs, Kenny ditched his usual thick, orange hoodie and gave South Park devotees a full view of his face and messy blond hair.
He is seen in a white T-shirt with “Restaurant Owner” printed on it, and had on a pair of sunglasses.
The look sparked a frenzy among South Park’s long-time fans. “Look how cute he is,” said Twitter user @sun_kissin.
Another Twitter post, from @Sylviekunn, said: “Kenny’s face being exposed for 0.5 second in the newest episode brings joy to my simple life.”
“It’s such a rare occurrence that we may as well be seeing a unicorn,” added @sun_kissin.
Kenny is one of the four main characters of South Park – forever eight-year-olds who are often rude, crude and obscene, as they take in and comment on the absurdity of life in their small Colorado town and the prevailing milieu.
What distinguishes Kenny from this pack is that viewers rarely see his face, and he talks in a muffled, incomprehensible way through the thick hood that covers nearly his entire head.
Kenny has shown his face in only 12 episodes over a span of 25 years. Seven of these episodes took place between Seasons 10 and 16, as South Park loosened its strict limitations on the character’s appearance.
The last time Kenny unveiled his face was 10 years ago in Season 16, Episode 8: Sarcastiball.
Culture critic Cathal Gunning, writing for ScreenRant.com, said the face reveal may signal a shift in South Park’s tone as it runs through its 26th season.
“This brief glimpse could still be evidence of the show’s changing format,” he said.
South Park began in 1997. In its early years, it followed the misadventures of Kenny and his friends – Kyle, Stan and Cartman.
The tone changed in Season 4, when it became more topical and began dropping more social commentaries.
By Season 18, it began experimenting with serialisation. That proved divisive, as some fans complained that the focus on longer, more complicated season-length plots eroded the show’s playful edge.
Mr Gunning said in again revealing Kenny’s face, South Park could be returning to its roots.
“South Park Season 26 may return to the standalone episodic style of Seasons 10 to 14, and could be using Kenny to signpost this,” he said.