"Raising the Bar" is the ninth episode of Season Sixteen, and the 232nd overall episode of South Park. It aired on October 3, 2012.
Cartman owns up to being fat and decides that driving around on a scooter is his right. Kyle sees that Cartman isn’t the only one who finds no shame in his unhealthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, Cartman discovers he has a rival in America’s Sweetheart, Honey Boo Boo.
While shopping at Wall-Mart, Cartman and Kyle get into an argument over Cartman's weight. Cartman insists that he is not fat, arguing that he is not like one of the morbidly obese people using Rascal mobility scooters. Kyle argues to Cartman that those people represent what Cartman will soon become if he does not make a lifestyle change.
Cartman admits to Kyle that he is fat, and reveals that now he has accepted this, he has decided to gain a few more pounds so that his insurance company would pay for his own mobility scooter. Although Cartman claims that no one understands the shame and embarrassment that those like him feel as a result of being ostracized or ignored for their weight, he shamelessly exploits the privileges that come with the handicapped status afforded to him as a mobility scooter user. Cartman and other scooter users also engage in lawsuits against property owners for not making their bathroom facilities accessible to them, which results in widespread modification to these properties whose cost is passed down to taxpayers, who express their outrage by engaging in "Rascal tipping", in which they knock over scooter users. The Department of Health reacts to this by spending twenty-five million dollars to outfit scooters with "tip assist" arms with which the scooters can upright themselves mechanically.
When Kyle expresses outrage at this, Cartman excoriates Kyle for condoning Rascal-tipping, and for glorifying anorexia, saying that just because he uses a scooter does not make him "white trash" like Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson. Kyle, not knowing who this is, watches the TV show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and is astonished at how the societal bar has been lowered to the point where no one seems to feel shame any more.
Aboard the U.S.S. James Cameron, film director James Cameron embarks on an undersea journey into the ocean depths to find this "bar" and raise it back, despite his support team's attempt to explain to him that this is a metaphor.
Kyle decides that something has to be done to raise the public consciousness about the distinction between being sensitive to overweight people and allowing them to bully and exploit the rest of society. Token proposes that Kyle secretly video tape Cartman's activities, so that Token to edit it into a documentary to educate the public. Kyle agrees to this, but when he presents the edited program to an audience, he is appalled that, far from a 60 Minutes-type story on the issue, Token has turned it into a reality television program called "Here Comes Fatty Doo Doo" that includes a light-hearted theme song by Randy Newman, and glorifies people like Cartman eating themselves to death. Token explains that if a network called The Learning Channel can air a program like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo without remorse, then he can as well. Token further argues that "the bar" is determined by society, and cannot be raised up by any one person. Kyle then begins to question whether he himself should continue to profit from this venture, until he learns from Stan that Honey Boo Boo has suffered heart failure resulting in a heart transplant from a pig.
Meanwhile, Cameron's Bathysphere-like submersible reaches a depth of 50,000 feet, and he is angered to find Randy Newman there in a diving suit. Newman explains that he does not want "the bar" raised because then no one will hire him, and engages in combat with Cameron's submersible.
After Kyle informs Cartman of the reality program based on his life, Cartman hires a lawyer to file a cease and desist order barring Token from airing the program. Token informs them that the program aired the previous night, though he concedes that Honey Boo Boo beat it in the ratings by a wide margin. This infuriates Cartman, who ends up wrestling Honey Boo Boo in "sketti" (spaghetti topped with a mixture of ketchup and butter, a culinary staple of the Thompson family, as seen on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo) in a public event held by Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House.
At the bottom of the ocean, Cameron finally finds the bar, and attempts to drag it to the surface with his submersible's grappling hook.
As Kyle remorsefully wonders how and when the bar was lowered to such depths, he and Stan realize that attendees at the event are suddenly beginning to feel distaste at it. This also includes Michelle Obama, who puts a stop to the wrestling, and announces that from now on, she will dedicate her husband's administration to fighting childhood obesity, literally, as she starts beating up Cartman and also destroys his mobility scooter.
Back on the U.S.S. Cameron, Cameron emerges from his submersible, and announces that he is done, and will next embark on making Avatar 2. When his support team tells him that the public should know that he saved them by heroically raising the bar, Cameron responds that he does not do what he does for his own interests.
This episode won a 2013 Emmy Award in the category of "Outstanding Animated Program". This is the show's fifth overall Emmy Award.
AV Club gave "Raising the Bar" a "B+" rating saying: "The end of the show is anti-climactic after this moment, but still manages a funny resolution, especially with Michelle Obama beating up Cartman and Cameron finally checking his ego… sort of. But it’s that one moment of navel-gazing, something the show has done before, that gives the episode a nice punch to it, an acknowledgement of the show’s crude beginnings and how far it’s come. The lowering of the bar for our culture would have happened whether South Park was around or not. And even if those early episodes did fall on the more trivial side of that kind of shock humor, they still managed to evolve into something beyond that, something that feeds off this continual of schlock we digest in a way that forces South Park to hold up a mirror to our culture. It’s its own weird self-propelling cycle, one that doesn’t show any signs of letting up any time soon, and I'm guessing Matt and Trey are totally okay with that."
IGN gave "Raising the Bar" a "8.7" rating saying: "With a premise centered on the absolute horror that is Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, South Park's "Raising the Bar" didn't exactly sound like it was reaching for top-shelf parody fodder. And in truth, it would have been very easy for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to make an entire episode out of the televised exploitation of obesity. Fortunately, the creators took it a step further to point out the real source of the problem: the viewers."