Someone’s eye is watching this show. It just isn’t mine.
South Park, the brainchild of writers/animators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, put Comedy Central on the map in 1997—and continues to keep it there.
The weird, gross, absurd, supernatural, outrageous and inane are all commonplace in the small, fictitious Colorado town of South Park—where four cynical, foul-mouthed fourth graders run seriously amok. Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny push envelopes galore and are notorious for their crass, satirical and occasionally morbid lampoons of virtually everything. Religion, celebrity, euthanasia, politics, race and sexuality are only starting points for them. Absolutely anything even remotely controversial or popular is fair game for rancid ridicule here.
In a few cases, the scorn South Park heaps on its targets might be deserved. But never from such a vulgar vantage point. And most of these spoofs, such as the “Super Best Friends” club—including a coke-snorting Buddha and an incompetent Jesus—are certifiably abusive. What’s worse is this: In today’s cable TV climate, such extreme behavior is exactly why this “equal opportunity” sitcom has reached its landmark 200th episode.
It’s won several Emmys and a Peabody award. And it’s been named “Worst Cable TV Show of the Week” multiple times by the Parents Television Council. Wikipedia has a very long page devoted to “South Park Controversies.”
On a field trip to a candy factory, Stan sees “Tom Cruise” packaging fudge. The result is a string of harsh homosexual double entendres—which prompt an “outraged” Cruise and 200 other celebrities previously ridiculed on South Park to file a class-action lawsuit against the town.
We’d say blackmail and threats of violence were the order of the day except really it’s more about a woman in a bikini vomiting and then wiping it on someone’s crotch. It’s about racial slurs. It’s about vulgar and obscene references to hermaphroditism, intercourse and homosexuality. It’s about being contemptuous of Jesus—and Moses, Mohammed and Buddha, too.
Foul language in the online version of this episode includes multiple s-words. F-words are combined with Jesus’ name. God’s name is commingled with “d‑‑n.” “Barbra Streisand,” in the form of a giant robot, shoots smoke from her breasts. A hairy man is shown wearing only a diaper. Another man is confined by full-body S&M gear. “Steve Irwin,” the late wildlife-show celebrity, is depicted with a manta ray stabbing his bleeding chest.
NOTE: After this 200th episode aired, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone found themselves on the receiving end of a not-so-veiled threat from Revolution Muslim, a New York-based Islamic group known for making radical statements. Reacting to the episode’s mockery of Mohammed, the group posted this admonition on its website: “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh [the Dutch filmmaker who was fatally shot and stabbed in 2004 over his documentary about Muslim women] for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” Comedy Central quickly stepped in to censor every usage of Muhammad’s name in the follow-up episode (“201”), and has blocked the unedited version from being streamed online. Apparently understanding that many fans would think the bleeping was merely a continuation of the satirical storyline, Parker and Stone released this statement: “In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.”
The Jonas Brothers are everywhere. Even in South Park. Not the real Jonases, mind you. These South Park doppelgängers don’t share much in common with the flesh-and-blood band other than hairstyles, an aw-shucks demeanor and … promise rings.
The plot, in a nutshell, is this: Kenny hooks up with an “experienced” fifth grader who (everybody knows) performed oral sex on her last boyfriend in a parking lot. Kenny’s jazzed about going steady with a “notorious whore,” as his friends put it. And when he finds out that the Jonas Brothers make her all “tingly,” he buys tickets to a concert. His sexually inspired plot backfires when his girlfriend is brought backstage to meet the JBs, who make her promise to wear a promise ring.
Disney ultimately gets the rawest deal here, with Mickey Mouse insisting, “You have to wear the purity rings because that’s how we can sell sex to little girls.” Then, right before the credits, he spits out a massive, anti-Christian tirade, bragging about how he’s made “billions off Christian ignorance for decades now.”
“That’s it, girls,” says a Christian father who hears the whole rant on television. “No more Disney TV for a while.”
The episode is staggeringly profane, featuring f-words along with a host of other curses and crudities. (We watched it on Comedy Central’s website.) It’s steeped in sexuality—from graphic innuendo to titillating language to a phallus made from snow. And it’s at times brutally violent. Blood flies when mean Mickey beats the tar out of one of the Jonases.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Reviews from previous PluggedIn Staff members
Someone’s eye is watching this show. It just isn’t mine.
Language mars this otherwise powerful, poignant and sometimes funny series about moving on from unimaginable grief.
This new Peacock show deals in an intriguing setup and fine performances, but it comes with a flush of problems. And that’s no lie.
The world could use more Jesus. But can it use more of Him onscreen?