South Park: Respect Their Commentarah

After 19 seasons on the air, South Park is still going strong. It has evolved in many ways since its first episode “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” in its animation, storytelling and narrative structure and, of course, with its social commentary. The amount of social commentary seems to have shot through the roof in recent seasons of South Park and this has even received some criticism.

In his chapter in South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today, William W. Young III sums up most of the criticisms South Park has received using the first season episode “Death”. Young mentions the show’s vulgarity and its “drawing of fire for its obscene language, criticisms of religion and emphasis upon freedom of speech.” (Young, 2009: 5). Criticisms of shows like South Park perhaps “reflects the threat that people see in them”, especially from parents whose children watch the show and others like it (Family Guy and The Simpsons as just two other examples (Ezell, 2008:14). These more academic sources show that South Park has received more criticisms for it’s type of commentary and that maybe its social commentary is only criticised because people both disagree with what’s being said and that Matt Stone and Trey Parker make compelling arguments with the points they make.

In fact, much of the recent criticsim concerning South Park’s social commentary comes from its fan base. A quick look through the show’s subreddit (its specific section on the website reddit) shows a clear split in opinion as to whether the more recent examples of social commentary on the show are liked or not, with some arguing South Park was better in its earlier seasons with a small amount of social commentary. However, South Park has always been a satirical piece of comedy. There may be some episodes that don’t have context or subtext relating to greater issues in real life, but for the most part South Park has always offered a social, political, cultural commentary through four young boys and the rest of their town. The discussion surrounding social commentary on South Park has long occurred, both earning praise and criticism; there was even a book – South Park Conservatives (Brian C. Anderson, 2005) that looked into the political messages on the show as well as mass media biases. Yet there seems to have been more criticism towards the show’s commentary in recent seasons, especially from portions of fans.

South Park has certainly become more obvious with what (or who) it lambastes each episode and it may even be more prolific than previous seasons. But the point stands that this programme has always been a piece of commentary on an issue, great or small, one that affects a whole nation or that is personal to Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the show’s creators). Here are just a few select episodes that tackle matters of all shapes and sizes and mostly all occur over ten years ago.

Getting Gay With Kids is Here!

South Park - Rainforest Shmainforest
The rainforest isn’t as great as you think it is.

Season 3, episode 1: “Rainforest Shmainforest” – 1999.

The first piece of social commentary I’ll be delving into comes in the form of a children’s choir, Costa Rica and Jennifer Aniston. In the season 3 premiere Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny were recruited by G.G.W.K. (Getting Gay With Kids) and their leader Miss. Stevens, guest voiced by Aniston, the biggest “Friend” of the time. The group travels down to Costa Rica to perform a song and dance routine to educate those about the destruction of the rainforest, even though they’ve never been to the place before. Cartman is, as always, disrespectful about the country they’re visiting and is supposed to be a commentary on Trey Parker’s visit to the country itself.

The choir gets a brief tour of the rainforest wanting to see its “beauty” before performing the next day. Unfortunately, their guide is killed and eaten by a snake, leaving G.G.W.K. lost in the rainforest having to deal with huge insects, a people’s militia, the Yamagampa and, for a brief second, Tony Danza. Finally, after dealing with all this the choir (and specifically Miss. Stevens) profess their contempt towards the rainforest and are very duly saved by the incredibly heroic construction workers destroying the rainforest. The choir eventually returns to where they were meant to give their performance hours before and once again express their hatred of the rainforest through medium of song and dance, with some altered lyrics, of course. The episode ends on some “facts” declaring how truly dangerous the rainforest is while the G.G.W.K. sing us out.

This episode does take aim at those that support causes that want to preserve the rainforest and the creatures that inhabit it. But this does not just apply to rainforest preservation groups, but all the other countless charities that guilt trip one into donating money to helping whatever cause is popular that month. The rainforest is chosen for this episode to really show that we have no idea what we are saving. It’s a very small possibility that someone will have visited the rainforest, Africa or anywhere else that has a “noble” cause attached to it, so how are we supposed to know if somewhere is in need of, deserving of or wants help? “Rainforest Shmainforest” over-exaggerates to get its point across, which is no bad thing, and this is something South Park is very well-known for and exceedingly good at pulling off.

South Park Was There For You

South Park - Osama bin laden has farty pants
The citizens of South Park may have overreacted to the events of 9/11.

Season 5, episode 9: “Osama bin Laden has Farty Pants” – 2001.

A few months after the tragedy on September 11th, 2001 South Park aired an episode that dealt directly with the consequences of the event and how the populace dealt with it. This episode was not only the first episode of South Park to air after 9/11, but also one of the first television programmes or films to address the subject matter.

After months away from South Park we are reintroduced to the four main boys standing at the bus stop, wearing gas masks, as are the rest of the townspeople. Extreme precautions have been made in South Park to ensure the safety of its citizens and if you aren’t wearing a mask the only reasonable course of action is to stop breathing altogether (poor Butters…). However, other people overreact in different ways. Stan’s mother Sharon, for instance, has been in a vegetative state on her couch for 8 weeks watching the news, too afraid to move or watch anything else in case of another attack. This overreaction of the citizens of South Park is meant to reflect the overall reaction the general public had to 9/11 and then it juices it up for the comedic factor. This is meant to be an over the top representation to show how ridiculous the public’s reaction and to somewhat calm it down. Much is the same for how the show looks at the rise in patriotism during that time.

Around the town a huge amount of American flags can be seen decorated on houses, shops, post offices, war planes, pretty much everywhere. This is coupled with an unwavering support of the U.S.A. by most American citizens, labelling all of Afghanistan as terrorists. But South Park still manages to defuse this blind support somehow and rather than using Stan et al. Stone and Parker use four new boys purely for this episode… and they just so happen to live in Afghanistan. The Afghan versions of the South Park kids remind us that it was America that started the war, that their country is not just full of terrorists (and is not the only country to hate America) as well as proving the terrorist stigma wrong. The Afghanistan kids send the South Park boys a gift in return for the money they received, of course the whole town believes this to be a bomb and the military is called in to defuse the situation, but all they find is that a goat has been sent by the Afghans as a gesture of good faith and pride. South Park does somewhat tone down this overly patriotic nature the country obtained after 9/11 by not just showing how our boys care, but by showing the other side to the story with the kids from Afghanistan.

This overreaction to 9/11, the overly patriotic nature and parodying of bin Laden is played out hilariously in South Park and is done so to try and cheer everyone up. In fact this whole episode is meant to act as catharsis, to try and help the country feel better, have a laugh and begin to move on. There is no overly racist remark made during the episode, but a clever piece of television that shows the entire situation and how both sides suffer. To this day, “Osama bin Laden has Farty Pants” still remains one of the best episodes of South Park, due to both its cathartic nature and its social and political commentary.

Bush vs Kerry

South Park - Vote or Die
“Vote or Die, mother——! Mother——, vote or die!” (P. Diddy, 2004)

Season 8, episode 8: “Douche and Turd” – 2004.

While the two previous episodes have had very specific representations of their commentaries (it is obvious what the discourse is), “Douche and Turd” disguises an obvious commentary with the use of ridiculous characterisations.

After the organisation PETA attacks South Park Elementary (for the 47th time) the school finally gives in to them and starts up an election process to select a new school mascot, although the two frontrunners are not what you would expect. Going up for the honour of becoming the new mascot are a “giant douche” and a “turd sandwich.” Both of these candidates are so ridiculous and terrible that Stan sees no point in even voting, much to the horror of the rest of the town. Head of the “Vote or Die” campaign, P. Diddy, is brought in to scare Stan into voting, but he is still reluctant to do so and is brutally banished from the town. Stan eventually finds refuge (ironically) with PETA whose head tells Stan he’ll always have to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. Stan eventually returns to South Park and finally casts his vote for turd sandwich, which loses although Randy tells his son his vote still matters, until the cow is reinstated (thanks to Puff Daddy and his men murdering the members of PETA) and Stan’s vote didn’t matter after all.

The personifications of the giant douche and turd sandwich represent John Kerry and George W. Bush respectively. Although this episode doesn’t really make a commentary on the 2004 presidential election itself (Colorado even voted in majority for Bush, going against the giant douche decision in the episode) these characterisations are used to show how terrible both Bush and Kerry were as candidates, with Stan’s disillusionment with voting for either shows the countries general realisation that both candidates were poor choices. It really and truly was a choice between a douche and a turd.

“Douche and Turd” is really about this disenchantment with the voting during the 2004 presidential election, with Stan taking the place of the American public. While the episode does poke a lot of fun at those who overreact to those who choose not to vote, its main vent is at “Citizen Change”, headed by P. Diddy. The aim of the organisation was to encourage young people to vote and it thought using the slogan “Vote or Die!” would work. South Park shows the ridiculousness of this political service group and how overly violent its slogan was with Diddy and his crew threatening to murder Stan (via medium of a music video).

South Park does not shy away from episodes about presidential elections having done more recent episodes concerning Obama’s wins (“About Last Night” and “Obama Wins!”). But this episode perhaps shows the most commentary about a single election with its variety (the disillusionment with voting, the terrible candidates and appalling voting campaign groups), all this without even getting into its views on PETA.

Although these three episodes have used its satirical nature to mock, to re-educate and even help those work through horrible things, South Park from time to time does a commentary that is very personal to themselves.

Chef Gets Brainwashed

Souh Park - Darth Chef
Chef is manipulated by Scien… The Super Adventure Club into wanting to molest children – R.I.P. Isaac Hayes, 1942-2008.

Season 10, episode 1: “The Return of Chef” – 2006.

During its 19 season run South Park has managed to get under the skin of many people. Sometimes so much so that an episode will be banned. All the episodes that are banned/are of limited availability/are not permitted to be shown on television are all strangely linked. “Super Best Friends” has limited availability because of its depiction of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who along with the Super Best Friends (which includes other religious figures, such as Jesus and Buddha) defeats David Blaine and dismantles his cult, Blaintology. This was an obvious rip on Scientology, around which the episode “Trapped in the Closet” has controversy, but this time due to Comedy Central being owned by the same company that made the Mission Impossible films, starring Tom Cruise. It was reported that Cruise would not do any of the promotional work if this episode was shown and the episode was, of course, duly pulled from the schedule. This particular episode was pulled a couple of times, but has since been shown on Comedy Central several times (however, I have yet to see a re-broadcast of an episode here in Britain…).

South Park - the Super Best Friends
The full roster of the Super Best Friends! Complete with censored Muhammad.

Finally, the two landmark episodes of “200” and “201” are largely unavailable once again due to the controversy around the depiction of Muhammad, although his form and name is censored throughout the second episode of the two-parter. What is the link to “Trapped in the Closet” you ask? Tom Cruise. He is the leader of the celebrity group trying to teach South Park a lesson and to obtain Muhammad’s goo (along with Rob Reiner).

Strangely enough, episodes that are closely linked to these, such as “Cartoon Wars” and “The Return of Chef” are still regularly available and viewable on Comedy Central.

“The Return of Chef” aptly tells the story of how Chef and his voice actor Isaac Hayes left South Park. Chef returns home after some time away, but he has changed significantly, most notably he tries to seduce the boys. While the boys do successfully help Chef snap out of his trance, the club that originally brainwashed him manage to persuade him once again to join their club. However, as Chef returns to the SAC (Super Adventure Club), the bridge he is crossing is struck by lightning and dies gruesomely (with help from a grizzly bear and a mountain lion). Back in South Park a funeral is held for Chef and Kyle gives a speech urging everyone to remember Chef as the good person he was, not what he had become and that they should be mad at that “fruity little club for scrambling his brains.” The episode ends though with the SAC resurrecting Chef in a robotic suit resembling Darth Vader’s. And thus Darth Chef was born.

This entire episode is a commentary on the departure of Isaac Hayes from the show. Chef’s dialogue is used from previous recordings to make him sound even crazier. There was a lot of controversy surrounding Hayes’ departure, with the musician/actor/Scientologist citing the episode “Trapped in the Closet” and being offended by its depiction of Scientology. But while that episode was surrounded by a lot of controversy (mainly regarding Scientology) “The Return of Chef” doesn’t, even though it also attacks the religion.

The SAC is obviously satirising Scientology and Stone and Parker are not subtle in how they do so. There is a part in the episode where the head of the SAC recounts the tale of the SAC was founded and why they molest children, accompanied by the subtitle “This is what Super Adventure Club actually believes.” A similar scene addressing the Scientology creation myth had with a similar subtitle. This episode is still as much an(other) attack on Scientology as it is a showing of Stone’s and Parker’s discontent at Hayes’ departure, although their true feelings on Hayes ultimately shine through with Kyle’s speech.

Unfounded Criticism

Outlandish South Park characters
South Park’s earlier seasons were filled with ridiculous storylines and characters such as, (from left to right) Scuzzlebutt, Mr. Hankey, Towelie and Mr. Hat.

The criticism that all South Park does now is social commentary is completely unfounded as the programme, by definition, is a commentary piece. South Park is and has always been a satirical comedy that takes (current and not so current) social, cultural, political, religious (and so many more) subjects and uses them for its plot to create a discourse on them. Even there being a criticism that the show is too blunt with its commentary now is not valid, as I have proven (albeit with a small number of episodes) South Park has always been quite “on the nose” with its satirical punches. However, for those of you who need more proof I have decided to make a quick list showing the first season episodes of South Park, showing what it comments on and what connotation it applies to.

1.01 – “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe” – At the very least this discusses whether there is alien life (Science).
1.02 – “Weight Gain 4000” – Creates a discourse about obesity and who’s truly responsible; the media or the obese people themselves (Cultural).
1.03 – “Volcano” – Possibly a commentary on strict hunting laws, especially in Colorado, however this is still a stretch (Social/Political)
1.04 – “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boatride” – Homosexuality and how homosexuals are treated differently just because of their sexual orientation (Social).
1.05 – “An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig” – The cloning of Dolly the sheep and its repercussions (Science).
1.06 – “Death” – Assisted suicide and whether it is (at all) acceptable and how much of a “touchy” subject it is. They also satirise those who have criticised them for their “toliet humour” while more pressing issues are afoot, something that would become the main plot device for their film, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. (Moral/Social).
1.07 – “Pinkeye” – Nothing specific, there are plenty of popular culture references however.
1.08 – “Starvin’ Marvin” – Commentary on those adverts that guilt you into giving money to charities, which are usually headed by celebrities, who could easily pay a large sum to help those in need (Social/Cultural).
1.09 – “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo” – There really isn’t much social commentary that involves a talking poo…
1.10 – “Damien” – Possibly how people use their religions as excuses and how hypocritical they are about it; a stretch I know but maybe not entirely invalid (Religion).
1.11 – “Tom’s Rhinoplasty” – Not much here, some parodying of Knight Rider, potentially comments on plastic surgery, although “Bebe’s Boobs Destroy Society” and “Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina” look more deeply into this (Social).
1.12 – “Mecha-Streisand” – A personnel rife Stone and Parker had with Streisand after she insulted the state of Colorado; possibly speaks about the huge egos and influences of celebrities too (Social).
1.13 – “Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut” – Like a few others in season one, there isn’t any social commentary as such, just a smattering of popular culture references.

"Mecha-Streisand" South Park
The Kaiju of Barbara Streisand and Robert Smith parodying Mechagodzilla and Mothra.

Although not all episodes in South Park’s first season is conveying a commentary, for the most part it does show how well the show can meld it’s absurd characters (Scuzzlebutt, Mr. Hankey) and plot lines (four battling celebrity Kaiju in “Mecha-Streisand”) and its ability to satirise anything socially, culturally or politically relevant.

This shows that right from its conception (excluding the shorts made prior to the show itself) that South Park has always been a commentary on many varying aspects (both relevant to the time of airing and not) and this is what makes the show so good. For every 8 or 9 episodes out of 10, there will be something satirised during the episode and it will be integral to the plot. This does not mean necessarily that an episode that doesn’t satirise something will be a poor episode; neither does it mean that an episode that does indeed comment on something is good. “I should Never Have Gone Ziplining”, for example, parodies certain documentary programmes and creates a discourse around that. However, the plot has a slow pace, there are very few moments in the episode where you would think that this show is a comedy and even though the live-action sequence satirises re-enactments in actual documentaries, even with its commentary, it feels unnecessary. Likewise, episodes that feature little social commentary like “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is one of the first episodes that took on one central plot line and is lauded for doing so along with its plot twists and character studies, especially on Cartman.

Those who call for South Park to go back to what it used to be, an outrageous, non-sensical comedy programme need to look at the earlier episodes in detail again. Even though many of South Park’s earlier episodes are utterly bonkers and ridiculous with what it actually shows, there’s a good chance that it is satirising something and is indeed relaying a message to its audience that may even have not been picked up before. There is barely any differentiation between the “commentary” episodes or the “bizarre” episodes that make no sense, not really. They both run alongside each other. Yes, one aspect may be more noticeable in an episode, but they are both integral to South Park. We should not be criticising their commentary, but celebrating it.

Works Cited

Ezell, S. 2008.Ripping on People: The Traditional and Postmodern Satire of “South Park”. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Proquest.

Young III, W.W. 2009. “Flatulence and Philosophy: A Lot of Hot Air, or the Corruption of Youth?” In: R. Arp. South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today. Oxford. Blackwell, pp.5-16.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Android

    South Park is brilliant stuff. Have watched it since the beginning. It laughs at just about everyone.

  2. Favourite episode is “Make love not warcraft”. It is neither left nor right, liberal or conservative. It is better defined by what it is against, including hypocrisy, prejudice, appeasement, celebrity etc.

  3. South Park’s greatest achievement is “More Crap” (episode 162), where the unspeakable truth about Bono is finally revealed.

  4. Particia

    The Simpsons tackles many social issues, and satirises many things, including religion, politics, poverty, sexuality and the workplace – but it does not get quite so near the knuckle.

  5. I have watched South Park – and I have laughed because that is what we do when confronted by ugly themes in life, not cartoons, which do exist and which by and large we push out of our minds – to cover our embarrassment, if not shame.

  6. Fantastic article on a brilliant, progressive and inspiring cartoon.

  7. i LOVE south park!

  8. I liked when Cartman’s hand became Jennifer Lopez. Or when Britney Spears blew her face off. Or when Mr. Slave had a whore off with Paris Hilton. The entire sub plot / parody of Watchmen was great. Cthulu eating people and all.

  9. It’s the most spot on comedic satire that exists, the subjects which are processed are often masterly chosen and the commentary is surgical in nature. Also the humor is exactly like mine.

  10. Judie South

    South Park is the only tv that makes me laugh like a drain.

  11. i love south park

  12. IRBurnett

    Great article on a great series. I honestly think South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is a masterpiece. Never a dull moment in it.

  13. florida

    South Park kicks ASS!

  14. Here in NZ South Park is a welcome escape from the PC overload we have thrust upon us.

  15. There could never be a British equivalent to South Park. The cosy little club of stiff politically correct metro-snobs that run the UK television industry would never allow it.

    • Shumaker

      South Park is no more close to the bone than ‘Carry On’ was in the fifties & sixties. It’s British humour, it’s ridicule, it’s what we do. Carry On endured and rightly so, it’s still hilarious.

  16. Else Gil

    I love the show.

  17. More South Park. Offending citizens is a public service – it breaks down barriers and causes us to reassess the validity of our values.

  18. I think if more people actually understood South Park this world would be a much better place. Actually, it would. Because South Park is a satire of how stupid people are. This is seriously the most intelligent show I’ve ever seen.

  19. Wisniewski

    South Park has always been a great way to understand the slop the majority have been investing their time in.

  20. I’ve loved it since middle school.

  21. Vivan D.

    I love the show. It has always been satirical. They use to have stan or kyle give a short little ‘and thats the moral of the story’ at the end.

  22. Alphonso

    It is very hit-or-miss. Some of it just comes off as really preachy, even to librul me who usually agrees with their message. Some of it is the most hilarious material I have ever seen. Most of it is someplace in between.

  23. South Park is genius! So many great episodes, with my favorite being the niggerguy episode! Even though randy was being racist (and only for financial gain) he was wrong but the idea was still extremely funny! Which i geuss is the whole point of South Park! The ability to laugh at what is wrong with the world that gives you the ability to get past the negatives and learn from them.

  24. recticone

    They made fun on loads of subjects. This is a great article.

  25. When I was a kid parents were outraged because the Simpsons said damn it was even on the news. Now we’ve come to southpark…

  26. I can watch the episodes over and over. The kfc one is great, from the scarface to the scrotum skin jacket.

  27. I haven’t seen any new episodes in over a year.

  28. The social commentary was always the best part about the show. Good to see they are going back in that direction again.

  29. South Park is so awesome because it has clever humor at the time it has black and dirty humor, shown through the eyes of four 9 year-old cute children…it’s just amazing and original… I’m going to be a south park huge fan forever.

  30. Its really funny but at the same time it’s not funny. I love South Park.

  31. youre missing the episode where they say kim kardashian is a hobbit, the one with the new human ipad and the one where stan girlfriend photoshops pictures which are all 100% relevant to this time and moment and whats happening in the world

    • I was going for much older episodes to show how it’s always been a part of the show, but that episode is probably the prime example of how good South Park’s satire can be.

  32. Mana Sheffield

    south park is the funniest show yet its the smartest.

  33. S.A. Takacs

    Great article about a great show. People might think South Park is just downright crass, but it’s actually way more clever than we realize. Parker and Stone will satirize anything and anybody, while making us laugh in the process.

  34. YsabelGo

    The fact that South Park can find the humour in how ridiculous our society has become is what makes it interesting and gives it an edge. However, I don’t watch this show often and only watch it when my boyfriend wants to see it. Nevertheless, great article!

  35. Laura Bowman

    I really like your topic and agree with your points. South Park is one of my favourites shows. I liked them in their earlier days but I also love how they evolved. I love how now in season 19 they are more continuously having running jokes from one episode to another. It feels more rewarding as a loyal viewer to stumble on an episode that continues a joke from two or three episodes from before without re-explaining it. It is an exclusive technique, but I don’t think Matt and Trey will suffer because they already do have a huge, loyal following.

    As I was reading through I noticed a few typos and potentially missed words. I will list them below if you’d like to double check what I noticed and make any necessary edits.
    paragraph 2: missing parenthesis
    paragraph 3: transpositional typo in criticism
    “South Park was There for You” paragraph 3: missing verb, “the public’s reaction _____” (I am assuming you meant to put “was” in that spot).
    “Chef Gets Brainwashed” paragraph 6: incorrect verb, “the Return of Chef DOESN’T” when I think you may have wanted “isn’t”.
    “Chef Gets Brainwashed” paragraph 7: missing word, “recounts the tale of _____ the SAC…” (I thought you might have meant to put “how” in that spot).

    • Thank you for your kind comment AND for the proff read, haha. Do you know how I can make those changes? I can’t access it on the “My Posts” section because it’s already been published…

  36. While I respect the commentary South Park makes, I find that it may distract from a nuanced discussion of the topics. Although, the commentary does reflect ways in which nuanced discussions are often stifled by over-sentimentalism or people taking themselves too seriously.

    • I think they’ve actually touched upon what you’ve said this season. Earlier we had Kyle saying how we can finally start a discussion on certain matters, but they’ve beenunable to because of the PC bros.
      Also, the discussion doesn’t always end with the show, it’s up to us to carry on it’s discourse.

  37. Tatijana

    Great article. It actually had me laughing at some parts remembering the show. This show has often shocked me and made me uncomfortable, but I can’t deny how hilarious a lot of it is.

  38. Connor

    Love the article! Although I don’t watch South Park much anymore, I still respect its satirical, and somewhat controversial, storytelling techniques and get a kick out of some of the dark humor.

  39. More South Park please. I feel like I’ve been starved this year.

  40. I’ve always respected how South Park has kept its special brand of satire without becoming watered down despite the 19 season long outcry the show has gone to far. The show holds its own and never wavers in quality.

  41. South park is funny! It may be a little inappropriate for children but it definately gives you some insight on what’s going on in the world where a sense of humor is direly needed. Nice Post!

  42. What I love about South Park is as crude, and offensive as it is, it stays true to what it is – crude, offensive satire. Given it isn’t always satirical and sometimes just outright offensive, it still carries some intellectual weight each episode. I’ve noticed that for the most part, each episode has a sort of “theme” unlike many other shows (Family Guy, etc.).

  43. JKKN

    I personally think some of the best material from South Park comes directly from its ability to not only warp the show’s plotlines into completely insane situations and occurrences, but the fact that it still contains such brilliant satire and strikingly accurate commentary is amazing given how ridiculous it oftentimes makes the context of said satire.

  44. I completely agree with your analysis of the program overall, and the specific episodes you discuss. I’ve always felt that part of South Park’s hilarity is their social commentary on current, and sometimes not so current, issues.

  45. Murillo

    I’ve re watched the whole show over the last few months. It’s better than I recalled.

  46. Thanks for the article. I have seen a few episodes of the show and did not dislike what I saw. “In jest, there is truth,” according to William Shakespeare. Isn’t that what South Park represents–truth in jest? It appears that its brand of humor is craved by our society; its characters walk among us!

    (I don’t mean to be petty, but I noticed a few typos/grammatical errors in the article–sorry.)

    • Honeslty, I wasn’t that happy with this article because of just that, but I don’t know how to edit an article after publication, so I don’t know how o fix it.
      But thank you and love that somehow you’ve connected Shakespeare and South Park!

  47. Great work. South Park may go down as one of the most brilliant and entertaining shows of all time. The fact that they prepare each episode in about a weeks time and tackle any and every trending topic is astonishing. Parker and Stone are comical, social, and political geniuses!

  48. South Park still has it! After missing seasons 15-18, I came back to it for season 19, which was marvelous and an intriguing take on PC and gentrification, in which these ideals are perfect for ads to exploit. The season shows how branding has taken control of all aspects of our lives, from social media to local and international politics. I liked the introduction of David, the Latino kid from Idaho, who Cartman tries to exploit via Yelp reviews of his parent’s restaurant. It’s nice to see Latino characters who are not stereotypes. Amazingly, PC Principle is able to evolve as a character, since he actually cares about checking his own privilege, unlike the PC bros in town, and it is hilarious how he loses his mind to even the slightest offense. PC trying to discipline Jimmy is so awkward and priceless. I have a reinvigorated love for this show!!

    • i really think it was the best season for a while now. I particularly loved the Garrison-Trump story arc and, of course, the Canadians. From a social, political, cultural etc standpoint, it was very well done. I think the continuity in the episodes (which is nothing new for SP by far) was a little over done, though. They had so many storylines going by the last three episodes it just kind of tainted it for me a tiny bit. Still a great season though.

  49. Bojan

    I couldn’t agree more! South Park has managed to stay fresh and relevant precisely because of its biting social commentary. I don’t personally agree with some of Matt and Trey’s libertarian positions, but I respect and appreciate their willingness to critique the hypocrisy on all sides of the political spectrum. What sets South Park apart from shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy (I tuned out years ago because both have become stale) is its willingness to challenge the mainstream media dichotomy of “Aging Hippie Liberal Douche” vs. “White Trash Redneck Conservative.”

  50. Great article! One of the things that works to South Park’s advantage (vis a vis consistent and interesting social commentary) is the fact that the shows need to be made in 6 days from start to finish. This means that the show can/will take on current subjects in ways many other shows can’t and that the takes on these subjects are formed quickly which frequently produces very interesting opinions.

  51. South Park is a show that couldn’t get old due to what it is based off of. People will keep watching and watching simply because it is funny and because it revolves around the controversy in our everyday pop culture reality.

  52. Got nothing but love for South Park! Their influence is unquestionable!

  53. Like a fine wine South Park has only gotten better with age! A well considered and well researched article! A great read!

  54. I’ve always wondered if non-americans appreciated south park as much as we do(Since it’s usually commenting on American affairs/culture/politics) so its cool to see all the comments from non-americans on here.

    Also, I’m gonna have to go back and watch Douche and Turd now. Seems particularly relevant given our current election…

  55. I’ve been watching South Park since fourth grade (seriously) and I’ve loved it ever since. The creativity they put into their stories really inspires me for my own stories I write. I also love the process they go through into making an episode. They stay on top of the current news and events, so it’ll never lose its touch. It doesn’t look like it’ll slow down any time soon

  56. DrownSoda

    It’s great to see that someone else can articulate the thought-provoking effects that can arise from the social commentary represented in South Park. This season takes on a vast amount of social issues in a profoundly satirical way. Black Lives Matter, Kaepernick, PC Culture, and of course the election (douche and turd again!) are all subjects of critique and observation. One thing that particularly draws me, and many others like me, into South Park is it’s emphasis on humor as an effective means to analyze our modern culture. And perhaps it is true that the vehement disapproval others have for the show merely reinforces the cult following and overall love of its satire.

  57. For the longest time, I discredited South Park because I thought it was only composed of fart jokes. I had never actually seen a full episode of the show. Luckily, my friend opened my mind to the realm of South Park by forcing me to watch the Scientology episode “Trapped in the Closet.” I realized instantly how wrong I had been about the show and proceeded to watch every season over the next year. Forever a fan of South Park and the brilliant satire that Trey and Matt create.

  58. “It’s a very small possibility that someone will have visited the rainforest, Africa or anywhere else that has a “noble” cause attached to it, so how are we supposed to know if somewhere is in need of, deserving of or wants help?”

    Such exquisite depth. I can tell the author of this piece is a truly intelligent human being.

    I enjoy South Park, but you would have to be a fucking cretin to grace this episode that glorifies ecological destruction and genocide with the label of ‘social commentary’.

  59. Big Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride is surely one of the most revolutionary episodes in the history of animated TV. The Simpsons, for example, while breaking through in many other areas, had been very coy on the subject of homosexuality, the classic case of Smithers “is he or isn’t he?”, being the most obvious example, and using in-jokes such as “Homersexual”. But here was South park, in only its 4th episode, out loud and proud with life as a gay person being evaluated fearlessly and being gay accepted as a normal part of life like being left-handed or preferring wine over beer. Terrific stuff really.

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