Comedy Central Again Takes Censorship Too Far in South Park Episode: 201

South Park, the Comedy Central flagship original program, is in its 14th season and recently celebrated its 200th episode cleverly titled, "200". The episode has been the subject of much controversy which is complicated on many levels.

In "200", all of the celebrities that the 'town' of South Park has previously offended or slandered get together to file a class action law suit against the 'town'.

This situation is an example of show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone using the 'town' to represent the show of the same name for real life situations.

This clip for example, uses the show's most famous character Eric Cartman as the spokesperson (specifically at the 1:15 mark):

This was of course a reference to the fact that so many people group 'Family Guy', the raunchy animated show on Fox, together with 'South Park'. Cartman, or 'South Park' claims that while some may categorize them together, they feel that they should not be compared based on the surface perception of both programs simply being known for raunchy humor. 'South Park' is claiming to be more deep than that, and unfailingly, an in depth investigation into ANY episode will prove just that.

Co-incidentally, the episode from which the above clip is taken, also contained the first infamous 'Muhammad controversy'.

In the town of South Park, Kyle's favorite show 'Family Guy' was insistent on showing Muhammad in an upcoming episode. The juxtaposition here is that the show 'South Park' would then be showing an image of Muhammad by showing the episode of 'Family Guy' in the town of 'South Park'.

Confusing indeed, but this aspect adds to the absurdity of the controversy by speaking about the issue in the town of 'South Park' with its residents discussing the ramifications of 'Family Guy' showing an image of Muhammad on their 'show':

In the 'Family Guy' episode, the image of Muhammad was 'censored by Fox' before it went to air. What ensued was a dialogue about freedom of speech vs. censorship. This was a result of Comedy Central declaring that they would, and did, censor the image of Muhammad when 'Family Guy' did indeed show the image in South Park.

This episode entitled, 'Cartoon Wars', originally aired on Apr 5, 2006.

Four years later, in '200' not only do every celebrity from former episodes return, many of the past themes and gags reappear as well, including the Muhammad problem, and it faced the same problems still.

'200' takes the issue even further, and with the same medium awareness.

In the episode, Tom Cruise is leading the celebrity class action suit charge, and offers an ultimatum for the 'town' to be cleared: bring Muhammad to the town, which really means, make Muhammad appear on 'South Park'. "Ooh, that's tricky," Randy Marsh, Stan's father explained.

While discussing the possible ramifications for Muhammad's appearance, Randy drew a sketch of what he believed Muhammad to look like, and everyone held their breath at the thought of showing a depiction of the prophet. It was simply a stick figure, and the most crude one imaginable at that. At the sight of the drawing, Mr. Garrison asked quietly, "Is that OK?"

He was asking the group that gathered to discuss the situation, but he was also asking rhetorically, to the Muslim community in the real world, because none of us really know.

Some of the options discussed were giving Muhammad a mask or putting him in a suit of armor, but they were dismissed because his image would still be manifested in some way.

This rhetoric represented the same dialogue that probably occurred amongst the 'South Park' writing staff, and though they clearly discussed what may or may not be deemed offensive, they decided to show Muhammad without any mask or disguise whatsoever, or at least they tried.

Comedy Central once again chose to censor the image of Muhammad, and this should come at no surprise, even though four years later it could be reasonably assumed our tolerance level as a society had progressed.

What was shocking was not that the image of Muhammad was once again censored. It was what Comedy Central decided to censor additionally.

Comedy Central was motivated by veiled death threats against the show's creators Parker and Stone after episode '200' depicted the prophet, albeit inside a mascot bear costume.

A Muslim extremist group out of New York posted a warning and referenced what happened to Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker that depicted Muhammad in a documentary about violence against Muslim women.

It goes without saying that the difference in the messages are both vast and insignificant.

Vast in that van Gogh's message was pointed directly at the Muslim practices and beliefs in today's culture of equality for all; 'South Park's was that of simply using the 'image of Muhammad' situation as a commentary on free speech and not omitting anyone in the quest to satirize hypocrisies in all religions and walks of life.

Insignificant in that to this radical group, the message itself is of no importance to their outrage.

As a reaction to these threats, or what what the group said was not a threat but, 'a warning of the reality of what will likely happen,' Comedy Central chose to again censor any and all depictions of Muhammad as well any mention of the word 'Muhammad', 'Muslim', and the ENTIRE speech at the end of the episode by Kyle, which the creators said in a statement about the episode after it aired, did not even mention Muhammad but was simply about intimidation and fear.

The irony in all of this is even more abundant than the fear itself.

The first bit is the situation which is pointed out by Stan in '200'.

When discussing just how Muhammad can even be seen by anyone, Stan explains that he has seen him before, out in the open, and no one even cared.

This is a reference to an episode called 'Super Best Friends' which aired on July 4, 2001, about the leaders of various religions who work together as superheroes to stop evil-doers around the world. Muhammad was indeed one of the 'Super Best Friends' and his image was prominently displayed throughout the episode with no censorship, and more importantly, no outrage or controversy.

The second is that the current episodes involve the 'Super Best Friends' again, and the other religious figures are not only displayed, but shown using vulgar dialogue performing heinous acts, such as Buddha snorting cocaine and Jesus frequently using his own name in vain.

The point here is not only that Muhammad or the Muslim faith is in no way being singled out, it is simply being treated equally, and even some favoritism, but that no other religions would submit threats of violence for even the most vile offensive images of their prophets.

The third and most important is that this is all related to what the premise of the episode is about.

The celebrities are suing the town of South Park for their previous acts of slander, and are willing to drop the case if the town can produce Muhammad. Sounds strange indeed, but the reasoning is directly in line with the controversy.

Because Muhammad's image is never shown in entertainment media and thus is never victim of ridicule, the celebrities simply believe that Muhammad has a special magic essence they refer to as 'goo' that prevents him from being the butt of any joke. The celebrities plan to capture Muhammad as soon as he appears in the town and steal his 'goo' so that they can enjoy his power of being free from ridicule.

Clearly, there is no physical element inside Muhammad that protects him from 'being ripped on' as Tom Cruise says in the episode.

Then what is the element? They key words pointed out by 'South Park' creators Parker and Stone on their website are intimidation and fear.

That the only time Muhammad's image was ever shown uncensored on 'South Park' was four months before the attacks on September 11, 2001 is indeed a strange co-incidence, however, the fact that an image of the prophet has not been shown after is not.

The 9-11 attacks have intimidated us all, and given legitimacy to fear nearly any threat posed by a radical Muslim group.

Does that mean, however, that we should alter our beliefs, and important principles that this country was founded on?

What is more infuriating is that the group that posted the message on their website, is based out of New York. Jon Stewart puts it best in this poignant but lengthy clip:

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Well said Jon.

But if Jon Stewart can sing the words, 'Go F*** Yourself' to this group, why can't 'South Park' even make fun of the fact that they can't show Muhammad?

It seems the only thing more appallingly prevalent than the irony in this entire situation is the hypocrisy.

Perhaps by 'South Park's 300th episode, we will have progressed enough to preserve freedom of all speech and refrain from allowing ourselves to be bullied by terrorists in order to protect that which is most important.

And if anyone still has a problem with it, they can go fuck themselves.


Why Heidi Montag is What is Wrong with Our Society

When I was in elementary school (in the early 90's) I remember having days to discuss our collective and individual self-esteems. I didn't really think much of it at the time, other than it was as lame as anything we discussed in school.

Looking back on it now, I am assuming that I was among the first generation of students to experience this type of personal ideology lecturing. I can only assume that the schools depicted in 'Fast Time At Ridgemont High' and 'Dazed and Confused' were 100% accurate portrayals of school-life in their respective times.

No doubt, the idea of 'self-esteem education' was to use simple methods to encourage children to make the most of their educations, and to improve their attitudes by keeping them happy inside.

It seems that this was all a part of a shift in some of the ideals we've been conscious about with regards to our children. Fortunately, I narrowly escaped the ADD epidemic that plague much of my younger peers or I wouldn't have ever even noticed.

But the 'self-esteem training' was only the beginning. Since then the trend of over-nurturing and hyper-consciousness has exponentially spiraled into a cocoon that prevents children from getting the necessary if only occasional ego ass-kicking that we are all so afraid will permanently damage a child's brain so significantly that he/she will spend the rest of his/her life sucking thumb in the corner of a room.

So am I calling for a repeal of these self-esteem based education techniques in public schools? First of all, I'm sure that they are not the same as when I was in school, or at least I hope they have evolved somewhat. But no, I am not.

I just think it is hard to gauge exactly what each child needs. The child that comes from a broken home with domestic abuse and is convinced that he/she is the reason all of the problems at home exist, needs some pretty substantial self-esteem boosting, and perhaps even more than the occasional 15 minute workshop or presentation can offer.

Schools should indeed offer assistance to these needy students. And while I think it is definitely a good thing that we have become conscious of the needs of these types of students, we should also become conscious of what this hyper-sensitive ideal-instilling and ego-boosting type of education can do to people who not only don't need it, but actually need some ego-targeted slap on the wrist (or in some cases mortar shelling).

I give you, Heidi Montag.

Heidi is among the 'celebrities' in Hollywood (and now New Jersey) who are simply famous because someone put them on TV to make the rest of us feel better about ourselves.

Think about that. Why do most people say they watch reality TV shows? (not the competition shows, the ones about twenty-somethings that are given a menial task and then end up fighting with each other every episode) There is only one response: "It's a guilty pleasure. I watch it for the train-wreck. I just can't turn away."

Sure, there have been dozens of programs in which the 'stars' don't linger in Hollywood by stretching their celebrity status to ridiculous ends.

So why is Heidi Montag still around, still everywhere, yet has nothing interesting/entertaining to offer?

Simply because she feels entitled to be famous.

What are the facts:

She was on an MTV show called 'The Hills', which was a spin-off from 'Laguna Beach'. The 'Hills' is referring to Beverly Hills, which is one of the most lavish lifestyle locales on the globe. When someone is used to getting everything she wants with no repercussions and no effort, the greed simply continues to expand and when she finally doesn't get what she wants, she will be confused as to why.

In a way, it's really not her fault.

The digital age has brought about an era of instant gratification that is more prominent and achievable than ever before. Simply put, anyone with enough money can get anything they want WHENEVER they want it.

  • Montag appeared on a popular national television show at age 18, something that 99% of people only dream of.
  • She then got a more prominent 'role' on another show at age 20.
  • At the ripe age of 21, she wanted to look better, something everyone wants for most of their lives, and she purchased the means to do so with plastic surgery. "It was really something that had been tormenting me and I was very insecure about it," she tells Access Hollywood of her pre-surgery looks. "I thought about it for several years and I waited until I had the finances and really thought about it and was old enough to really make a mature decision." No doubt, it was the mature decision.
  • Still 21, rumors swirl about her potential engagement with 'Hills' co-'star' Spencer Pratt. Although Pratt told Entertainment Weekly, "We would get engaged; we just wouldn't do it on Lauren's show," yet they did just that. Even though their only qualifications for being on TV in the first place were just being around, which what earned them a high-profile spot on 'Lauren's' show, it was still not good enough to announce their engagement on, oh wait except it was.

How then, could Montag separate herself from the binds of the MTV show that is keeping her so irrelevant?

Since the means are available to create a generic back beat, as well as process vocals enough to make singing talent secondary to popularity, why not put out an album? Surely the fact that she has probably never taken a singing lesson is no reason why SHE can't have a successful music career, right? "I want to make the new 2010 version of a pop star," she tells PEOPLE. "I want to become a galaxy star." Indeed you do.

Finally, this was project that could only be successful as the quality its content, as is the proper order of things in the entertainment world that is now lost forever in the giant crack in the time-space continuum known as the 21st century.

Released online Jan. 12, the album sold fewer than 1,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

and as posted on www.newmusicreviews.net-

"In fact, industry sources tell UsMagazine.com that the album has sold only 658 downloads to date.
This is likely upsetting news for the reality star, who told Entertainment Weekly last week that she went broke making Superficial but thought that “within the first week, we will definitely make our money back.”
She told EW, “I put every dollar I have into this. I’ve spent over $1 million, almost $2 million, on this album. It’s cost as much or more than a Britney Spears album because I wanted it to be that quality… The songs will make an impact in pop history.”

And sure enough, she may have. The news of this record debut flop made a huge impact in today's pop world, however the history books may unfortunately overlook the 'galaxy star's' album.

The music video for the album's single "Higher", shot by who else, Pratt, was somehow even more of a disappointment. It is posted below in all of its failuristic glory, but be warned, it is not for anyone with a weak stomach or bowel problem:

The video is posted on People's website on it's 'Rate it!' section. People readers did just that on the page. Over seven hundred comments that are unanimously similar to this one, "I watched less than a minute. Is this a practical joke? She can’t be serious."

At this point, I kind of feel bad for Heidi. I can only hope all of this has taught her some kind of lesson, although I'm not eternally optimistic.

I wish I could identify blame for Heidi Montag. Some would say Spencer perpetuates her greed and narcissism with his own. I'm sure he would say that even the album was all a plan to just get more publicity, and talk about them as I am doing right now. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. If there is every anyone to disprove that theory, it could be Spencer Pratt. If I had one wish, it would be that.

I could go back and blame the self-esteem programs of our elementary school days, but although that is a specific target, it is only a microcosm of the bigger issue in our society: the sense of entitlement with so much of our youth.

Everything now seems so obtainable, mainly because so many things are. There is a website to teach anyone with the ambition and time to do pretty much anything, for better or for worse.

And when everything seems so easy, more and more people attempt feats or creations that they never would have before. This can help to give us some great things that perhaps we never would have been able to before.

But mostly, the additional volume into the pool only dilutes the substance further.