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:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment