Is there even one South Park episode that didn't give rise to any controversy? Probably not. After all, the Trey Parker and Matt Stone animated series, in all eighteen of its seasons so far, has consistently portrayed the most taboo subject matters in the most irreverent ways. And as can be expected, the show has often found itself the target of numerous angry statements, correspondences and protests.
Nevertheless, the cartoon that revolves around the lives of four male grade schoolers has also been rewarded with consistently high ratings and various accolades. In fact, South Park's TV ratings have made it the most successful show in Comedy Central's, history -- even once holding the record for being the highest-rated non-sports show in the history of basic cable. The series has also won five Emmys and has been included in several best-of-all-time lists, including Time magazine's 100 Best TV Shows of All Time compilation in 2007 (#82). And yet, with the airing of each new South Park episode still follows a steady stream of passionate anger.
Here are ten memorable times when South Park roused incredible outrage in various personalities and sectors of society:
10 Gingers Do Have Souls!
The 2005 episode, Ginger Kids, attempted to humorously use bigotry against redheads to illustrate that prejudice is never justified. Not all redheads were pleased by it, though. One of them was Michael Kittrell of Grayson Georgia, who posted a fuming rant on YouTube to clarify that redheads actually had souls.
The post ended up gathering more than 30 million views and got the attention of South Park creators, who, in turn, came up with the following promotional video:
Kittrell didn't seem to be flattered by the portrayal:
8 Germans Didn't Find It Funny
Funnybot, the second episode of season 15, begins with Germans receiving "The Most Unfunny People" award from South Park Elementary. This causes angry Germans -- including a pistol-toting Angela Merkel -- to attack the school, take the students hostage, and unveil the XJ-212 Funnybot, a robot that tells jokes and turns out to be a big hit. However, it is later discovered that the robot actually intends to destroy the world as its ultimate joke.
7 Scientology Backlash
If the Church of Scientology's former senior executive and current top critic Mark Rathbun is to be believed, the organization once targeted South Park creators Parker and Stone for their show's attacks on Scientology. More specifically, according to Rathbun's 2011 blog entry, the church's Office of Special Affairs (OSA) conducted a covert operation not only on the show's creators, but also on their family and friends. This involved looking into every public record available on the targets and had the main goal of silencing them.
For a change, on April Fools Day of 1998, South Park angered its own fans rather than the people that were bashed on the show. The reason behind the outrage? Comedy Central had previously promised to reveal who Cartman's father was on the April 1, 1998 show, South Park's second season premiere. Instead, viewers were pranked with the airing of Not Without My Anus, an entire episode featuring Terrance and Phillip. The crudely-drawn characters were featured attempting to save their country from Saddam Hussein, and nothing was revealed about the much-anticipated paternity of Cartman.
6 The Other "F" Word
The F Word, aired on November 4, 2009, featured Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny using the term "fag" to insult Harley riders who frequently disturbed the town by making too much noise with their machines. When the children are accused of being homophobic, they explain that they didn't intend to insult homosexuals and only used the word to refer to annoying bikers. Hilariously, the city council decided to adopt the new meaning, seeming to allow the show to make the point that taboo words are only offensive whenever society allows them to be. However, the gay advocacy group GLAAD was not amused and asked Comedy Central to apologize for the "slur-filled episode." More specifically, GLAAD insisted that
while many “South Park” viewers will understand the sophisticated satire and critique in last night’s episode, others won’t – and if even a small number of those take from this a message that using the “F-word” is OK, it worsens the hostile climate that many in our community continue to face.
5 It Hits the Fan
4 Bloody Mary, Bloodied Pope
3 Too Far, Too Soon
The plot of the South Park halloween special in 2006 revolved around Satan throwing a huge party, which various dead celebrities attended. One of the attendees was Steve Irwin, who showed up with a stingray protruding from his chest. The gag did not sit well with several Irwin sympathizers, including a friend of Steve's widow, who issued the following statement:
Terri [Irwin's widow] is devastated Steve is being mocked in such a cruel way. Her worry is that Bindi and Bob [Irwin's children] will see it and break down. Steve had as big a sense of humour as anyone, but this goes too far too soon.
2 Michael Jackson Fans Offended
1 Depictions of Muhammad
Truth is, not all Muslims agree that their prophet, Muhammad, should never be depicted physically. However, a belief that a great majority of Islam's followers do adhere to is that Muhammad should never be depicted in a malicious manner. But given South Park's history for irreverence, it's not surprising that the show not only depicted Muhammad physically, but also portrayed him and the Muslim religion in a very ridiculous light.
The first physical depiction of Muhammad in the actual show proper came in the season 5 episode Super Best Friends, which portrayed the prophet as a hero and did not raise controversy. But even before that, Muhammad had long been featured as one of the characters in the show's opening credits.
However, the tolerance stopped in 2010 when the episodes 200 and 201 featured a plot that heavily revolved around a ridiculous portrayal of Muhammad and Islam. In response, the radical New York-based organization Revolution Muslim warned the shows creators that they could end up murdered as retribution for South Park's depictions of Muhammad. Fortunately, no actual physical violence took place.
Sources: nydailynews.com, emmys.com, ew.com, nzherald.com, scoop.co.nz, parentstv.org, mediaresearch.org, avclub.com, artsbeat.blog.nytimes.com, huffingtonpost.com, bbc.com, ibtimes.com, telegraph.co.uk
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