South Park

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This article is about . For , see South Park (disambiguation).

South Park is a comedy animated series created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Distributed by and airing on Comedy Central since 1997, it follows the surreal adventures of four young boys who live in the small town of South Park, Colorado. South Park satirizes many aspects of American culture and current events, and challenges deep set convictions and taboos, usually using parody and black humor.

The show is noted for its characteristically blunt handling of current events while they are still current. For example, an episode involving the repatriation of Romanian quintuplets aired during the Elián González issue, and depicted Janet Reno, then U.S. Attorney General, as a murderous Easter Bunny. An episode that aired after the September 11, 2001 attacks had the boys stow away on a military transport to Afghanistan, where they encounter Osama bin Laden. More recently, the episode "Best Friends Forever" satirized both the PSP and the Terri Schiavo case as well as the movie Constantine (various instances relate Kenny's role in the episode as reminiscent of Keanu Reeves). In this episode, the town is at odds over the removal of a feeding tube from Kenny. The episode was recorded one week after the PSP was released and, coincidentally, was originally aired the night of March 30, less than twelve hours before Schiavo died. South Park won its first Emmy Award for that episode.

New episodes for the show's ninth season continued on October 19, 2005 after being on hiatus since April 2005. Recent seasons have aired in two parts; for example, half of the episodes from the eighth season were put on hiatus for Team America: World Police, another Stone and Parker production. The show has been syndicated through Tribune Entertainment starting Autumn 2005.

Series History

South Park began in 1991 when Parker and Stone, then film students at the University of Colorado, created an animated short called Jesus vs. Frosty. The crudely made film featured prototypical versions of the kids of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but called "Kenny", bringing a murderous snowman to life with a magic hat. The baby Jesus then saves the day by decapitating the monster with a halo.

Executives at Fox saw the movie, and in 1995 executive Brian Graden commissioned Parker and Stone to create a second short film to send to friends as a video Christmas card. Entitled The Spirit of Christmas, it closely resembled the style of the later series, and featured a martial arts duel (and subsequent truce) between Jesus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas. This video was later featured in an episode of South Park in which Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, Mr. Hanky and his family "save" Christmas. The video was a hit and was quickly shared, both by underground duplication and over the then-burgeoning Internet. This led to talks to create a series, first with Fox, then with Comedy Central, where the series premiered on August 13, 1997.

File:Kenny dies-again.jpg
One of the many deaths of Kenny.

The show's provocative, frequently offensive, and unquestionably adult-oriented material quickly drew howls of protest from various conservative (as well as liberal) spokespersons, and South Park merchandise (especially T-shirts) were banned from a number of public schools, day care centers, and other public places in a manner similar to the prohibition of Bart Simpson T-shirts in the early 1990s after The Simpsons was accused of contributing to juvenile delinquency. Comedy Central defended South Park by noting that the show is given a "Mature Audiences" TV rating (TV-MA) and that it only airs the show during nighttime hours and never during the day when children may be more likely to see the show.

In February 1998, one episode of South Park posed the question of who Eric Cartman's father was. The episode ended with the announcement that it would be revealed in four weeks' time. Four weeks later, the airing of an episode about Terrance and Phillip (two Canadian comedians the main characters idolize) prompted outrage, and also prompted Comedy Central to push the true season premiere up earlier than expected. It was apparently a well-planted April Fools gag, meant to poke fun at season-ending cliffhangers.

The following year, the full-length animated feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released to generally enthusiastic reviews. The film managed to satirize both itself and the anticipated reaction that it engendered from moral conservatives. It also presented a twisted but seemingly sincere tribute to the film musical with a number of songs, including "Uncle Fucka" and "Blame Canada." The latter was nominated for an Oscar and was performed by Robin Williams during the awards show. It has often been said that "Blame Canada" was chosen from other Oscar-worthy songs in the movie on the basis that it was the only one that could be performed on live TV with its lyrics relatively intact as the song contains only two swear words (while it is true that "Up There" by Satan contains no swear words at all, it would most likely have created far more controversy on religious grounds given its sympathetic portrayal of Satan and his justification of evil in the lyrics).

On November 11, 1999 shortly after the U.S. theatrical release of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, actress Mary Kay Bergman, who had provided all of the female voices on the South Park animated series and in the full-length movie, committed suicide in her suburban Los Angles home. After her death, it was revealed that she suffered from a severe form of clinical depression. Her husband, Dino Andrade, founded the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund at the Suicide Prevention Center of Greater Los Angeles in an effort to help and educate people with the same type of depression that his wife suffered.

In the episode "It Hits the Fan," South Park broke the swearing record by saying the word "shit" a total of 162 times. (In a 22 minute episode, this means that it averaged one "shit" every 8 seconds). There was even a counter throughout the episode showing the number of times it was said. An example of how it was used was Mr. Garrison's song that went, "Hey, there, shitty shitty fag fag, shitty shitty fag fag, how do you do?" and repeated this for four verses. This was meant as a satire on a NYPD Blue episode released shortly before this episode where one of the main characters said the word "shit" without being censored, and the American public discussed this for weeks. (In an additional gag in this episode, homosexual characters were allowed to use the word "fag" freely, while heterosexual characters were bleeped when attempting to use the same word.)

Characters

The characters and backgrounds of South Park are made to appear deliberately crude, as if they are simply made of cut-out pieces of paper. Paper cutouts were indeed used in the original pilot Parker/Stone animation and in the very first Comedy Central episode, but every subsequent episode aired on TV has been produced by computer animation that provides the same crude look. To put the efficiency of this process in perspective, consider that the average episode of The Simpsons takes eight months to create, while episodes of South Park have been completed in as little as three days. Some episodes contain sections of regular film as well (e.g., "Tweek vs. Craig" and "Cat Orgy").

Major Characters

File:South park.jpg
The main characters as they appear in the series: (from left to right): Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick.

The main characters of the show are four elementary school students:

  • Stanley "Stan" Marsh: Often the straight man of the group. Generally good-natured and clear thinking, he usually tries to come up with logical solutions to their outrageous situations. Stan acts as the alter-ego for creator, Trey Parker, and often summarizes the message or moral of the episode. He is best friends with Kyle and their relationship is central to many episodes.
  • Kyle Broflovski: High-strung, skeptical, and at times self-righteous; yet is the most easily influenced. The alter-ego of Matt Stone (who, like Kyle, is Jewish); Kyle often provides the reasonable perspective on the crazy behavior of the adult world around them.
  • Eric Theodore Cartman: Loosely inspired by Archie Bunker; he is campy, aggressive, sadistic, bigoted, spoiled, overweight, rude, and antagonistic…although often the funniest in the ensemble. Frequently the catalyst for the plot; he regularly insults Kyle for being Jewish and Kenny for being poor. Meanwhile, his pretentious and sociopathic ways often causes him to regularly be disdained by the other boys, who don't quite know why they put up with him.
  • Kenneth "Kenny" McCormick: Comes from an extremely crude, poverty-stricken family. Obsessed with sex and bathroom humor. His speech is difficult to understand due to his hood closed around his face, although all of his lines *are* real dialogue. During the first five seasons Kenny served as the eternal victim, who is routinely killed in a number of grotesque (yet often very entertaining) ways during each episode, only to miraculously reappear alive in the next episode. At the end of Season 5, Kenny is killed off for the next season and replaced by both Butters and Tweek as the fourth friend. He reappears as a regular character in Season 7, and while he does not necessarily die in every episode any more, on occasion he still meets a harsh fatality.

In recent seasons, two other characters have gained prominence:

  • Leopold "Butters" Stotch (replaced Kenny as a main character during the first part of the Season 6. Though Kenny was brought back for the 7th season, Butters has remained prominent): Nervous, naïve, easily manipulated, and repressed -- while at the same time remains ironically optimistic, and sometimes insightful. He is often callously punished by his overbearing and oppressive parents, and is meanwhile blatantly vilified, taken advantage of and/or disregarded by Stan, Kyle, and Cartman. Adding to the tragic nature of his character, his birthday is September 11.
  • Tweek (replaced Kenny during the second part of the Season 6): Spastic, neurotic, wants to be left alone. He is the only kid we know genuinely suffering from ADHD (referred to as ADD in the show). His problems are often glossed over by his very docile, Hallmark commercial-esque coffee-shop-owning parents. Although initially touted as one of the leading supporting characters, he has since been upstaged by the more viewer popular Butters and has returned to playing a minor role.

The show's earliest well-known gimmick, beginning in the first episode, was that in every episode, Kenny would die in some horrible, "unexpected" way. After this, Stan would shout, "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" and Kyle would add, "You bastards!" Originally, the notorious "bastards" were the cow-aliens who shot Kenny with plasma; however, Kenny was in fact unharmed by this, and he was actually killed by Officer Barbrady's car after being trampled by Farmer Dinkins' cows. Kenny would be back in the next episode, the incident forgotten. For some time (after the fifth season episode "Kenny Dies"), Kenny had actually died "permanently." In the sixth season episode "A Ladder to Heaven," Kenny's soul became trapped inside of Cartman's body, but an exorcism performed by Chef's mother in "The Biggest Douche in the Universe" undid this.

Kenny came back to life for an unexplained reason in "Red Sleigh Down" and is now the same regular kid he was before, except his deaths are much more rare. Kenny was killed by Saddam Hussein in "It's Christmas in Canada", the final episode of Season 7. He was also killed once during the eighth season, out of his parka, by "Mr. Jefferson," an alias of Michael Jackson, in the episode "The Jeffersons", and in the ninth season, he was killed by the Chinese mafia in the episode "Wing," as well as the following episode, "Best Friends Forever" (in fact, he dies twice in the latter).


Recurring Characters

Template:Mainarticle There are many other frequently recurring characters, besides the boys and their families.

  • The boys' teachers Mr. Herbert Garrison (currently Ms. Garrison after receiving a sex change in Episode 901, "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina"), and Ms. Choksondik (pronounced "chokes-on-dick") who dies in Season 6.
  • Mr. Slave, Mr. Garrison's flamboyantly gay live-in lover until his sex change in Episode 901 (replacement for Garrison's beloved puppet companion, Mr. Hat).
  • Jerome "Chef" McElroy (voiced by Isaac Hayes), the school cafeteria chef whom the boys seek out for advice. He used to be shown in almost every episode, but has been on less frequently in recent seasons.
  • Satan, portrayed as the insecure and overly-sensitive lover of Saddam Hussein.
  • Jesus Christ and Santa Claus, who have been depicted as gun-toting heroes.
  • Mr. Mackey, the school counselor who often appends "M'kay?" to the end of his sentences.
  • Officer Barbrady, the incompetent, mentally deficient town police officer.
  • Wendy Testaburger, a schoolmate and Stan's girlfriend until Episode 714 ("Raisins").
  • Timmy, a schoolmate confined by disability to a wheelchair. He has a limited vocabulary, usually only consisting of his own name, Jimmy's name, his pet turkey's name - "Gobbles", and his assorted gibberish. On occasion, has managed a few other words. As a standing joke, he was misdiagnosed with ADHD.
  • Jimmy, a physically-disabled schoolmate with crutches and a speech impediment. Famous at South Park Elementary for his stand-up comedy. He took steroids to win the Special Olympics.
  • Starvin Marvin, originally appeared in Episode 109. He was sent to Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny after they donated 5 dollars to an Ethiopian fund for starving children (led by Sally Struthers) in order to earn a TAKO sports watch. They are accidentally sent a small Ethiopian boy they call Starvin' Marvin. When two agents appear to return Starvin' Marvin back to his home country, they accidentally take Cartman instead. Though the episode is set in East African Ethiopia, Starvin' Marvin speaks a language with click consonants, which are more often found in Khoisan languages such as those of the Xhosa people of South Africa. He later appears in episode 311 along with the alien Marklar race.
  • Towelie, is a "super towel" created to dry a person, but while being studied he smoked marijuana and "just sort of wandered off". Towelie is frequently getting "high" and offers towel-usage advice in the episodes he's in.
  • Token Black, a schoolmate who occasionally accompanies the boys on their adventures; his name is intended as irony: being the only African-American kid in town, he is indeed the "token black". Token is also a frequent target of Cartman's racism.
  • The goth kids, originally featured in Episode 714 ("Raisins").
  • Scott Tenorman, a much older schoolmate, originally introduced when he tricks Cartman out of his allowance money in the episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die". Cartman later takes revenge on Scott at his infamous "Chili con Carnival." Scott has appeared in minor roles in at least two subsequent episodes.

Minor Characters and 'Celebrities'

File:Southpark disclaimer.gif
The satirical disclaimer that begins every episode

Part of the show's surrealist nature derives from the minor characters who appear in the series. Notable appearances include God (who appears as a small creature resembling a hippo-rodent hybrid), Jesus (who owns a home and hosts a public-access television show in South Park (Jesus and Pals)), Satan (with or without his lover Saddam Hussein), Moses(who appears exactly as the Master Control Program (MCP) does in the Disney film Tron and demands macaroni pictures from his faithful), the alien Marklar race; the Jakovasaurs; Death; Mr. Hankey "the Christmas poo" (who adds to the holiday festivities in much the same spirit as the 1960s Rankin-Bass cartoons), and Towelie (who always gets (or wants to get) high).

Most celebrities whom make appearances on South Park are usually "impersonated.....poorly" by the staff or others. See partial list below:

  • Barbra Streisand, is transformed by a mystical artifact Cartman found while digging and became Mecha-Streisand, a Mechagodzilla-like creature.
  • Kathie Lee Gifford, is nearly assasinated by Mr. Garrison in the episode "Weight Gain 4000."
  • O. J. Simpson, is a member of a support group for relatives of murder victims in "Butters' Very Own Episode."
  • George W. Bush, under the influence of Satan's advisor (a Wormtongue lookalike, who probably represented Karl Rove) fought against removing a feeding tube from Kenny in the episode "Best Friends Forever."
  • The 1980s band Toto
  • Brian Boitano, a figureskater who is a kind of superhero to the children of South Park first appeared in "The Spirit of Christmas" and then again in the South Park movie, "Bigger, Longer, Uncut."
  • Russell Crowe, star of the TV show Russell Crowe: Fightin' Around the World, in which he travels the world in a cartoon tugboat and picks fights with random strangers based on perceived insults
  • Madonna is ridiculed in the episode "Kenny Dies."
  • David Blaine, founder of the fictional, suicide-cult-like "Blainetology" religion in the episode "Super Best Friends."
  • Sally Struthers is portrayed as a Hutt (as in "Jabba the Hutt" from Star Wars) hoarding food while pretending to save "Starvin' Marvin" and his people.
  • Michael Jackson appears as a new neighbor named "Mr. Jefferson" who moves to South Park with his young son Blanket to escape accusations of child molestation (such as those that were made against Jackson in late 2003).
  • Paris Hilton as spokeswoman for the Stupid Spoiled Whore clothing store chain.
  • Christina Aguilera is portrayed as a hideous creature; a hallucination of Cartman's when he starts ingesting Ritalin
  • Jennifer López, who appeared in "Fat Butt and Pancake Head", where Cartman drew a face on his hand and pretended that it was J. Lo. She attempted to destroy Cartman's hand because it was ruining her career. Jennifer López also appears in "Cartmanland", where Kyle and Stan are burning an action figure version of her with a magnifying glass.
  • Mel Gibson: In the acclaimed "The Passion of the Jew" episode, Kenny and Stan, after seeing "The Passion of the Christ" and hating it, go to Gibson's home to ask for thier money back. They find that Gibson is a complete and utter lunatic who begs to be tortured and chases them all the way to South Park where the debate over his movie is about to break into a fight between the Jews and the Christians.

Short List of Celebrities Who Have Provided Voice Work:

  • Robert Smith of the British rock/pop band The Cure, who transformed into a moth creature (a parody of Mothra) to battle Mecha-Streisand.
  • The band KoЯn, solved a Scooby Doo-type mystery in the Halloween episode, "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery."
  • The band Radiohead, appear in the episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die."
  • George Clooney, portrays an emergency room doctor similar to his character Doug Ross in the TV series ER in the South Park Movie, "Bigger, Longer, Uncut." Clooney also appeared as a voice actor for Sparky, Stan's homosexual dog, in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride", his only line being "Woof!".
  • Jennifer Aniston, plays a choir teacher in the episode, "Rainforest, Schmainforest."

See List of celebrities on South Park for more persons who have appeared on the show in one way or another.

Running Gags

These are events that have recurred in almost every episode of South Park.

  • Kenny died in almost every episode during the first five seasons. He usually dies at the end, though his death is used as a plot device in a few episodes.
  • After most of Kenny's deaths, Stan says "Oh, my God! They/it/he/she killed Kenny!" Kyle will then say "You bastard(s)!" A gag has been built around this: whenever Stan says, "Oh, my God! They killed Kenny!", Kyle will always reply, no matter where he is, "You bastards!" In the episode "Super Best Friends", Stan used this method as echolocation to find Kyle, who had been forced into suicide by a cult.
  • Cartman frequently says, "Screw you guys, I'm going home." This usually comes after he and Kyle get into an argument (mainly the ones that involve Eric being selfish).
  • Eric's mother occasionally is targeted for her promiscuity. Sometimes the boys find a magazine or website depicting her in unspeakable acts, though it's usually intimated by Ms. Cartman flirting with or taking men into her room.
  • Whenever Wendy speaks to Stan or kisses him on the cheek, his nervousness will cause him to vomit shortly thereafter. (This gag ended as of Season 7 when the two had to break up because the actor who provided Wendy's voice had died.)
  • If Chef is asked a question by the children, he will answer by singing a song, the song will wind up being about sex regardless of the original question. Then he'll occasionally attempt to relate it to their problem.
  • Kyle is teased or insulted for being Jewish. In the episode "Casa Bonita" there is a montage with 16 occurrences of Cartman insulting Kyle as a Jew.
  • When the boys are looking for a "guinea pig" or someone to take the fall, they always choose Butters.
  • Eric will occasionally threaten someone with something completely obscure when they don't agree with him, like make someone "eat their parents", which happens in episode 501, "Scott Tenorman must die", in which Cartman tricks a Scott Tenorman to eat a bowl of chili containing his parents after being insulted and tricked.
  • Canadian characters on South Park exhibit many random oddities, such as beady eyes and semicircular heads that, during speech, detach from their body and jaw (which is also semicircular). They also speak rapidly with affected accents, pronouncing "about" as "a-boot" and "house" as "hoose"; they frequently refer to others as, "buddy." Curiously, Saddam Hussein is animated in the same style.
  • A celebrity appears or is mentioned in every episode.
  • There is usually a reference to Kenny being poor, usually by Cartman making a joke about it.
  • Someone usually punches Cartman in the face when he insults them
  • The dog in the DVD opening scene, which is a talk with the creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, called Scratch, always changes, and in the Episode An Elephant Makes Love To a Pig Scratch changes half way through it, referring to the genetic mutation theme of the episode
  • In the Opening Sequence on the DVD, Matt Stone and Trey Parker always do something that notes homosexuality between the two
  • The Chef always arrives and says to the boys "Hows it going, kids?" which is replied by "Bad" which is then replied back to by the Chef with, "Why bad?"
  • There is always a satirical theme in each episode

Religious Affiliations of Characters

According to the episode "Red Hot Catholic Love", virtually all the major and recurring characters in South Park are Roman Catholic, except:

  • The Broflovskis (Kyle's family), who are Jewish.
  • The Harrisons, who are Mormon.
  • Chef, who converted to Islam in "Chef Goes Nanners" but apparently gave it up.
  • Chef's parents, who practice Voodoo and Occult rituals.
  • God, who claims to be a Buddhist.

In another episode, it is established that the only people who get into heaven are the Mormons--though Hell isn't so bad having orientation and luaus--and that Japanese people don't have souls.

The Class

3rd/4th Grade A list of the members of the 4th Grade (3rd Grade in the first 3 seasons) class can be hard to define, but here is one based on regular occurrences:

In alphabetical order

  • Bertha (Red)
  • Bill
  • Kyle Broflovski
  • Kevin C
  • Eric Cartman
  • Mark Cotswold
  • Craig
  • Clyde Donovan
  • Dog Poo
  • Esther
  • Fosse
  • Gary Harrison
  • Jason
  • Jessie
  • Kal
  • Lizzy
  • Mandy
  • Stan Marsh
  • Kennie McCormack
  • Millie
  • Terrence Mephesto
  • Phillip "Pip" Pirrup
  • Annie Polk
  • Leopold "Butters" Scotch
  • Bebe Stevens
  • Wendy Testerburger
  • Pete Thelman
  • Timmy
  • Heidi Turner
  • Sally Turner
  • Tweek
  • Jimmy Valmer
  • Token Williams

Music

File:South Park Soundtrack.jpg
Cover from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut - Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture

Although South Park is well known for its humor and controversial plots, viewers are also treated to an original musical score. The show's opening theme song is performed by alternative rockers Primus.

It should be noted that Kenny's lines in the song, as well as all but one of his lines throughout the show (Episode 807, "The Jeffersons") and one in the movie, are muffled. Kenny always wears an orange anorak with the hood concealing all of his head except for his eyes. The fact that the lines are unintelligible helped them slip past network censors. It is sometimes easy to comprehend the lines, given the context in which they are delivered.

One of the rumors is that Kenny's original line says "I like women with fat titties, I like women with big titties." Another interpretation that is common is, "I like girls with big fat titties, I like girls with big fat titties." Another variation states that he sings, "I like girls with big fat titties, I like girls with big vaginas."

Another rumor of Kenny's lines is that they changed at the start of the 3rd season, and went on to the end of the 5th season. These lines are supposedly "I have got a 10 inch penis, if you want to, you can clean it." This went on, and was changed during the 6th season, where Timmy took over Kennys place after Kenny was killed off permanently. Timmy's lines are "Timmah Timmah Timmah Timmah, Timmah, Timmah, Live a lie, Timmah!"

Kenny's line in the theme song changed at the start of the seventh season. It was promised that the line would be revealed a year after the change. When the time had passed, the creators had forgotten exactly what the line was, but were "95% sure" that it was: "Someday I'll be old enough, to stick my dick in Britney's butt."

Popular songs such as "Kyle's Mom is a Bitch" originated on the show, but the creators' musical abilities were not frequently used until the release of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The film's soundtrack featured songs like "Mountain Town", "La Resistance Medley," "Uncle Fucka", "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" (a song to which Brian Boitano has been known to figure skate), "I'm Super", and "Blame Canada" (nominated for an Oscar, see below). Several of the songs from the movie were satires of tunes from Disney cartoons. For instance, "Mountain Town" is highly similar to "Bonjour" from Beauty and the Beast. "Up There" is a take-off of two different Disney songs, "Out There" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame and "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. "La Resistance Medley" spoofs "One Day More" from the stage musical Les Miserables.

In the episode Asspen, a well-made spoof song presumably called "Montage" is performed by Trey and Matt, as Stan trains to become a better skier - "Show lot of things hap'nin' at once, Remind everyone of what's goin' on [Choir: What's goin' on!!] And with every shot, show a little improvement - To show it all would take too long: That's called a montage!" The "Montage" song was reworked and reused by Parker and Stone in 2005 for their film Team America. A song in the same vein appears in the "Special Olympics" episode, where Cartman works on his handicapped "act": "Push it to the Limit" by Paul Engemann, which also appears in the Scarface montage.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have, on occasion, performed these and other songs (some unrelated to the show, such as "Dead Dead Dead"), under the band name DVDA.

In the show, Eric Cartman will often burst into song to convey a false altruism or optimism that belies his baser motivations. In "Red Sleigh Down", he sings "Poo-Choo Train", an unnervingly cheery Christmas carol, in an obvious attempt to convince Mr. Hankey and Santa Claus that he is worthy of Christmas presents. In "The Death of Eric Cartman", Cartman sings "Make it Right" with Butters in a weak attempt to reconcile his sins. Cartman also uses the song "Heat of the Moment" to convince the U.S. Senate to approve stem cell research.

Additional musical contributions to the show come from from Isaac Hayes, who voices Chef, and from the band Primus, which performed the original opening and ending themes for the show. Another high point of the series is its dramatic score, for it dramatizes common and deep parts with a very heartwarming, melancholic, or mysterious soundtrack.

Video Games

Political Controversy

The political leaning of South Park has been open to some debate. With the exception of Cartman's hard-core conservative character being portrayed as a self-centered bigot, and Kyle being portrayed as reasonable and quite liberal, the show is often criticized for having a supposed "conservative bias". Throughout the show, it may or may not be a coincidence that some celebrities mocked the most have been self-professed "Liberals." For example, in the season 7 episode "Butt Out", director and liberal activist Rob Reiner and his fellow anti-smokers are portrayed as a bunch of thieves, willing to lie for the sake of putting out cigarettes for good - while the people working at the tobacco company are shown as friendly and happy.

Another potential example of bias might be their portrayal of President Bush. As president, George W. Bush is naturally a favorite target of cartoonists and comics, but South Park does not seem to make fun of him much at all. In fact, in the episode "A Ladder To Heaven" Bush is hardly recognizable, possibly because he's hardly exaggerated or caricatured, highly unusual for South Park, to say the least. This could be contrasted with President Bill Clinton in the earlier episodes, who is portrayed as a jackass with a wrinkly face and an exaggerated Southern accent (it should be noted however that Bush was mercilessly satirized on Parker/Stone's short-lived series That's My Bush!). In any case, the show has lambasted social conservatives in satirizing The Passion of Christ and the Terry Schiavo debate.

However, South Park's political views overall would seem to lean towards the libertarian political view. Trey Parker dismisses the "accusations" of conservatism, claiming that if their show really were conservative, it wouldn't exactly have the sense of humor or tone it's famous for. Matt Stone points out that the show pokes fun at Liberals and Conservatives, and no segment of society is spared. In fact, the wide spread of the show's comedic gunbarrel is a good part of the appeal: a recent advertisement for the show on Comedy Central announced an apology, listed many categories of people South Park has made fun of (including rednecks, blacks, gays, politicians, transsexuals, Jews, and the disabled) and then stated, "We apologize if South Park has left you out."

That said, the show seems less afraid to "call out" "liberals" than it is to specifically target "conservatives." For example, the specific equation of Democrats with Fascists for advocating sexual harassment laws (Sexual Harassment Panda) and My Future Self n' Me's contention that "liberals" are behind the creation of anti-drug PSA's equating marijuana use with support of terrorism. Critique of conservatism is generally limited to religious and social leaders, who are often depicted as self-serving and hypocritical, but rarely, if ever, are "conservative" or "republican" officials or policies overtly criticized in the manner that "liberal" concepts and individuals are.

A more accurate characterization of South Park's criticism might be "anti-authority," and in particular "anti-state." In other words, South Park consistently pokes fun at efforts by both "liberals" and "conservatives" to increase the amount of government control over the lives of individuals. As mentioned above, such a position jives more with contemporary libertarianism than with either American liberalism or contemporary American conservatism.

Recurring Theme of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and child neglect are recurring thematic elements in South Park. For example, Butters' emotional abuse by his parents is usually depicted in episodes in which he appears. Cartman is shown several times as a target of actual or attempted sexual abuse. Shelley is depicted as physically abusing her younger brother Stan and other major characters in earlier episodes. Kenny's parents are depicted and referred to as dysfunctional alcoholics, and his brothers appear to be neglected (although Kenny himself is not shown to be similarly affected).

The treatment of this theme ranges from realistic to cartoonish. E.g., Butters' state of mind as a result of his treatment by his parents is handled in a generally realistic way—he is incontinent, has low self-esteem, and wrings his hands. However, his parents' emotional manipulation of him is shown as completely "over-the-top"; at one point, they try to sell Butters to Paris Hilton. Tweek's constant state of tension has both comic elements (his parents keep him dosed on coffee for no obvious reason), and more serious and realistic ones (his problems, caused by his family, are misdiagnosed as ADD, and it is implied that he has a therapist who treats his problems as purely personal and ignores the role of his parents).

If nothing else, this sort of analysis shows that South Park is far more than the simple "shock value" cartoon its detractors often portray; thoughtful, multifaceted situations and complexity are evident in nearly every episode.

Trivia

  • The film Bowling for Columbine includes an interview with Matt Stone that suggests South Park was largely inspired by Stone's childhood experiences in Littleton, Colorado. Stone describes Littleton as painfully normal and highly intolerant of nonconformist behavior. Stone's appearance was followed by an uncredited cartoon in a style strongly reminiscent of South Park that was not the work of either Stone or Parker. It became a point of contention between them and the filmmaker, Michael Moore, as they believed Moore meant to imply they had contributed it to his film. They have said the appearance of Moore as a suicide bomber in their 2004 feature film Team America: World Police is their sardonic response to this incident.
  • Les Misérables has had several cameo roles throughout the series, including an appearance by Cosette, Cartman's prison number being 24601 (Jean Valjean's prison number), and an entire song in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut that is based on "One Day More", a song from the musical. Also, in Episode 414 "Helen Keller! The Musical", the "musical theater expert" sounds similar to Colm Wilkinson, who played the original Jean Valjean on Broadway. In fact, Cartman says the expert (introduced as Geoffrey Mainard) played the lead in a production of Les Misérables.
  • A short tribute sketch was shown for the 30th anniversary of Monty Python which parodied the "Dead Parrot sketch." The parody takes part in a friend store, where Eric Cartman walks in and complains that Kenny, the friend that he bought, is dead. Eventually an ending showing crude cut outs of Terry Gilliam, Venus de Milo, and the Monty Python foot appear.
  • Trey Parker animated a South Park version of a joke called The Aristocrats for the documentary film of that name.
  • The Parker-Stone production company is named Braniff Productions, named after a defunct airline. The logo (which featured a computer-generated shot of the Braniff airline with the subtitle "...believe it") originally appeared in Episode 101 as a joke, but decided since Parker and Stone had already established Braniff as their company anyway, the logo would close every episode.
  • In almost every episode of South Park, one of the aliens from Episode 101 is hidden somewhere in the episode. You can find them all here: http://www.eeggs.com/items/1256.html

Evolution of the series

South Park's early episodes tended to be shock value-oriented, but the more recent episodes are often oriented more toward poking fun at current events. This was very evident in the first half of Season 8: events in its episodes include Michael Jackson visiting South Park, the boys seeing The Passion of the Christ, blue-collar workers in South Park losing their jobs to immigrants from the future, and an episode featuring a "Paris Hilton" toy video camera. Season 9 premiered with the episode "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina," which incorporated uncensored footage of a farm animal being neutered.

The pilot episode was produced using construction paper and traditional stop-motion animation techniques, but current episodes duplicate the original, amateurish look using modern computer animation tools (first PowerAnimator, then Maya, which South Park creators have described as "building a sandcastle with a bulldozer"). This allows for a short production schedule which enables the creators to respond quickly to current events. For instance, the December 17, 2003 episode ("It's Christmas in Canada") depicts the capture of Saddam Hussein a mere three days after his capture by U.S. forces, even referring to the "spider hole" where he was found. In the case of this and the Elián González episode, the creators stopped and changed production of an episode to focus on these events. Another example is the "Trapper Keeper" episode which originally aired just eight days after the 2000 Election and featured a kindergarten class election being delayed by, among other things, an undecided girl named "Flora", a reasonably obvious reference to the undecided vote-count in the state of Florida.

In the audio commentary on the Season 4 DVD set, Parker and Stone remarked that beginning with episode 408, "Chef Goes Nanners," they began to consistently make episodes centering on a single issue, rather than having different sub-plots going on.

In 2002 the episode "Free Hat" was aired. In this episode, prompted by Kyle's comment on Ted Koppel's Nightline that changing E.T. would be like changing Raiders of the Lost Ark, the South Park depictions of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decide to alter the first Indiana Jones film. Soon after "Free Hat" aired, the real Lucas and Spielberg announced that they would not be altering Raiders of the Lost Ark for DVD release (contrary to rumors surrounding it). Stone and Parker later claimed that their episode prevented any alterations from happening when they appeared on a VH1 special, Inside South Park.

While in college, Stone and Parker collaborated on the movie Cannibal! The Musical, a Western satire with humorous musical numbers. (The "Braniff" tune that plays at the end of many South Park episodes is an excerpt from the Cannibal! song, "Shpadoinkle".) Later, they created Orgazmo, a comedy about a Mormon starring in a pornographic movie, which found distribution thanks to the success of South Park later that same year. The pair also starred in the 1998 film BASEketball directed by David Zucker. (In a recent episode in which the boys see the Passion of the Christ and subsequently decide to get their money back for watching a lousy film, Stan comments to Kenny, "This is just like that time we got our money back from BASEketball," commenting on the film's box office failure). Their latest collaboration is the marionette action/comedy, Team America: World Police.

On September 9, 2005, Comedy Central struck a deal with Parker and Stone for three more seasons of the show. The network has committed to three more seasons of South Park over the next three years, 42 episodes (including those of the second half of Season 9), which means that the show will run until at least 2009. Parker and Stone will continue to write, direct, and edit every episode of the show. The order brings the series total to 182 episodes. It is currently in the middle of its ninth season. A sanitized version of South Park began broadcasting in syndication on September 19, 2005.

Another interesting fact is that South Park is an elementary school in Deerfield, Illinois

See also

External links

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Video clips


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