Saturday, May 3, 2014

An Ode to "South Park"

South Park has had an everlasting debate around it since its inception in 1997 on Comedy Central. Some people find the show to be humorous, playful, and beneficial in a way, while others see the show as junk and inappropriate. Every episode is a continuous narrative following around four (never-aging) kids: Stan, Kyle, Eric, and Kenny. The writers of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have an eye for starting and escalating controversy. One reason for this can be due to the fact that an episode takes six days to make, so they can always stay on top of current events in the show. There are different sides to this South Park debate, however, I see it as a beneficial show that engages audiences and helps audiences learn about current issues through forms of parody and humor.

            When people are about to watch South Park they know what they are about to watch. In its 17th season it has made the news on several occasions and almost everyone knows what South Park is and does (crude humor and parodies). The creators of the show understand what topics will cause controversy and frequently flirt with the fine line that makes the topic appropriate. “South Park's frequent forays into taboo subject matter and an almost gleeful willingness to rely on shock value for shock value's sake have made it a ripe target for criticism in its own right.” (Strachan, 2011). The issues that South Park will touch on include, racism, sexism, LGBT, feminism, obesity, religion and many more. It is impressive that a show with so much controversy circling it has managed to stay around for almost 20 years.
            Audiences are clearly engaged while watching South Park, many times there is controversy before the episode even comes out, people get upset at what they hear the episode is going to be about. For example, in 2010 South Park decided that it would have an episode depicting the prophet Muhammad, in a humorous parody. This lead to strong protests from radical Muslim groups, in which death threats occurred because of the severity of the issue. (Comedy, 2010) Episodes like these start controversy, which in turn leads to discussion, in my opinion. When people are able to debate a topic and listen to both sides of an argument I think that is important. South Park allows this to happen and I think helps educate and benefit society.

            Many viewers of South Park are teenagers and young adults. Some are up to date on current events while others may not get any news whatsoever. Even though South Park is a comedy program, there are many ways in which someone could benefit and learn from every episode. Usually the boys get caught in a pickle relating to real world events and they have to find a way out. David Carr of The New York Times writes, “Part of the reason ''South Park'' remains a durable, dirty pleasure for many of us is that beyond the annotation of bodily functions, there is always a parable, often summarized with a little speech that begins with, '’One thing I've learned is...’'' (Carr, 2009). I think this is the most important part of the show. If there were no parable, or moral lesson than I can see why this show would be considered humorous junk. Whether the boys are learning about the NSA, religious affiliations, or even Santa and the Tooth fairy they always get something out of each experience. David Carr understands why South Park can get away with so much and still be successful, he says, “Animation can be enormously lucrative because it creates a Neverland where your stars never go on strike, demand perks and raises, and most important, grow up.” (Carr, 2009)  

            There is another side to this debate however. Emily Ravenwood of Ohio State University says, “South Park may have defeated its own aspirations to high art by appealing too much to the source of its vulgar and popular images, namely children.” (Ravenwood, 1999) The show usually comes on around 9 o’clock, so there are still plenty of younger kids up to watch the show. And if they are not still up, the creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, put all episodes online with good quality (all you have to do is watch an ad first). This can be problematic because it is not intended for young audiences and yet many people think that kids are the main target audience for the show. Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children's Television, famously labeled South Park "dangerous to the democracy." I thought this is a bit excessive because if it is that much of a problem than people can use their own rights and change the channel.
            South Park is a beneficial show that engages audiences and helps audiences learn about current issues through forms of parody and humor. For seventeen years South Park has been setting the bar on the comedy scene. They have shaken things up with their controversial episodes and characters in these episodes. Alex Strachan said, “Whether the viewer will find any of this funny or not depends, of course, on one's tolerance threshold for fearless but frequently offensive humor.” (Strachan, 2011) Offensive humor has been South Park’s bread and butter and I do not see them straying away from this as the series continues. They have been exceedingly successful over the past 17 years and still have a desire to put the kids in new situations. If you haven’t seen South Park then I would give it a go because it is worth seeing what all the fuss is about.


Carr, David (2009). “South Park, A Vision and a Payoff.” The New York Times. Retrieved from

“Comedy Central Censors ‘South Park” Episode After Muslim Site’s Threat.” (2010). Asian News International. Retrieved from

Ravenwood, Emily. "The Innocence of Children: Effects of Vulgarity in South Park." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 1.2 (1999): <>

Strachan, Alex (2011). “On the Seventh Day, They Rest.” The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from

Strachan, Alex (2011). “South Park Still Offends; Germans Latest Victim of Crude Jokes.” The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from


  1. I really enjoyed this blog post. I liked your word choice, such as the creators "flirt with the fine line", since that is exactly what they are doing. You make a good point that even those watching this for entertainment are still learning. Often times those who view programs like this are not watching the news, and it is important to note that as controversial as South Park can be, it is still informative and up to date.

  2. I think your views of South Park to be interesting in how it can relate to recent politics going on in our day to day lives. I am not against your views but think differently I suppose. I think South Park is funny but I don't think it's something that NEEDS to be watched. I would rather read the newspaper to find out about the latest current issues and trends than watch this show. I do understand your views, and agree that it does involve current issues but I think South Park mimics societies issues and makes fun of them.

  3. I thought your blog post covered South Park well! It is definitely a controversial topic, and making issues into satire requires a lot of confidence and a great staff of writers. However South Park has never failed in that respect. It's informative with the topics they discuss, but I don't believe it would be my go-to show to get news updates. Though I personally don't watch it religiously, the points you make make me want to watch it more often to see "what all the fuss is about."

  4. This was a very interesting blog post and I enjoyed reading your perspective. I think the writing in South Park is pure genius. The show takes these one-sided current events being covered by the media and presents it by either making fun of it or presenting from the other side of things. South Park would not be my go-to show either to get news updates, but it is where I go when I want to see current events being made fun of. South Park points to a lot of idiotic things that our culture does, like the Tebowing episode. It points to a lot of things that we are all thinking, but nobody is saying. Matt and Trey definitely have the balls to start controversy and have established themselves as doing this particular thing which is why it is hard to criticize them anymore. If you don't like it, don't watch it (a message to the Muslim radicals). It is all satire and parody. It is all a joke. I watch south park because it is up to date with current events making it very relatable. I think it makes boring news stories or one that we have seen the headline and know what is going on but don't know the specifics and gives us a story to the specifics of the event to fill us in on what we are missing. Great job! I enjoyed this!

  5. I thought the post was great, and I agree even though south park can be seen as extremely offensive it offers many great life lessons throughout the show. Almost every episode end with an important takeaway which make this show so beneficial for the viewers. I myself like south park and i think they do a great job relating stories to social problems. Great post

  6. Great post. South Park is great because in a way it keeps pop culture in check. If something controversial is in the news you can almost guarantee South Park will parody it in the coming days. I definitely agree with you and think that it is progressive and useful as a TV show and serves a purpose when its all said and done.


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