Losing the Culture War: Comedy Central Continues to Censor “South Park”
On April 21, 2010, Comedy Central aired episode “201” of South Park. The previous episode, “200,” which was a celebration of their 200th episode, sparked controversy from a radical fringe Muslim group who threatened violence on the show’s creators because of their use of the character Muhammed. After seeing the season 14 DVD of South Park, the cowards at Comedy Central continue to bow to the wishes of radical Muslims, showing that our free speech can be silenced by violence or the threat of it. Following this path, which runs contradictory to almost anything Comedy Central has done in the past, willingly provides a disturbing upper hand to any groups wanting to limit free speech and the power of our popular culture.
When a new episode of South Park airs, it is generally available for streaming shortly thereafter from South Park Studios. In the case of “201,” we got this message:
Following this message, there was a long list of people upset that the network, who has courageously stood by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone over the years, decided to cower in the corner and bleep important sections of episode “201.” In fact, Muhammed was shown in a bear suit, an obvious play on the fear of showing Muhammed on TV. Even that was censored out (important note: Comedy Central has allowed South Park to show Muhammed in the past). As the dust settled, many people (including myself) felt that the truth would be told and free speech will prevail, on some level, when the episode comes out on the season 14 DVD.
Upon the release, I heard that the episode was still edited, which was a shameful move on Comedy Central’s part. Not surprised about that, I figured Matt and Trey would get to say a few things on the commentary track that would allow more of their voice to be heard. Unfortunately, this is not the case and the bulk of their commentary is also bleeped out with that same annoying tone that is spread throughout episode “201” (supposedly a speech about fear and intimidation that doesn’t mention Muhammed). The beginning of the episode on DVD says the following words.
In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.
After reading that statement, I can just hear the obscenity-laced commentary from Matt and Trey, likely using more colorful terms than “coward” in reference to Comedy Central. The reason South Park has reached the status it has acquired is because of the show’s ability to mock anyone or any idea; the end result often being a smart, useful reflection on the topics lampooned. Matt and Trey have long appreciated Comedy Central’s willingness to stand behind their work. Today, however, it appears that Comedy Central has willingly given into the hyper-politically-correct elements in our society.
Over the last year, there has been more mumblings from Matt and Trey that they are getting tired of doing South Park. Their ability to stay on top of current events means they literally put a show together in under a week. This is no easy task and certainly not worth the sleepless work nights if your show is going to get butchered from the terrified suits above. With the ongoing culture war, a voice like South Park is essential and should be supported. Silencing such a voice and giving into intimidation only shows a severe weakness in our culture that will be exploited by those who want to crush it.