South Park is one of the most successful cartoons of all time. What started out as a modestly crude, shock laugh cartoon that was once considered nothing but “bad animation and fart jokes”, has turned into a pop culture juggernaut, serving as both a societal and political mirror, calling out the masses on all of our bullsh*t. Whenever something big happens in American culture, I always think to myself, “I wonder what South Park thinks of this?”
The return of South Park is upon us, so in honor of their 19th season kicking off on Wednesday, we decided to look back through all 19 seasons and (painstakingly) decide on their 5 most offensive episodes of all times.
#5: With Apologies To Jesse Jackson (Season 11, Episode 1)
The premiere of the eleventh season saw creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and they regularly do, come out swinging. In this episode, Randy uses the racial slur “n*ggers” on national television, leading to widespread public outrage. Stan attempts to understand the epithet’s impact on his African-American friend Token. Meanwhile, a dwarf has a hard time trying to teach Cartman to be sensitive. Surpringly, in true South Park fashion, despite the frequent usage of one of the most offensive racial slurs in the English language, the episode attracted very little media attention. In fact, he group Abolish the “N” Word, which is linked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, praised the episode, calling it a good example of the word’s impact on individuals. This is the episode that famously established Randy Marsh as “The N*gger Guy”
#4: Episode 201 ( Season 14, Episode 6)
The episode continued multiple storylines from the previous episode, “200”, in which a group of angry celebrities demand South Park produce the Muslim prophet Muhammad. In “201”, a superhero-like group of religious figures team up to save South Park from the celebrities and their monster Mecha-Streisand, while Eric Cartman learns the true identity of his father. This episode was so controversial that prior to the broadcast of “201”, the radical Muslim organization Revolution Muslim posted a literal warning on their website that Parker and Stone risked being murdered for their depiction of Muhammad. Comedy Central modified Parker and Stone’s version of the episode, obscuring all images and bleeping all references to Muhammad—to the effect of disruptively obscuring the entire two-minute moral conclusion of the story. Nevertheless, again, in true South Park fashion, both “200” and “201” were nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 2010. Plus, the phrase “Muhammad’s Magic Goo” will never not be funny.
#3: Trapped in The Closet (Season 9, Episode 12)
In the episode, Stan joins Scientology in an attempt to find something “fun and free.” After the discovery of his surprisingly high “thetan levels,” he is recognized as the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the church. The title is a reference to the R. Kelly serialized song of the same name and a satirized version of R. Kelly appears in the episode. “Trapped in the Closet” generated significant controversy. Tom Cruise, who is portrayed in the episode, reportedly threatened to back out of his promotional obligations for the Paramount Pictures film Mission: Impossible III if Viacom, the owner of both Comedy Central and Paramount, allowed a repeat of the episode to air. This episode made waves for its depiction of Tom Cruise and John Travolta being literally trapped in a closet, as well as an animated sequence explaining the
ridiculousness beliefs of Scientology.
#2: Cartoon Wars (Season 10, Episode 3 & 4)
A personal favorite of mine, Cartoon Wars saw South Park finally take on their main competitor: Family Guy. And, oh boy, South Park went straight Floyd Mayweather on Seth Macfarlane, because they throughly annihilated Family Guy.
Cartoon War is comprised of the third and fourth episode’s of the tenth season. In the episodes, it is announced that a Family Guy episode will air with the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a character, leaving the whole of the United States fearing for their lives. Cartman apparently believes that the episode is offensive to Muslims and decides to go to Hollywood to try to get the episode pulled. As what appears to be a common theme for South Park, the inclusion (or threatened inclusion) of the prophet Muhammad was the catalyst behind the controversy. Nevertheless, the episode, particularly it’s dismantling of Family Guy’s humor (they revel that Family Guy’s writers are actually manatees), received wide spread acclaim. Bonus points for their depiction of Bart from The Simpsons, who also despises Family Guy. Bart and Cartman compare the worst things they’ve ever done, and it’s absolutely f*cking hilarious.
#1: Bloody Mary (Season 9, Episode 14)
While most of the entries on this list offended people through their plots and themes, the top spot goes to “Bloody Mary” because of imagery used in the episode. In the episode,Randy drives drunk and loses his driver’s license. He is then ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where he becomes convinced that his alcoholism is a potentially fatal disease. Meanwhile, a statue of the Virgin Mary starts bleeding “out its a**” and Randy believes that he can be “cured” if it bleeds on him. I want you to read that last sentence again, and tell me that isn’t one of the more f*cked up things you’ve seen in your life.
The episode was aired on December 7, 2005, which is the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic observance related specifically to the Virgin Mary. “Bloody Mary” was considered a very controversial episode, even by South Park standards. The Catholic League demanded an apology and that the episode “be permanently retired and not be made available on DVD” and that Joseph A. Califano, Jr., a board member of Viacom (the parent of company Comedy Central) and a practicing Catholic, issue a personal statement. Then, in February 2006, leaders from the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Council of Christians and Muslims, and other religious groups together lobbied media conglomerate CanWest to stop a planned airing of the episode in New Zealand on the music channel C4.
However, in true South Park fashion, Like the “Trapped in the Closet” episode, “Bloody Mary” did return to the air.