Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park: On Board the Censorship

Here is a post I made in regard to the recent South Park "controversy":
I was also greeted with the message. I was curious as to see if they would run it there without the Comedy Central added bleeps. My question is, if you are going to attack the theme of censorship (again), why bow to the same force of which you are attempting to satirize? The "idea" is mildly humorous and all, but in the end they really just look like hypocrites that exposed that even they are just as much of the problem as anyone that enables artistic censorship... especially as a result of fear. These guys don't need the money anymore. If they really wanted to make a statement here they would publicly tell Comedy Central and their parent conglomerates to go fuck themselves. Considering this show is easily the most popular on the network and one of the most successful in TV history (for a cartoon) the audience back lash would really spark discussion of this issue. Then again, most South Park fans are probably apathetic stoners that miss half of the underlying themes and have no interest in the matter.

Some one quickly countered saying:
i guess I'd argue that even if they did add some bleeps, that just contributes to the point and the satire remains effective.
To which I responded:
They did not add ALL of the bleeps, as you can read on Comedy Central took it upon themselves to submit to open threats on the lives of people involved with the show... specifically Matt and Trey. I know this is not the first time this has happened, so it should have been expected, right? So when it happened, why did they then allow Comedy Central to A. Censor B. Run the episode with the censorship? I understand what you are saying in terms of isolating this one episode. I am speaking to a more broad frame of mind. Their method is completely ineffective in this case. In truth, I even find it counter-productive. To me it screams, "Well hell, if South Park is even afraid to speak out against this, then the fear must be justified." The average American South Park viewer might buy into that, thus overriding the weak attempt at satire in this medium. I think South Park is often highly under estimated for its pop culture relevance in this country.
After discussing this with friends and reading about it, I felt the need to start cataloguing this chain of events. Now it seems that the story has escalated to the National news level and everyone has something to say about it. None of that really concerns me, rather its is what the creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have to say about it that interests me. At first this message was posted on South Park Studios in place of the 201 episode:

Many seemed to have read into the whole episode riddled with bleeps to be a meta-joke of sorts, but this theory was soon squashed. Next came this statement from Parker and Stone:

Enter Revolution Muslim, a radical Islamist organization based in New York City. I was able to dig up their web statement via Google cache (the website is currently down). I will post some images of it below just to give you an idea of what was said to trigger the Comedy Central censorship. 

Here are the authors boasting of their insults and celebrating their complete disregard for what anyone considers sacred: Are you afraid that you would be bombed, she asks? Perhaps they are not, perhaps they should be, only time will tell.
There was then a short clip of the episode in question followed by another article that has a picture of Theo Van Gogh laying lifeless on the ground. The caption below the picture (which I refuse to include here) says:
Theo Van Gogh - Have Matt Stone And Trey Parker Forgotten This? Fans of the popular series South Park are waiting for tonight’s episode after it was revealed the episode will include a portrayal of the character of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. The controversy started in 2005 when a Danish newspaper ran a series of comics where an image of Muhammad was shown. It raised protests in the middle east where Muslims burned Danish embassies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. This is not the first time the creator of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, produced episodes including Muhammad in the character. In July 4, 2001 an episode entitled Super Best Friends successfully aired with the prophet depicted. People are waiting if tonight’s episode will be really aired or canceled. The episode went beyond just showing him, but it outright insulted him, salaa Allahu 'alayhi wa salam, by showing him in a bear suit and making fun of our beloved Nabi, salaa Allahu 'alayhi wa salam. It already aired and you can read comments about it here.
The page then produced one of the more insensitive comments followed by a Huffington Post article that gives the location of the two cartoonist. Last they give a warning and the physical addresses of Comedy Central and South Park Studios:
We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them. Maybe they have not listened to this lecture before:

Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart has already proclaimed his take on things as well:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
South Park Death Threats
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Articles about this have also appeared in the New York Times as well as other large web news operations. I will update this blog if necessary as the story progresses.

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