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South Park’s Secret to Evading Censorship for 23 Years

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South Park is a famous American television series that has had 23 seasons of broadcasting since its debut in August 1997. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who describe themselves as libertarians, it is a stop-motion animated series aimed at adult audiences and characterized by its black humor and foul language.

Its main characters are four boys from the fictional town of South Park, Colorado. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny live surrealistic adventures with which the creators acidly mock life in modern America.

South Park
Frame of the music video “Social Distancing” from South Park, in YouTube

Its excessive and irreverent humor, filled with insults and vulgarity, has generated endless controversy, although this has not prevented Comedy Central from renewing the series for its 26th season, which will be aired in 2022. In a world characterized by political correctness, how is it possible that a series of these characteristics has remained on air without censorship?

One might think that this is because the series makes fun of both conservatives and progressives. While the series began by mocking religion in particular, drawing criticism from conservatives, as it has progressed, it has increasingly laughed at progressive positions, becoming a cult series for many Republicans.

Although other similar series such as The Simpsons or Family Guy have profound political content and criticize both sides, they are clearly inclined to criticize the Republicans. On the other hand, South Park relies on criticism of progressives, especially on account of political correctness, “woke culture,” and “social justice warriors”.

In 2001, Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic and contributor to Time, The Atlantic and The Daily Beast, coined the term “South Park Republican,” which refers to people with center-right views influenced by the series.

Its creators, however, disagree with this label and insist that their work mocks everyone who deserves it. But the truth is that Trey Parker is affiliated with the Libertarian Party, and Matt Stone has previously declared that “I hate conservatives, but I f*cking hate liberals.”

With a left devoted to the culture of cancellation and little tolerance for criticism, there must be some other explanation for the immunity from censorship that this series has demonstrated; beyond that, it also makes fun of conservatives.

The secret to avoiding censorship

This resilience of South Park is probably due to its production style. Unlike most television series, whose producers plan their seasons and episodes well in advance, South Park imposes a strict production schedule of just one week per episode.

Although the animation is computer-generated, its style is basic and simple, as simple cut-out dolls for stop-motion. This simplicity allows them to animate the scripts in a very short time. Some chapters have been completely rewritten with just 24 hours left to air.

For example, the episode of the week of the 2016 presidential elections in which, against all odds, Donald Trump won, was changed 24 hours before its broadcast to include his unpredictable victory.

Comedy Central executives effectively have no time to censor any episode. The slightest interference would mean that the episode could not be released on the scheduled date, and this would cause the loss of audience, reputation, and income. Moreover, this demanding production schedule allows the creators to deal with highly topical issues even before the leftist media can make it a de facto taboo subject.

The most obvious example of this is in the fourth episode of the ninth season, first aired on March 30, 2005. This particular episode dealt with the debate over euthanasia in parallel with the outcome of the real case of Terri Schiavo, who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years. Although she left no clear instructions, her husband decided to pull the plug, while Terri’s parents went to court to keep her alive.

The case automatically sparked an international debate about euthanasia, with the Vatican and President George W. Bush intervening. In the last week of this legal battle, when the courts finally gave the go-ahead to disconnect, and only 12 hours after her death by starvation, the South Park chapter was released in which Kenny was left in a vegetative state, and the people were divided between those who supported his euthanasia and those who did not.

The flexibility and speed of the production allowed them to tackle a topic that no one else dared to tackle after Terri Schiavo’s death. This episode won the 2005 Emmy Award in the category “Best Animated Program (less than one hour),” being the first time South Park defeated series like The Simpsons or Futurama.

Recent seasons have focused on harsh criticism of political correctness and social justice, embodied in the character of the school’s new principal, named P.C Principal, a reference to political correctness. And now they have been able to integrate into the series the issue of the coronavirus crisis before anyone else, recently releasing a special episode based on the pandemic.

After 23 years on the air, it is one of the few shows in which the viewer can still laugh at themes such as gender ideology and feminism, critical race theory, trans-sexuality, and other fetishes of the left. For now, the series will be around until at least 2022, helping it become a bastion of freedom of speech at a time where censorship and cancel culture is engrained in popular culture.

Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.

Social Networks: @ignaciomgm

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