South Park Edited, Again
Still offending, and still damned funny.
"We never set out to do a libertarian show," South Park co-creator Matt Stone told reason's Nick Gillespie and Jesse Walker at a 2006 conference in Amsterdam. But intentionally or not, the show became known as much for its libertarian-leaning politics as for its outrageous humor.
The interview with Stone and his co-creator Trey Parker was printed in the December 2006 issue of reason as "South Park Libertarians." Much of the discussion centered on the show's multiple political controversies-particularly episodes that had been edited or pulled from air as a result of outside pressure.
The most famous such incident occurred in 2006, when, following a violent reaction to a series of anti-Muslim cartoons featured in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Parker and Stone decided to write an episode in which the Prophet Muhammed appeared in an episode of Family Guy. Parker and Stone wrote a two-part story, teasing the appearance of Muhammed in the second episode and framing it as a test of broadcaster Comedy Central's commitment to free speech. "That whole week we were trying to get Comedy Central to show Muhammad," Stone told reason. "And they pussed out." The scene was replaced with a black, text-only title card describing what would have been shown.
Another controversy arose when the pair decided to rerun an episode critical of Scientology the same week that Mission: Impossible III, which starred prominent Scientologist Tom Cruise, was set to open. At the last minute, Parker and Stone were told the episode would be pulled-and that they couldn't talk to the press. "That was really tough, because that felt like we were playing along with this, to me, fundamentally immoral organization like Scientology," Stone said. "But then we realized-and luckily it came true-that you can't just pull an episode off the air anymore. People are going to find out. Sure enough, it was all over the press."
This year, Parker and Stone branched out into interactive media with a raunchy and well-reviewed video game, South Park: The Stick of Truth. And once again, the pair found their work edited so as not to cause offense. The North American version of the game was released exactly as the creators intended, but seven short scenes related to abortion and anal probing were cut from the game in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The unedited versions, however, were quickly posted online for all to see.
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