Prove Me Wrong

“We kind of think Comedy Central pussed out on this whole thing. We still do.” – Matt Stone

I have a feeling this blog isn’t going to change anything. I think Comedy Central won’t back down on their decision because of the controversy. They made a choice and now they have to stick to it. When South Park first brought up the issue of Muhammad in “Cartoon Wars,” nobody was ever threatened. Comedy Central still chose to censor it, however. Then, when Parker and Stone wanted to revisit the topic in “200,” Comedy Central still said no. That’s why it was turned into a two part episode.*

It’s not so much the censoring of Muhammad, that bothered me as much as the extended bleeps over the final speeches. The four boys are the voice of reason in the show, and South Park has a tradition in their episodes at the end. Once the conflict is solved, one of the boys give a final speech that always starts with, “You know, I learned something today…” This was South Park’s 200th and 201st episodes. They had a reference to all their major moments in past episodes. It was a fan’s dream, but when it got to the end, the classic “I learned something” speech is totally bleeped the fuck out! My jaw dropped as the TV blared the same high-pitched note for a minute. I couldn’t figure out whether it was Comedy Central’s doing or Matt and Trey making a point about censorship. It turns out it was Comedy Central. Parker and Stone gave a response the next day:

“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. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it” (www.southparkstudios.com).

They didn’t have to alter the speech. Censoring Muhammad, I can at least understand, but the final speech? That was censoring South Park. That was censoring MY religion. That was Comedy Central protecting themselves since they sided with intimidation and fear. They didn’t like what Kyle, Cartman, and Santa had to say against terrorism, because Comedy Central gave into it. It would have been embarrassing to air an episode with Muhammad censored out of fear, and the moral of the story saying you shouldn’t act out of fear.

But hey, prove me wrong, Doug. Prove me wrong, and do the right thing.

Uncensor South Park.

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The Best Part

Where’s the line with an image of someone? After all, Muhammad is the most commonly used name in many countries. So, can you show him if you never reference him as the Muslim prophet? Here’s a video that shows what South Park was allowed to show uncensored in “200”:

In the commentary for “Cartoon Wars II,” Trey Parker mention some funny ideas they tossed around with how to show Muhammad: “We were going to have the guy come up and say, ‘I’m Muhammad. No, I’m not. Yes, I am. No, I’m not. But, maybe I am?’ and then give that to Comedy Central and see what they do. You know well, I guess you can kind of show him…” So, out of this came the idea to show Muhammad wearing a bear suit. Apparently, it’s okay to have him on screen if he’s completely covered by a mascot outfit. But when he takes the suit off, Comedy Central put a black bar over the prophet.

http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/comedy_central_censored_mohammed_south_park/

The best part is, for almost an entire season during the controversy with “Cartoon Wars I and II,”  Muhammad appeared in the opening credits. In the opening credits, at the title screen of the show, the boys stand in front of the hundreds of characters of the town, and cleverly hidden next to their signature alien stands Muhammad. Apparently, Matt Stone and Trey Parker were told weeks beforehand that they couldn’t show an image of the Muslim prophet in “Cartoon War” because the subject matter was “too sensitive”. That didn’t stop them from going through with the episode, however, and for most of season 10 (until Comedy Central noticed), Muhammad stood amongst all the religious figures made fun of in South Park.

We can all learn something from Matt Stone and Trey Parker. They refuse to back down from threats, and instead stand up for what they believe. Even though the censorship wasn’t their choice, they supported equality and freedom of speech in the way they could–subtly.

Muhammad has appeared on South Park before and nothing happened, so why isn’t he allowed to anymore? Something that was okay before, isn’t anymore. It may sound hackneyed, but really that is letting the terrorists win. They took a freedom Americans once had, but  Matt Stone and Trey Parker took it back. So, kudos to you South Park, for not backing down and standing up for what you believe in by showing Muhammad underneath everyone’s nose.

I’ll Admit

Sometimes censorship is funny.

An Atheist Love Letter to Religion

“Star Wars is a religion” – Trey Parker

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/03/trey_parker_and_matt_stone_tal.html

The moment I read this quote, was the moment I started citing South Park as my religion. It makes so much sense. Star Wars affected Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s lives more than any religion, and South Park has done the same for me. The stories in movies and television all have morals and values, just like religious text. Instead of reading the Bible, I watch South Park.

With all the different, conflicting religions of the world, they can’t all be right. The most likely thing is that they are are wrong. Not wrong in what they believe, but wrong as in fictitious. They tackled this topic in The Book of Mormon, which was a pro-faith Broadway musical by Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Robert Lopez. The moral being, that the events in the The Book of Mormon didn’t actually happen for real, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t influence millions of people to live better lives… and that’s what makes it real. To quote Father Maxi in “Red Hot Catholic Love”:

“You’ve forgotten what being a Catholic is all about: this book. You see, these are just stories – stories that are meant to help people in the right direction. Love your neighbor. Be a good person. That’s it! And when you start turning the stories into literal translations of hierarchies and power, well, you end up with this. People are losing faith because they don’t see how what you’ve turned the religion into applies to them! They’ve lost touch with any idea of any kind of religion, and when they have no mythology to try and live their lives by, well, they just start spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouths!”

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are pro-religion, but they’re anti-extremism. That’s why I don’t understand why there’s always controversy facing South Park with the issue of religion. Most of the time I see it as people missing the point, or not getting the joke. And, that’s fine, but a TV show can’t hurt anyone. It can offend, but if you choose to watch South Park and expect them to not be offensive, I’m sorry, but you are a fool. Actually scratch that. I’m not sorry, you should know better. This is South Park, you fool.

The M-Word

Louis C.K. – Chewed Up (2008)

Louis C.K. speaks my mind in this clip. I’ve never understood the point to censorship, because once you learn what the words being censored are, it ceases to work. Communication of the swear still exists. When I hear “Holy bleep!” on TV, I know that bleep is either one of two words: shit or fuck. That’s what goes through my head. Really censorship is backfiring, because if they indeed said the word shit, then I didn’t need to think the word fuck. You’re making me say fuck in my head! (Thanks, Louie) Bleeping the audio doesn’t stop the viewer from knowing what’s underneath that censor. Really that annoying bleep is just signaling to the viewer that a “bad” word was said, rather then letting it slip by unnoticed.

And, if your argument is censorship is there to protect children, then I’m gonna have to stop you there. Kids will eventually learn every “bad” word out there. It’s inevitable. Censorship only works until a kid goes to school and starts learning dirty* words from his or her friends to then fill in the audio bleeps. And up until that point, it should be the parents job to monitor what their kids watch and hear on TV, not the networks. Nothing pisses me off more than a parent complaining that their kids learned “bad” language from television, when they’re the ones that bought the TV and cable package in the first place.

Parents only take responsibility for when something goes right with their children. Their kid makes the honor roll, it’s because they made sure he studied hard. Their kid gets a job, it’s because they encouraged good work ethic. But when their kid says, “Fuck you, asshole” to them for the first time, then: “Where did he learn such language?! It’s that damn TV. The FCC isn’t doing their job!” Parents, it’s your job to watch what your kids watch. The TV is not a babysitter, but if you treat it like that, don’t be surprised when your kid starts basing what’s good and bad behavior off who’s really raising him.

But, I digress.

*If you’re wondering why I used air quotes for the word bad but not dirty, it’s because dirty is way more accurate for this type of language. Shit’s dirty, but it sure as hell isn’t bad.

The Irony

Muhammad has appeared in South Park long before any of this recent controversy started. On July 4, 2001, “Super Best Friends” aired, which depicted Muhammad along with every other major religious prophet. Matt Stone and Trey Parker were never threatened over this episode, but it was still banned because of the threats over “201,” “Super Best Friends” is no longer played as a rerun and was pulled off http://www.southparkstudios.com and Netflix.

The decision to pull this episode was clearly made in response to the death threats, because “Super Best Friends” was in syndication for five years. So, if the terrorists that made the threats have been captured, then what reason is there not to release the episodes? No harm was done in the many years that Muhammad was allowed on South Park, so what harm could be done now that the extremists have been caught?

The strange thing about the banning of “Super Best Friends” was that it was about Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Joseph Smith, Krishna, Laozi, Jesus, and Sea Man teaming up to fight crime justice-league style. Even stranger, the episodes were pulled for depicting Muhammad who was simply standing there normally, but they are allowed to depict Buddha as a coke-addict.  I don’t know if I’ll ever understand that.

Believe it or not, South Park has brilliant morals to their story. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are pro-religion; they believe it helps millions of people. And, the main moral to “Super Best Friends” was that if all of the religions in the world stopped fighting with each other and instead just loved one another, we could get a whole lot more accomplished. And, I think the secondary moral was that no religion is wrong… except Scientology.

Eight Words You Can Never Say on Television

This bit was first performed in 1972, so with the help of South Park, this list has gradually declined. Over the years, they have slowly broken down the barriers of censorship, and television is better because of it. That’s why it was so sad to see Muhammad censored in episode “201,” because it was just another addition to this list. Another step away from progress.

As George Carlin said, there are no bad words. Censorship is what makes words bad, because they’re tabooed. You’re not supposed to say them, so that’s what makes them all the more powerful when you do. I think cable should be completely uncensored. It makes for better art. Every one knows HBO has the best shows. Coincidence that they’re completely uncensored? No, it’s because the network has giving the artists complete, creative freedom. It may offend, but in every day life, people don’t speak in censors and there isn’t a black bar to cover up nudity. So, why try and hide it on TV?

Look at South Park now. It started out as third graders and fart jokes, and after 15 years, it’s a totally different show. It’s now about fourth graders and social commentary… also, still fart jokes. But, back in 1997, they weren’t allowed to say the shit they do now, but Matt Stone and Trey Parker never viewed crossing the line as inappropriate. So, television changed with moments like “It Hits the Fan” when South Park said the word shit uncensored 162 times. Or in “Le Petit Tourrette,” when Cartman fakes having Tourrettes Syndrome and crosses four of the seven words off the list. It’s progress. Strange progress, considering when he says, “Piss out your ass right onto Kyle’s mom’s fat fucking Jew face!” that fucking was the only word censored. There’s a million things he says in that episode that are way worse than the F-word. And, as George Carlin pointed out, it’s strange how you can reference, imply, and talk about fucking, but not use the actual word. It’s still progress, though, because the list is now down two. At least it was until episode “201” aired. Now, it’s back up to three words that you can never say on television, one of them being Muhammad.

Let’s get rid of the rules of television. Let’s make it so there isn’t a list of words you can’t say, and that starts with taking back the word that was taken from South Park on April 21, 2010. I don’t know when they’ll be allowed to say fuck on cable, but when it happens, I like to think that Matt Stone and Trey Parker will be the first ones to cross that line.

The Real Offenders

Don’t wait. Now is the time to air the episodes uncensored, especially now that the real offenders have been caught.

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-11-18/justice/justice_south-park-threats_1_postings-online-threats-revolution-muslim?_s=PM:JUSTICE

It must of have been a tough decision to make at the time. There was a lot of emotion and debate between security and freedom of speech. While I don’t agree with their decision, I can understand where Comedy Central was coming from. Their decision was made in response to the death threats, not in response to a belief that Muhammad should not be shown on South Park. So, once the people that made the death threats are behind bars, shouldn’t it be okay to release the episodes?

The issue has died down, the steam’s blown off, and justice has been served. So, it’s time to serve justice to Matt Stone and Trey Parker and their loyal fans. And, the only way to do that is by rebroadcasting the episodes as they were originally intended.

Who’s Choice?

It’s understandable why Comedy Central made the choice they did. They were clearly more concerned about the well-being of their employees than the airing of one episode. However, I think when the death threats are targeted at Matt Stone and Trey Parker, it should be their choice as to whether or not they want to go through with the show. They were the one’s taking the risk by saying no to the terrorists. They had a story they wanted to tell against extremism, and they had the balls to say it, so let them speak.

I’ve always looked at South Park as one of the best examples of freedom of speech in America. It doesn’t matter whether you liked what they had to say or not, or they made fun of your beliefs. They were going to say it, and you had to deal with it. Whether you laughed or cried, Trey Parker and Matt Stone didn’t care, and they weren’t going to apologize because it was what they believed.

But with episode “201,” South Park’s speech was silenced. Terrorism only exists when someone uses fear to get what they want, and it only succeeds when you give in to that fear. But Matt Stone and Trey Parker weren’t afraid, and they didn’t listen to the threats. No, it was Comedy Central’s choice, and unfortunately, they gave a victory to terrorism with “201.” Extremists successfully changed the way we lived, but it’s not too late to take back what the terrorists took that day.

Equal Opportunity Offenders

Matt Stone and Trey Parker have called themselves “Equal Opportunity Offenders,” meaning that the reason they are allowed to make fun of everybody because they make fun of everybody. If a show only made fun of one group of people, that show would be deemed racist or anti-semetic. So, South Park gets away with its comedy because it points out the flaws in every minority and majority. Their whole belief has been that nothing is off limits. Either everything is okay to talk about or nothing is.

In the 200th episode of South Park, Matt and Trey wanted to show an image of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. After the first part of the two part episode, they received death threats from extremists, so Comedy Central had a tough decision to make. Either show the second part unaltered in the name of freedom of expression, or censor the images and names of the prophet for the safety of their employees. Unfortunately, Comedy Central aired the episode with numerous audio bleeps and a black bar over the cartoon Muhammad.

By censoring the image of Muhammad, South Park’s philosophy is broken.  Sure, showing the Muslim prophet is blasphemous and it might offend some people in the religion, but so is showing Jesus taking a crap on President Bush (“Cartoon Wars: Part II,” see sidebar). By allowing the latter and censoring the former, it’s really being unfair to every other religion that South Park has ripped on. Right now, Islam is a step above every other religion in the South Park world. It has been given a special privilege, because in this case, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have not been given their equal opportunity to offend.