But the season also targeted the rise of Donald J. Trump, a phenomenon who has thrived on a resentment of things p.c., just this week crowing that his plan to ban Muslims from the United States was “probably not politically correct.” A longtime character, Mr. Garrison, begins a White House bid on a familiar-sounding platform of xenophobia against Canadians (recurring boogeymen of “South Park,” going back to the “Blame Canada” number from the 1999 movie musical). Canada, in turn, has elected its own Trump-like figure, with disastrous results. “We thought it was funny,” one Canadian laments. “Nobody really thought he’d ever be president!”
In reality, Canada has a prime minister. But “South Park” has never cared much about political fine points so much as comedy that deflates zealots and defends the offensive, like an American Charlie Hebdo. It was ahead of the curve in asserting a right to depict the Prophet Muhammad, who appeared in a 2001 episode (though Comedy Central squelched later attempts).
Now, it was as if our culture had been shining an Eric Cartman-shaped Bat-signal and “South Park” answered. You could see the news from college campuses — safe spaces, trigger warnings — and conclude that America was more radically leftist than ever. You could read a dispatch from the Republican primary — border walls, refugee panic — and conclude that it was more reactionary than ever. The country is deeply polarized, and between two poles is precisely where the quasi-libertarian “South Park” most likes to swing.
“South Park” used to be so anti-continuity — its episodes are often written days before airing — that the show would kill the same character, Kenny McCormick, every week. By shifting toward serial stories, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone have been able to make more complex arguments this season: acknowledging, for instance, that sometimes outrage culture has a basis in actual outrages. An episode on police brutality posits both that South Park’s cops are needed to keep the peace and that many of them joined the force to have carte blanche to beat up minorities.
And where past “South Park” satires once looked at single issues, this season is sketching something like a grand — if messy — unified theory of anger, inequality and disillusionment in 2015 America.
Even as the p.c. wars rage, the town of South Park is being gentrified: It’s attracted a Whole Foods and built Sodosopa (South of Downtown South Park), an enclave of hipster eateries and condos built literally around the house of the dirt-poor McCormick family. The townspeople are delighted, until they realize many of them can’t afford to join the few, the smug, the artisanal. Under the town’s chichi new facade is a familiar slurry of resentment (of the privileged, of immigrants, of elites) and fear (of terrorism, of crime, of economically falling).
And all that, in the “South Park” worldview, drives people to a self-pitying narcissism that extends to politics but also goes beyond it. In the season’s darkest episode, “Safe Space,” the townspeople assign a single child to filter every negative comment from their social media, to protect their self-esteem from all manner of “-shaming.”
After the boy nearly dies from the strain of filtering the entire Internet’s hate, an allegorical figure named Reality — wearing a silent-movie villain’s cape and mustache — shows up to scold South Parkers with a lecture that sums up this season’s Swiftian brimstone morality: “I’m sorry the world isn’t one big liberal-arts college campus! We eat too much. We take our spoiled lives for granted. Feel a little bad about it sometimes.”
Affected by his words, the citizens are moved to action: They take Reality to the town square and hang him.
It’s not exactly subtle, nor is the show’s argument entirely focused; the season-ending arc has involved a tangent about deceptive online advertising. (The finale may be more timely. Only a week after the terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the episode promises a story on how “the citizens of South Park feel safer armed”; a teaser video has Cartman getting in an armed standoff with his mother at bedtime.)
And by making P. C. Principal and friends white dudes, the show sidesteps the fact that “politically correct” is often a label lobbed by white dudes at women and minorities who’ve faced actual prejudice. Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone anticipate this criticism too, having Cartman tell his schoolmate Kyle, with atypical self-awareness: “We’re two privileged straight white boys who have their laughs about things we never had to deal with.”
This product of two white guys does have a different vantage point from many of today’s best comedies dealing with identity issues, from “black-ish” to “Master of None.” But in a way, its project and theirs are the same: to deal with tensions by prescribing more conversation, even if it’s uncomfortable, not less.Continue reading the main story
This article is about the TV series. For other uses, see South Park (disambiguation).
South Park is an American adultanimated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone and developed by Brian Graden for the Comedy Centraltelevision network. The show revolves around four boys—Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick—and their bizarre adventures in and around the titular Colorado town. Much like The Simpsons, South Park uses a very large ensemble cast of recurring characters and became infamous for its profanity and dark, surreal humor that satirizes a wide range of topics towards a mature audience. Parker and Stone developed the show from The Spirit of Christmas, two consecutive animated shorts created in 1992 and 1995. The latter became one of the first Internet viral videos, ultimately leading to South Park's production. It debuted in August 1997 with great success, consistently earning the highest ratings of any basic cable program. Subsequent ratings have varied but it remains one of Comedy Central's highest rated shows, and is slated to air in new episodes through 2019.
The pilot episode was produced using cutout animation, leading to all subsequent episodes being produced with computer animation that emulated the cutout technique. Parker and Stone perform most of the voice acting for the show's male characters. Since 2000, each episode has typically been written and produced in the week preceding its broadcast, with Parker serving as the primary writer and director. There have been a total of 287 episodes over the course of the show's 21 seasons. The show's twenty-first season premiered on September 13, 2017.
South Park has received numerous accolades, including five Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and numerous inclusions in various publications' lists of greatest television shows. The show's popularity resulted in a feature-length theatrical film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut which was released in June 1999, less than two years after the show's premiere, and became a commercial and critical success, even garnering a nomination for an Academy Award. In 2013, TV Guide ranked South Park the tenth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.
Setting and characters
See also: List of South Park characters
The show follows the exploits of four boys, Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman and Kenny McCormick. The boys live in the fictional small town of South Park, located within the real-life South Park basin in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado. The town is also home to an assortment of frequent characters such as students, families, elementary school staff, and other various residents, who tend to regard South Park as a bland, quiet place to live. Prominent settings on the show include the local elementary school, bus stop, various neighborhoods and the surrounding snowy landscape, actual Colorado landmarks, and the shops and businesses along the town's main street, all of which are based on the appearance of similar locations in Fairplay.
Stan is portrayed as the everyman of the group, as the show's website describes him as an "average, American 4th grader". Kyle is the lone Jew among the group, and his portrayal in this role is often dealt with satirically. Stan is modeled after Parker, while Kyle is modeled after Stone. They are best friends, and their friendship, symbolically intended to reflect Parker and Stone's friendship, is a common topic throughout the series. Eric Cartman (usually nicknamed by his surname only) is loud, obnoxious, and amoral, often portrayed as an antagonist. His anti-Semitic attitude has resulted in a progressive rivalry with Kyle, although the deeper reason is the strong clash between Kyle's strong morality and Cartman's complete lack of such. Kenny, who comes from a poor family, wears his parka hood so tightly that it covers most of his face and muffles his speech. During the show's first five seasons, Kenny would die in nearly every episode before returning in the next with little-to-no definitive explanation given. He was written out of the show's sixth season in 2002, re-appearing in the season finale. Since then, Kenny's death has been seldom used by the show's creators. During the show's first 58 episodes, the boys were in the third grade. In the season four episode "4th Grade" (2000), they entered the fourth grade, but have remained there ever since.
Plots are often set in motion by events, ranging from the fairly typical to the supernatural and extraordinary, which frequently happen in the town. The boys often act as the voice of reason when these events cause panic or incongruous behavior among the adult populace, who are customarily depicted as irrational, gullible, and prone to vociferation. The boys are also frequently confused by the contradictory and hypocritical behavior of their parents and other adults, and often perceive them as having distorted views on morality and society.
Themes and style
Main article: Subject matter in South Park
Each episode opens with a tongue-in-cheekall persons fictitious disclaimer: "All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated.....poorly. The following program contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone."
South Park was the first weekly program to be rated TV-MA rating, and is generally intended for adult audiences. The boys and most other child characters use strong profanity, with only the most taboo words being bleeped during a typical broadcast. According to Parker and Stone, when little boys are alone, that's how they really talk.
South Park commonly makes use of carnivalesque and absurdist techniques, numerous running gags,violence,sexual content, offhand pop-cultural references, and satirical portrayal of celebrities.
Early episodes tended to be shock value-oriented and featured more slapstick-style humor. While social satire had been used on the show occasionally earlier on, it became more prevalent as the series progressed, with the show retaining some of its focus on the boys' fondness of scatological humor in an attempt to remind adult viewers "what it was like to be eight years old." Parker and Stone also began further developing other characters by giving them larger roles in certain storylines, and began writing plots as parables based on religion, politics, and numerous other topics. This provided the opportunity for the show to spoof both extreme sides of contentious issues, while lampooning both liberal and conservative points of view. Parker and Stone describe themselves as "equal opportunity offenders", whose main purpose is to "be funny" and "make people laugh", while stating that no particular topic or group of people be exempt from mockery and satire.
Parker and Stone insist that the show is still more about "kids being kids" and "what it's like to be in [elementary school] in America", stating that the introduction of a more satirical element to the series was the result of the two adding more of a "moral center" to the show so that it would rely less on simply being crude and shocking in an attempt to maintain an audience. While profane, Parker notes that there is still an "underlying sweetness" aspect to the child characters, and Time described the boys as "sometimes cruel but with a core of innocence." Usually, the boys and/or other characters ponder over what has transpired during an episode and convey the important lesson taken from it with a short monologue. During earlier seasons, this speech would commonly begin with a variation of the phrase "You know, I've learned something today...".
Origins and creation
Main article: The Spirit of Christmas (short film)
Parker and Stone met in film class at the University of Colorado in 1992 and discovered a shared love of Monty Python, which they often cite as one of their primary inspirations. They created an animated short entitled The Spirit of Christmas. The film was created by animating construction paper cutouts with stop motion, and features prototypes of the main characters of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but named "Kenny", an unnamed character resembling what is today Kenny, and two near-identical unnamed characters who resemble Stan and Kyle. Brian Graden, Fox network executive and mutual friend, commissioned Parker and Stone to create a second short film as a video Christmas card. Created in 1995, the second The Spirit of Christmas short resembled the style of the later series more closely. To differentiate between the two homonymous shorts, the first short is often referred to as Jesus vs. Frosty, and the second short as Jesus vs. Santa. Graden sent copies of the video to several of his friends, and from there it was copied and distributed, including on the internet, where it became one of the first viral videos.
As Jesus vs. Santa became more popular, Parker and Stone began talks of developing the short into a television series. Fox refused to pick up the series, not wanting to air a show that included the character Mr. Hankey, a talking piece of feces. The two then entered negotiations with both MTV and Comedy Central. Parker preferred the show be produced by Comedy Central, fearing that MTV would turn it into a kids show. When Comedy Central executive Doug Herzog watched the short, he commissioned for it to be developed into a series.
Parker and Stone assembled a small staff and spent three months creating the pilot episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe".South Park was in danger of being canceled before it even aired when the show fared poorly with test audiences, particularly with women. However, the shorts were still gaining more popularity over the Internet, and Comedy Central agreed to order a run of six episodes.South Park debuted with "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" on August 13, 1997.
Except for the pilot episode, which was produced using cutout animation, all episodes of South Park are created with the use of software, primarily Autodesk Maya. As opposed to the pilot, which took three months to complete, and other animated sitcoms, which are traditionally hand-drawn by companies in South Korea in a process that takes roughly eight-to-nine months, individual episodes of South Park take significantly less time to produce. Using computers as an animation method, the show's production staff were able to generate an episode in about three weeks during the first seasons. Now, with a staff of about 70 people, episodes are typically completed in one week, with some in as little as three to four days. Nearly the entire production of an episode is accomplished within one set of offices, which were originally at a complex in Westwood, Los Angeles, California, and are now part of South Park Studios in Culver City, California. Parker and Stone have been the show's executive producers throughout its entire history.20th Century Fox Senior Production Executive Debbie Liebling also served as an executive producer during the show's first five seasons, coordinating the show's production efforts between South Park Studios and Comedy Central's headquarters in New York City.
Scripts are not written before a season begins. Production of an episode begins on a Thursday, with the show's writing consultants brainstorming with Parker and Stone. Former staff writers include Pam Brady, who has since written scripts for the films Hot Rod, Hamlet 2 and Team America: World Police (with Parker and Stone), and Nancy Pimental, who served as co-host of Win Ben Stein's Money and wrote the film The Sweetest Thing after her tenure with the show during its first three seasons. Television producer and writer Norman Lear, an idol of both Parker and Stone, served as a guest writing consultant for the season seven (2003) episodes "Cancelled" and "I'm a Little Bit Country". During the 12th and 13th seasons, Saturday Night Live actor and writer Bill Hader served as a creative consultant and co-producer.
After exchanging ideas, Parker will write a script, and from there the entire team of animators, editors, technicians, and sound engineers will each typically work 100–120 hours in the ensuing week. Since the show's fourth season (2000), Parker has assumed most of the show's directorial duties, while Stone relinquished his share of the directing to focus on handling the coordination and business aspects of the production. On Wednesday, a completed episode is sent to Comedy Central's headquarters via satellite uplink, sometimes in just a few hours before its air time of 10 PM Eastern Time.
Parker and Stone state that subjecting themselves to a one-week deadline creates more spontaneity amongst themselves in the creative process, which they feel results in a funnier show. The schedule also allows South Park to both stay more topical and respond more quickly to specific current events than other satiric animated shows. One of the earliest examples of this was in the season four (2000) episode "Quintuplets 2000", which references the United States Border Patrol's raid of a house during the Elián González affair, an event which occurred only four days before the episode originally aired. The season nine (2005) episode "Best Friends Forever" references the Terri Schiavo case, and originally aired in the midst of the controversy and less than 12 hours before she died. A scene in the season seven (2003) finale "It's Christmas in Canada" references the discovery of dictator Saddam Hussein in a "spider hole" and his subsequent capture, which happened a mere three days prior to the episode airing. The season 12 (2008) episode "About Last Night..." revolves around Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election, and aired less than 24 hours after Obama was declared the winner, using segments of dialogue from Obama's real victory speech.
On October 16, 2013, the show failed to meet their production deadline for the first time ever, after a power outage on October 15 at the production studio prevented the episode, season 17's "Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers", from being finished in time. The episode was rescheduled to air a week later on October 23, 2013. In July 2015, South Park was renewed through 2019; extending the show through season 23 with 304 episodes overall.
The show's style of animation is inspired by the paper cut-out cartoons made by Terry Gilliam for Monty Python's Flying Circus, of which Parker and Stone have been lifelong fans.Construction paper and traditional stop motioncutout animation techniques were used in the original animated shorts and in the pilot episode. Subsequent episodes have been produced by computer animation, providing a similar look to the originals while requiring a fraction of the time to produce. Before computer artists begin animating an episode, a series of animatics drawn in Toon Boom are provided by the show's storyboard artists.
The characters and objects are composed of simple geometrical shapes and primary colors. Most child characters are the same size and shape, and are distinguished by their clothing, hair and skin colors, and headwear. Characters are mostly presented two-dimensionally and from only one angle. Their movements are animated in an intentionally jerky fashion, as they are purposely not offered the same free range of motion associated with hand-drawn characters. Occasionally, some non-fictional characters are depicted with photographic cutouts of their actual head and face in lieu of a face reminiscent of the show's traditional style. Canadians on the show are often portrayed in an even more minimalist fashion; they have simple beady eyes, and the top halves of their heads simply flap up and down when the characters speak.
When the show began using computers, the cardboard cutouts were scanned and re-drawn with CorelDRAW, then imported into PowerAnimator, which was used with SGI workstations to animate the characters. The workstations were linked to a 54-processor render farm that could render 10 to 15 shots an hour. Beginning with season five, the animators began using Maya instead of PowerAnimator. The studio now runs a 120-processor render farm that can produce 30 or more shots an hour.
PowerAnimator and Maya are high-end programs mainly used for 3D computer graphics, while co-producer and former animation director Eric Stough notes that PowerAnimator was initially chosen because its features helped animators retain the show's "homemade" look. PowerAnimator was also used for making some of the show's visual effects, which are now created using Motion, a newer graphics program created by Apple, Inc. for their Mac OS Xoperating system. The show's visual quality has improved in recent seasons, though several other techniques are used to intentionally preserve the cheap cutout animation look.
A few episodes feature sections of live-action footage, while others have incorporated other styles of animation. Portions of the season eight (2004) premiere "Good Times with Weapons" are done in anime style, while the season 10 episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" is done partly in machinima. The season 12 episode "Major Boobage", a homage to the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, implements scenes accomplished with rotoscoping.
Main article: List of South Park cast members
Parker and Stone voice most of the male South Park characters.Mary Kay Bergman voiced the majority of the female characters until her suicide on November 11, 1999. Mona Marshall and Eliza Schneider succeeded Bergman, with Schneider leaving the show after its seventh season (2003). She was replaced by April Stewart, who, along with Marshall, continues to voice most of the female characters. Bergman was originally listed in the credits under the alias Shannen Cassidy to protect her reputation as the voice of several Disney and other kid-friendly characters. Stewart was originally credited under the name Gracie Lazar, while Schneider was sometimes credited under her rock opera performance pseudonym Blue Girl.
Other voice actors and members of South Park's production staff have voiced minor characters for various episodes, while a few staff members voice recurring characters; supervising producer Jennifer Howell voices student Bebe Stevens, co-producer and storyboard artist Adrien Beard voices Token Black, who was the school's only African-American student until the introduction of Nichole in "Cartman Finds Love", writing consultant Vernon Chatman voices an anthropomorphic towel named Towelie, and production supervisor John Hansen voices Mr. Slave, the former gay lover of Mr. Garrison. Throughout the show's run, the voices for toddler and kindergarten characters have been provided by various small children of the show's production staff.
When voicing child characters, the voice actors speak within their normal vocal range while adding a childlike inflection. The recorded audio is then edited with Pro Tools, and the pitch is altered to make the voice sound more like that of a fourth grader.
Isaac Hayes voiced the character of Chef, an African-American, soul-singing cafeteria worker who was one of the few adults the boys consistently trusted. Hayes agreed to voice the character after being among Parker and Stone's ideal candidates which also included Lou Rawls and Barry White. Hayes, who lived and hosted a radio show in New York during his tenure with South Park, would record his dialogue on a digital audio tape while a respective episode's director would give directions over the phone, then the tape would be shipped to the show's production studio in California. After Hayes left the show in early 2006, the character of Chef was killed off in the season 10 (2006) premiere "The Return of Chef".
Main article: List of South Park guest stars
Celebrities who are depicted on the show are usually impersonated, though some celebrities do their own voices for the show. Celebrities who have voiced themselves include Michael Buffer,Brent Musburger,Jay Leno,Robert Smith, and the bands Radiohead and Korn. Comedy team Cheech & Chong voiced characters representing their likenesses for the season four (2000) episode "Cherokee Hair Tampons", which was the duo's first collaborative effort in 20 years.Malcolm McDowell appears in live-action sequences as the narrator of the season four episode "Pip".
Jennifer Aniston,Richard Belzer,Natasha Henstridge,Norman Lear, and Peter Serafinowicz have guest starred as other speaking characters. During South Park's earliest seasons, several high-profile celebrities inquired about guest-starring on the show. As a joke, Parker and Stone responded by offering low-profile, non-speaking roles, most of which were accepted; George Clooney provided the barks for Stan's dog Sparky in the season one (1997) episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride", Leno provided the meows for Cartman's cat in the season one finale "Cartman's Mom Is a Dirty Slut", and Henry Winkler voiced the various growls and grunts of a kid-eating monster in the season two (1998) episode "City on the Edge of Forever".Jerry Seinfeld offered to lend his voice for the Thanksgiving episode "Starvin' Marvin", but declined to appear when he was only offered a role as "Turkey #2".
Parker says that the varying uses of music is of utmost importance to South Park. Several characters often play or sing songs in order to change or influence a group's behavior, or to educate, motivate, or indoctrinate others. The show also frequently features scenes in which its characters have disapproving reactions to the performances of certain popular musicians.
Adam Berry, the show's original score composer, used sound synthesis to simulate a small orchestra, and frequently alluded to existing famous pieces of music. Berry also used signature acoustic guitar and mandolin cues as leitmotifs for the show's establishing shots. After Berry left in 2001, Jamie Dunlap and Scott Nickoley of the Los Angeles-based Mad City Production Studios provided the show's original music for the next seven seasons. Since 2008, Dunlap has been credited as the show's sole score composer. Dunlap's contributions to the show are one of the few that are not achieved at the show's own production offices. Dunlap reads a script, creates a score using digital audio software, and then e-mails the audio file to South Park Studios, where it is edited to fit with the completed episode.
In addition to singing in an effort to explain something to the children, Chef would also sing about things relevant to what had transpired in the plot. These songs were original compositions written by Parker, and performed by Hayes in the same sexually suggestive R&B style he had utilized during his own music career. The band DVDA, which consists of Parker and Stone, along with show staff members Bruce Howell and D.A. Young, would perform the music for these compositions, and, until the character's death on the show, were listed as "Chef's Band" in the closing credits.
Rick James, Elton John, Meat Loaf, Joe Strummer, Ozzy Osbourne, Primus, Rancid, and Ween all guest starred and briefly performed in the season two (1998) episode "Chef Aid". Korn debuted their single "Falling Away from Me" as guest stars on the season three (1999) episode "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery".
The show's theme song was a musical score performed by the band Primus, with the lyrics alternately sung by the band's lead singer, Les Claypool, and the show's four central characters during the opening title sequence. Kenny's muffled lines are altered after every few seasons. His lines are usually sexually explicit in nature, such as his original lines, "I like girls with big fat titties, I like girls with deep vaginas".
The original opening composition was originally slower and had a length of 40 seconds. It was deemed too long for the opening sequence. So Parker and Stone sped up it for the show's opening, having the band's lead singer Claypool re-record his vocals. The instrumental version of the original composition, though, is often played during the show's closing credits and is wordless. The song's melody is similar to the song "Coddingtown", on Primus's Brown Album.
The opening song played in the first four seasons (and the end credits in all seasons) has a folk rock instrumentation with bass guitar, trumpets and rhythmic drums. Its beat is fast in the opening and leisurely in the closing credits. It is in the minor key and it features a tritone or a diminished fifth, creating a melodic dissonance, which captures the show's surrealistic nature. In the latter parts of season 4 and season 5, the opening tune has an electro funk arrangement with pop qualities. Seasons 6-9 have a sprightly bluegrass instrumentation with a usage of banjo and is set in the major key. For the later seasons, the arrangement is electro rock with a breakbeat influence, which feature electric guitars backed up by synthesized, groovy drumbeats.
The opening theme song has been remixed three times during the course of the series, including a remix performed by Paul Robb. In 2006, the theme music was remixed with the song "Whamola" by Colonel Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, from the album Purple Onion.
Main article: List of South Park episodes
Internationally, South Park is broadcast in India, New Zealand, and several countries throughout Europe and Latin America on channels that are divisions of Comedy Central and MTV Networks, both subsidiaries of Viacom. In distribution deals with Comedy Central, other independent networks also broadcast the series in other international markets. In Australia, the show is broadcast on The Comedy Channel, SBS (Season 1–13 edited and 14–15 Uncut), SBS Viceland (Season 16–19 Uncut) & Comedy Central. The series is broadcast uncensored in Canada in English on The Comedy Network and, later, Much. South Park also airs in Irish on TG4 in Ireland,STV in Scotland,Comedy Central and MTV in the UK (previously on Channel 4 and Viva (UK and Ireland), with 5Star recently picking up where Viva left off) and B92 in Serbia.
Broadcast syndication rights to South Park were acquired by Debmar-Mercury and Tribune Entertainment in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Episodes further edited for content began running in syndication on September 19, 2005, and are aired in the United States with the TV-14 rating.20th Television replaced Tribune as co-distributor in early 2008. The series is currently aired in syndication in 90 percent of the television markets across the U.S. and Canada, where it generates an estimated US$25 million a year in advertising revenue.