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Last night’s episode of South Park took in a few issues close to our hearts at Index: Belarus, Pussy Riot and the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Briefly, in an effort to clean up his image after being exposed as an Armstrongish drug cheat, Jesus Christ begins to campaign on behalf of Belarusian farmers struggling against their government.
The cause becomes a hit — or at least, the coloured plastic bracelets associated with it becomes a hit.
At the end of the episode, Jesus appears in a “Save Pussy Riot” T-shirt.
The episode raises questions about people’s engagement with causes. As Ryan McGee put in at AV Club:
Are they motivated by empathy? By cultural pressure? By the desire to overcompensate for selfish behavior? By the desire to belong to a group? All options are possible, and all play out in one shape or another in tonight’s installment. Mr. Mackey really, really cares about those Belarusian farmers. But he also only cares about them so long as they justify his purchase of a bracelet proclaiming his support of them.
Anyway, apart from all the serious business, the episode does look very, very funny. You can watch some clips here.
Padraig Reidy is news editor of Index on Censorship. Follow him on Twitter – @mePadraigReidy
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, purveyors of toilet humour, obscenity and slander of just about every celebrity and religious figure in the world, have succeeded in gaining even more notoriety for their 200th anniversary episode of the cartoon South Park.
The premise for the two-part episode is that all the celebrities of Hollywood (otherwise known as the Legion of Doom) gather forces to file a class-act lawsuit against the residents of South Park for their continual defamation of figures such as Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand and even the Pope. However, in order to truly gain the “the power to not be ridiculed”, the celebrities must kidnap the Prophet Mohammed, the only figure in the world to hold this “superpower” and clone it for themselves.
The day after the first part of the episode was broadcast on 14 April, a post on the (temporarily defunct) Revolution Muslim website appeared not threatening, but warning the creators that “they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show”.
Comedy Central in response, decided to censor Mohammed’s name from the second part of the episode which was broadcast on Wednesday. In addition, the customary concluding speech at the end of every episode, in which some kind of moral is normally gleamed from all the chaos, was also censored. According to the makers, the speeches that were made by various different characters were about “intimidation and fear”, and contained no mention of Mohammed.
The network’s decision to censor Mohammed’s name and image can be justified to some extent due to fears from religious attacks, or simply just to create greater publicity for the show. However censorship of the concluding speech is simply an over the top reaction, stifling exactly the kind of “rational dialogue” endorsed by the Revolution Muslim blog: to “create the possibility that a deeper and more productive dialogue may be initiated.”
Moreover, it is questionable whether the act of censorship itself was intentionally written into the script as part of the joke. In the one of the penultimate scenes, Tom Cruise manages to finally clone Mohammed’s “power to not be ridiculed”, and emerges out of a contraption only to end up as a censored black box himself. The only way to not be slandered or defamed it seems, is to become completely unrepresentable and inexistent, proving that absolute censorship itself is impractical, ridiculous and unrealistic.
For an interview by Xeni Jardin with the creators about the 200th episode click here.
The interview also contains an uncensored clip of Mohammed from an episode broadcasted two months before 9/11, which generated almost no controversy whatsoever. Already, there have been rumours of an uncensored version of the second episode being leaked online.