In its 18 seasons on the air, South Park has certainly ruffled its share of feathers. The show has made it clear from Day 1 that they don’t care whose feelings are hurt by its irreverent humor. With that in mind, let’s look at five episodes in particular that really stirred up some controversy.
“Proper Condom Use” – Original Air Date: August 1, 2001
In the first scene of this episode, Stan…umm…releases a dog by not touching him in a rather inappropriate way, and we’re off to a fine start. As the South Park kids get educated about sex, we get a scene in which Mr. Garrison attempts to place a condom on a fake penis with his mouth. According to the DVD commentary, that scene was initially longer than what we saw on the air, and they cut part of it to placate the network execs. This episode was still controversial enough that it never aired in the United Kingdom. Which I suppose means all those British kids will never get to learn about condoms. Bummer.
“The Passion of The Jew” – Original Air Date: March 31, 2004
I mean…Cartman actually tries to exterminate the Jews in this episode. Need we really say more? It is worth noting that this episode earned a positive response from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, while Jewish newspaper The Forward called it “perhaps the most biting critique of ‘The Passion’ to date.” It makes sense; before seeing Mel Gibson’s movie, Cartman just made fun Kyle for being Jewish, but afterward, he’s far more intense.
“Trapped In The Closet” – Original Air Date: November 16, 2005
Matt Stone & Trey Parker must have known this episode — in which they roast the Church of Scientology — would ruffle some feathers, since in the closing credits, everyone on the crew is credited as “John Smith,” a reference to potential lawsuits against the show from the church. Sure enough, there was a huge fallout from this one. Longtime South Park cast member and Scientologist Isaac Hayes quit the show in response, which led to him being roundly skewered in the classic “The Return Of Chef” episode, in which a club meant to represent Scientology turns his character into a child molester. Additionally, the episode was pulled from Comedy Central’s schedule due to fear that Tom Cruise would boycott Viacom on his publicity tour for Mission Impossible III. South Park fans responded by threatening to boycott the movie if it wasn’t returned to the network, which it eventually was later in 2006.
“Bloody Mary” – Original Air Date: December 7, 2005
Really, to understand why people were mad about this one, all you have to do is look at the above picture. In this episode, Stan believes he is powerless to control his excessive drinking until he witnesses a “miracle,” in which the statue of the Virgin Mary is believed to be bleeding from the ass. No, really. Unfortunately, as the pic demonstrates , the statue was actually bleeding out of a certain *other* body part. The episode enraged the Catholic League, who demanded that the episode not be made available on DVD. After an 8-month ban from TV, it was re-aired in August of 2006, but it remains unavailable on the Comedy Central site.
“200,” “201” – Original Air Dates: April 14, 2010/April 21, 2010
This was not the first time South Park had broached the controversy of cartoonists being killed for drawing the Prophet Muhammad. In 2006, their “Cartoon Wars” episode centered around an episode of Family Guy in which a cutaway gag featured Peter handing Muhammad a football helmet. The image was never actually shown in that episode, but an early episode, “Super Best Friends” did feature him. This, of course, was before cartoonists had been killed; back when portraying him was not considered to be such a risk. In this two-part South Park episode, Muhammad plays a big role, as many efforts are made to make him appear on the screen somehow. Matt and Trey were bothered that it was no longer okay to depict Muhammad, and this episode mocked that. The episode sparked outrage among radical Muslims, and several death threats were made against Matt & Trey. The episode has still not been made available on Comedy Central’s website.