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We Will Never Be Free of the Cynicism of South Park as It’s Renewed for 9 More Seasons and 14 Movies

the "cast" of South Park and their neverending list of characters
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have signed a giant new deal with ViacomCBS, which has extended the lifeblood of South Park for several more seasons and movies that will be part of Paramount+’s exclusive content.

Bloomberg has shared that this new contract is worth $900 million and runs through 2027. It does not include streaming rights for the regular South Park series, since it is licensed out to HBO Max right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they can’t eventually bring the series’ back catalog to Paramount Plus.

Since it debuted on August 13, 1997, South Park has delivered 309 episodes into our eyeholes and impacted the trajectory of animated adult content. Despite its reputation, the show has won several Emmys, a Peabody Award, and is often ranked among one of the greatest television shows—not to mention becoming a large commercial success.

There is no denying that South Park has been a huge part of my generation. When I was finally able to watch it, I felt like I had unlocked a secret access code to humor. Episodes are stitched into my mind along with voices and imitations. During the recent media hype about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez getting back together, the second thing I thought about was the episode that South Park did about them.

But there is also an element of intellectual apathy that South Park leaned into that seemed more important then than it does now. Comedy will inevitably age, so this is not me saying that it needs to be “canceled,” but just being more aware of how the show enjoys being contrarian for the sake of it. Satire is effective if the audience is able to see the actual targets of the joke. With South Park, despite its legendary equal opportunity ethos, it is sometimes very dubious to pick out what the series really stands for.

Especially when Cartman, the racist, xenophobic murderer, is the most popular character.

Back in 2006, the show lambasted Al Gore and created the “ManBearPig” joke that I knew about before I had any real concept of who Al Gore was or his policies. It was a huge climate change denial episode, treating the then-fictitious ManBearPig as a stand-in for global warning. In 2018, Parker and Stone apologized for perpetuating it in a “sequel episode” that shows that “ManBearPig” was indeed real, but would attack when it was too late.

But who will remember that episode more than they remember the original joke?

Many writers have brought up these points before. A.V. Club published an article titled “South Park raised a generation of trolls” back in 2017 and said the following:

“[…] Parker and Stone have spent two decades preaching a philosophy of pragmatic self-reliance, a distrust of elitism, in all its compartmentalized forms, and a virulent dislike of anything that smacks of dogma, be it organized religion, the way society polices itself, or whatever George Clooney is on his high horse about. Theirs can be a tricky ideology to pin down: “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals,” Stone said once, a quote that has reverberated across the scores of articles, books, and message-board forums spent trying to parse the duo’s politics, arguing over which side can rightfully claim South Park as its own. Nominally, Parker and Stone are libertarians, professing a straight-down-the-middle empathy for the little guy who just wants to be left alone by meddling political and cultural forces. But their only true allegiance is to whatever is funniest; their only tenet is that everything and everyone has the potential to suck equally. More than anything, they’ve taught their most devoted followers that taking anything too seriously is hella lame.”

South Park is not a purely ignorant show and has often crafted episodes lambasting the right: “The show skewered parental panic about sex in season five (“Proper Condom Use”) and drugs in season six (“My Future Self ‘n’ Me”), urging parents to eschew scare tactics in favor of calm, realistic conversation. In its episodes about immigration (“Goobacks”), religion (“Trapped in the Closet”), and pornography (“The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers”), it was essentially asking the same thing of the world at large: to approach difficult subjects head-on, even if that meant making childish jokes about them. Its enemies were anyone who impeded that.”

That foundation has made anyone critical of the show today labeled as inherently some sensitive SJW who wants to cancel the show. Not only would that goal be a fool’s errand, but I’m not so hypocritical as to pretend that there aren’t problematic, yet enjoyable aspects of the show for me—especially as someone who grew up with it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t intellectually discuss the actual content of the show.

Especially since the show holds itself as being smarter than the average bear anyway.

(via Polygon, image: Comedy Central)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.