Writes Eoghan Creedon, Film & TV Editor
South Park has recently aired its 300th episode. 300 episodes! By anyone’s standards, that’s a lot. The famously raunchy, offensive and most importantly, downright hilarious shows is currently airing its 23rd consecutive season on Comedy Central, and it has remained a huge staple of pop culture since first airing in 1997. No topic, event, organisation or person has been safe from South Park down through the years. If something ridiculous is going on in the world, South Park will be the first ones there to rip the piss out of it. It remains the sometimes much needed social commentary on modern day society.
If somehow you have never seen one of the 300 plus episodes of the show, you have undoubtedly heard of it and are able to recognise it by its unique animation style. In a world where a lot of animated shows are bland and/or ugly to look at (Netflix’s Big Mouth in particular), the cheap looking, stop-motion animated style of South Park gives an extra charm to the show. This animation style has remained a constant throughout the show’s almost 23-year run. This is largely down to the creators, writers and stars of the show, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, shooting the show’s pilot by using crude craft paper cut outs for every character and set piece. The pilot alone took the two around 3 months to complete. Now, it takes their team and them only 6 days to write, animate and edit an episode. It is safe to say that they have honed their craft as the years have gone by.
While the animation is a key part to the show’s success, it is the writing and the characters which keep viewers tuning in to the show year after year. The show follows the day to day lives of the residents of the fictional Colorado town of South Park, in particular, four 8-year-old boys. Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman have been the face of the show for 23 seasons. Stan and Kyle act as the two most grounded characters in the show, Cartman is without a doubt the most despicable character to have ever been created in television history (I will happily argue with anyone that disagrees with that statement), and Kenny… well… Kenny just dies a lot.
Going back to a previous statement, Eric Cartman is the worst character to have ever been portrayed in any form of entertainment in recent memory. One look at this boy’s countless schemes and numerous monstrosities throughout the years and you will soon agree with that statement. What has Eric Cartman done that is so bad? Well, he has tried several times to exterminate the Jewish race, he had a boy’s parents killed and their bodies grinded up into a chili and then proceeding to feed said chili to the boy in question, he has created a basketball league pitting teams of crack babies against each other, he befriended the demonic, cosmic entity Cthulu, and has described Adolf Hitler as “awesome” on more than one occasion. How in the name of Christ has this show not been banned yet?
The shows ability to stay on top of current events is what makes it stand out from any other comedy currently on television. As mentioned previously, this is largely helped by an episode of South Park being created in only 6 days. It allows the creators to see whatever real world “drama” is currently happening and they proceed to mock it as much as humanly possible. Season 23 has been poking fun at the current state of the Chinese government, taking shots at their communist leader Xi Jinping, notably mocking his likeness to Winnie the Pooh, something which the leader has despised for years. These comparisons have recently gotten South Park banned in China. The show had not been banned despite its crude and offensive humour, the show had not been banned depicting and parodying very sensitive topics throughout the years. No. South Park has finally been banned in China because they said their leader looked like an animated bear who loves Honey a bit too much. That is delightfully bizarre and utterly hilarious.
While it is the end of South Park in China, the show remains a cultural icon and one of the most legendary shows to have been created in the last 30 years. The show’s ability to stay on top of the most talked about topics of the week, while effortlessly bringing its own unique style of comedy and animation to the table only helps the claims that South Park is one of the most important and culturally significant shows of all time.