South Park’s 200th episode proved to be one of the most controversial of all time in addition to being an incredible milestone for the show. The writers pulled out all the stops for such a landmark moment in the show’s history, bringing back every celebrity they’ve ever made fun of. Led by Tom Cruise (who is this time slandered as a “fudge packer”), they all decide to bring a class action lawsuit against the city of South Park for the humiliation it has caused them over the years.
To fully understand the satirical and comedic power of these two episodes, you have to understand a few important points in South Park’s history. Aside from needing to know about the identity of Cartman’s “father” and Eric’s history with Scott Tenorman, to fully appreciate this episode, you need to watch “Cartoon Wars Part I” and “Cartoon Wars Part II” first, which were a response to Comedy Central censoring the image of Muhammad despite the fact that in a much older episode, “Super Best Friends,” Muhammad was fully depicted. This new rule by Comedy Central of not showing the prophet of the Muslim religion came about after seeing the threats generated by the controversial cartoons in some European newspapers in 2005 and 2007. Matt Stone and Trey Parker thought it was ridiculous to censor new images of Muhammad when viewers had already been able to see Muhammad fully before those controversies erupted, and made a statement about how ridiculous and cowardly it was in those episodes, even suggesting that it infringes on First Amendment rights and borders on censorship. All in typical, satirical South Park fashion, of course.
“200” and “201” reopen that topic and make the statement even stronger than before. The plot revolves around the celebrities agreeing to withdraw the lawsuit if the people of South Park provide them with Muhammad’s goo, which will allow them to never be made fun of again. The ginger kids interfere with the town’s plans and reveal they will blow the city up if Muhammad’s goo is not given to them. “200” ends on quite the epic note as Mecha-Streisand is released while the city is set to explode. The satire is at its strongest, possibly in South Park history, in these two episodes. One example is the people being afraid after Randy Marsh draws a stick figure picture of Muhammad to show how ridiculous it is to fear these threats of terrorism for depicting him. Another is when the writers show Buddha snorting cocaine and Jesus looking at porn on his computer to show how ridiculous it is that it’s okay to make fun of religions as long as extremists aren’t threatening you.
The writers originally intended to show Muhammad fully in “201,” but the episode was censored beyond belief by Comedy Central in response to threats Stone and Parker received after “200” aired. Muhammad’s entire body was blacked out, his name itself was bleeped out, and the characters’ traditional “I learned something today” speech about not giving in to fear and terrorism at the end of the episode was bleeped out in its entirety.
The return of Scott Tenorman, the Super Best Friends, Mr. Hat, Tom Cruise, Barbara Streisand, Jennifer Lopez/Mitch Connor, and all those other celebrities would have been enough to make South Park’s landmark 200th and 201st episode great, but when coupled with learning the true identity of Cartman’s father and satire promoting free speech, these episodes are necessities for any South Park fan to watch.
It is a shame that these wannabe terrorists and censorship won, and that Comedy Central gave in to fear, but Matt Stone and Trey Parker should be commemorated for that commitment to free speech and the message about the whole situation, as well as the criticism of Comedy Central it sparked. These episodes are a prime example of what happens when free speech is infringed upon and terrorism is allowed to win. I’ll end with a disgusting fact: “Super Best Friends,” “200” and “201” are not available to watch on the South Park Studios website and the Season 14 DVD is still completely censored for episodes “200” and “201”. Censorship and terrorism should never be allowed to win, and it’s in moments like this that we realize the greater value South Park’s satire has for society in addition to the simple ability to make us laugh.