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South Park

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox television

For other uses, see South Park (disambiguation).

South Park is a comedy animated series created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Distributed by and airing on Comedy Central (and its current owner, Viacom) since 1997, it follows the surreal adventures of four young boys who live in the small town of South Park, Colorado. South Park satirizes many aspects of American culture and current events, and challenges deepset convictions and taboos, usually using parody and black humor.

New episodes in the show's ninth season began airing March 9, 2005. Recent seasons have aired in two parts; for example, half of the episodes from the eighth season were put on hiatus for Team America: World Police, another Stone and Parker production.

The show is noted for its characteristically blunt handling of current events while they are still current. For example, an episode involving the repatriation of Romanian quintuplets aired during the Elin Gonzlez issue, and depicted Janet Reno, then U.S. Attorney General, as a murderous Easter Bunny. An episode that aired after the September 11, 2001 attacks had the boys stow away on a military transport to Afghanistan, where they encounter Osama bin Laden, and more recently the 2005 Terri Schiavo case was parodied in an episode in which the town is at odds over the removal of a feeding tube from Kenny McCormick.

Contents

Series history

South Park got its start in 1991 when Parker and Stone, then film students at the University of Colorado, created an animated short called Jesus vs Frosty (also known as The Spirit of Christmas). The crudely made film featured prototypical versions of the kids of South Park, including a character resembling Cartman but called "Kenny", bringing a murderous snowman to life with a magic hat. The baby Jesus then saves the day by decapitating the monster with a halo.

Executives at the Fox network saw the film, and in 1995 executive Brian Graden commissioned Parker and Stone to create a second short film to send to friends as a video Christmas card. Entitled The Spirit of Christmas, it closely resembled the style of the later series, and featured a martial arts duel (and subsequent truce) between Jesus and Santa Claus over the true meaning of Christmas. The video was a hit and was quickly shared, both by underground duplication and over the then-burgeoning Internet. This led to talks to create a series, first with Fox, then with Comedy Central, where the series premiered on August 13, 1997.

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One of the many deaths of Kenny

The show's provocative, frequently offensive, and unquestionably adult-oriented material quickly drew howls of protests from various conservative spokespersons, and South Park merchandise (especially T-shirts) were banned from a number of public schools, day care centers, and other public places in a manner similar to the prohibition of Bart Simpson T-shirts in the early 1990s after The Simpsons was accused of contributing to juvenile delinquency. Comedy Central defended South Park by noting that the show is given a "Mature Audiences" TV rating (TV-MA) and that it only airs the show during nighttime hours and never during the day when children may be more likely to see the show.

In February 1998, one episode of South Park posed the question of who Eric Cartman's father was. The episode ended with the announcement that it would be revealed in four weeks' time. Four weeks later, the airing of an episode about Terrance and Phillip (two Canadian comedians the main characters idolize) prompted outrage, and also prompted Comedy Central to push the true season premiere up earlier than expected. It was apparently a well-planted April Fools Day gag, meant to poke fun at season-ending cliffhangers.

The following year, the full-length animated feature film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was released to generally enthusiastic reviews. The film managed to satirize both itself and the anticipated reaction that it engendered from moral conservatives. It also presented a twisted but seemingly sincere tribute to the film musical with a number of songs, including "Uncle Fucka" and "Blame Canada." The latter was nominated for an Oscar and was performed by Robin Williams during the awards show. It has often been said that "Blame Canada" was chosen from other Oscar-worthy songs in the movie on the basis that it was the only one that could be performed on live TV with its lyrics relatively intact; however, this is somewhat unlikely, as "Blame Canada" contains a swear word, whereas "Up There," a sentimental and inoffensive song sung by Satan, does not. It's more likely that "Blame Canada" was chosen because it plainly expresses the movie's main theme.

On November 11, 1999 shortly after the U.S. theatrical release of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, actress Mary Kay Bergman, who had provided all of the female voices on the South Park television series and in the full-length movie, committed suicide using a gun in her suburban Los Angeles, California home. After her death it was revealed that she suffered from a severe form of clinical depression. Her husband, Dino Andrade, founded the Mary Kay Bergman Memorial Fund at the Suicide Prevention Center of Greater Los Angeles in an effort to help and educate people with the same type of depression that his wife suffered from.

Characters

The characters and backgrounds of South Park are made to appear deliberately crude, as if they are simply made of cut-out pieces of paper. Paper cutouts were indeed used in the original pilot Parker/Stone animation and in the very first Comedy Central episode, but every subsequent episode aired on TV has been produced by computer animation that provides the same crude look. To put the efficiency of this process in perspective, consider that the average episode of The Simpsons takes 8 months to create while episodes of South Park have been completed in as little as 3 days. Some episodes have sections of regular film edited in (e.g., "Tweek vs. Craig" and "Cat Orgy").

Major characters

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The main characters as they appeared during eight of the nine seasons (from left to right): Kenny, Cartman, Kyle and Stan

The main characters of the show are four elementary school students:

In recent seasons, two other characters have gained prominence:

  • Leopold "Butters" Stotch (replaced Kenny as a main character during the first part of the 6th season, though Kenny was brought back for the 7th season; has been prominent ever since): intelligent and sometimes insightful, but nervous and easily manipulated, thanks to his overbearing parents. He is now one of the most important characters, having featured prominently in several episodes, particularly as a foil to Cartman's schemes. His birthday is September 11.
  • Tweek (replaced Kenny during the second part of the 6th season, though Kenny was brought back for the 7th season): like Butters he is very nervous; he is constantly given caffeine by his coffee-shop-owning parents, he is visited nightly by the "underpants gnomes" and his eyes "tweek." Since Kenny returned, he has returned to playing a minor role.

The show's earliest well-known gimmick was that in every episode, Kenny would die in some horrible, unexpected way. After this Stan would say, "Oh my god, they killed Kenny!" and Kyle would add, "You bastards!" Kenny would be back in the next episode, the incident forgotten. For some time (after the 5th season episode "Kenny Dies"), Kenny had actually died "permanently." In the 6th season episode "A Ladder to Heaven," Kenny's soul became entrapped inside of Cartman's body, but an exorcism performed by Chef's mama in "The Biggest Douche in the Universe" undid this. He came back to life for an unexplained reason in "Red Sleigh Down" and is now the same regular kid he was before, except his deaths are much rarer now. Kenny was killed by Saddam Hussein in "It's Christmas in Canada," the final episode of season seven. He was also killed once during the eighth season, unmasked, by "Mr. Jefferson," an alias of Michael Jackson, in the episode "The Jeffersons", and in the ninth season, he was killed by the Chinese mafia in the episode "Wing," as well as the following episode, "Best Friends Forever" (in fact, he dies twice in the latter).

Recurring characters

Main article: Recurring South Park characters

There are many other frequently recurring characters, besides the boys and their families.

  • the boys' teachers Mr. Herbert Garrison (currently Mrs. Garrison after receiving a sex change in episode 901, Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina), and Ms. Choksondik (pronounced "chokes-on-dick") who dies in season 6.
  • Mr. Slave, Mr. Garrison's gay live-in lover until his sex change in episode 901 (replacement for Garrison's beloved puppet companion, Mr. Hat).
  • Jerome "Chef" McElroy (voiced by Isaac Hayes), the school cafeteria chef whom the boys seek out for advice.
  • Satan, portrayed as the insecure and overly sensitive gay lover of Saddam Hussein.
  • Jesus and Santa Claus, who are frequently depicted as gun-toting heroes.
  • Mr. Mackey, the school counselor who often appends "Mmkay?" to the end of his sentences.
  • Officer Barbrady, the incompetent town police officer.
  • Wendy Testaburger, a schoolmate and Stan's sometimes girlfriend.
  • Timmy, a schoolmate confined by handicap to a wheelchair. He has a limited vocabulary, usually only consisting of his own name, Jimmy's name, and his usual babble that sounds like "Rimirilar!", though, on occasion, has managed a few other words.
  • Jimmy, a handicapped schoolmate with crutches and a speech impediment. Often performs stand-up comedy. He is afraid of getting an erection and took steroids to win the Special Olympics.
  • Token Williams/Black, a schoolmate of black descent who often accompanies the boys on their adventures. Token is also a frequent target of Cartman's racism.
  • The goth kids, originally featured in episode 714 (Raisins).
  • Scott Tenorman, a much older schoolmate, originally introduced when he cons Cartman out of his allowance money in the episode Scott Tenorman Must Die. Cartman later takes revenge on Scott by feeding him Scott's own parents at Cartman's chili con carnival. Scott has appeared in minor roles in at least two subsequent episodes.

Minor characters and 'celebrities'

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The satirical disclaimer that begins every episode

Part of the show's surrealist nature derives from the minor characters who appear in the series. Notable appearances include God, who appears as a small creature resembling a hippo-rodent hybrid; Jesus, a recurring character, who owns a home and hosts a public-access television show in South Park (Jesus and Pals); Satan and his lover Saddam Hussein; Moses, who appears exactly as the Master Control Program (MCP) does in the Disney film Tron and demands macaroni pictures; the alien Marklar race; the jakovasaur; Death; and Mr. Hankey "the Christmas poo", who adds to the holiday festivities in much the same spirit as the 1960s Rankin-Bass cartoons. And also Towelie the towel who always gets, or wants to get high (off cannabis).

Celebrities often appear (usually "impersonated.....poorly"). Examples include:

  • Barbra Streisand, who was transformed after a mystical artifact Kyle found while digging and became Mecha-Streisand, a mechanized Godzilla-like creature.
  • Robert Smith of the '80s band The Cure, who transformed into a moth-like creature (a parody of Mothra) to battle Mecha-Streisand; Smith provided his own voice.
  • Kathie Lee Gifford, whom Mr. Garrison tried to assassinate.
  • Bill Clinton, who slept with Cartman's mom.
  • O. J. Simpson, part of a support group for relatives of murder victims.
  • the band Korn, who played themselves and solved a Scooby Doo-type mystery.
  • the band Toto (an 80s band).
  • Brian Boitano, who is a superhero.
  • Russell Crowe, star of the TV show "Russell Crowe: Fightin' Around the World," in which he travels the world in a cartoon tugboat and picks fights with random strangers based on perceived insults.
  • Madonna, who is ridiculed.
  • David Blaine, founder of the fictional "Blainetology" religion.
  • Sally Struthers, portrayed as a Hutt (as in "Jabba the Hutt" from Star Wars) saving "Starvin' Marvin" and his people in Africa.
  • Radiohead, playing themselves, with the band telling lead singer Thom Yorke to stop reading fan mail and mocking Scott Tenorman for crying.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks as a goat in the Afghanistan episode.
  • Michael Jackson as a new neighbor named "Mr. Jefferson" who moves to South Park with his young son, Blanket. Mr. Jefferson comes to South Park to hide out because he is being accused of child molestation; such accusations were made against Jackson in late 2003.
  • Paris Hilton as spokeswoman for the "Stupid Spoiled Whore" clothing store chain.
  • Christina Aguilera, who is portrayed as a hideous creature.
  • Patrick Duffy, who appears upside-down as one of the legs of a mountain creature called Scuzzlebutt.
  • George Clooney, who appears in "Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" as himself, portraying an emergency room doctor similar to his character Doug Ross in the TV series ER. Clooney also appeared as a voice actor for Sparky, Stan's homosexual dog, in the episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride".

See list of celebrities on South Park for more persons who have appeared on the show in one way or another.

Religious affiliation of characters in South Park

According to the episode "Red Hot Catholic Love", virtually all the major and recurring characters in South Park are Roman Catholic, except:

  • The Broflovskis (Kyle's family), who are Jewish
  • The Harrisons, who are Mormon

Music

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Cover from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut - Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture

Although South Park is well known for its humor and controversial plots, viewers are also treated to an original musical score. The show's opening theme song is:

Les Claypool: Goin' down to South Park, gonna have myself a time.
Kyle and Stan: Friendly faces everywhere, humble folks without temptation.
Les: Goin' down to South Park, gonna leave my woes behind.
Cartman: Ample parking day or night, people spouting, "Howdy neighbor!"
Les: Heading up to South Park, gonna see if I can't unwind.
Kenny (except season 6):
- I like girls with big fat titties. I like girls with big vaginas. (Seasons 1-2)
- I have got a ten inch penis, use your mouth to help me clean it (Seasons 3-5)
Timmy: -Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Live a lie Timmy! (Season 6)
- Someday I'll be old enough to stick my dick in Britney's butt (Seasons 7-)
Les: Come on down to South Park, 'n meet some friends of mine.

It should be noted that Kenny's lines in the song, as well as all but one of his lines throughout the show (episode 807, "The Jeffersons") and one in the movie, are muffled. Kenny always wears a parka over his head and most of his face. The fact that the lines are unintelligible helped them slip past network censors.

Popular songs such as "Kyle's Mom is a Bitch" originated on the show, but the creators' musical abilities were not frequently used until the release of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The film's soundtrack featured songs like "Mountain Town", "Uncle Fucka", "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" (a song to which Brian Boitano has been known to figure skate), "I'm Super", and "Blame Canada" (nominated for an Oscar, see below).

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have, on occasion, performed these and other songs (some unrelated to the show, such as "Dead Dead Dead"), under the band name DVDA.

The character of Eric Cartman will often burst into song to convey a false altruism or optimism that belies his baser motivations. In Red Sleigh Down, he sings "Poo-Choo Train", an unnervingly cheery Christmas carol, in an obvious attempt to convince Mr. Hankey and Santa Claus that he is worthy of Christmas presents. In The Death of Eric Cartman he sings "Make it Right" with Butters in a weak attempt to reconcile his sins.

Additional musical contributions to the show come from themselves and from Isaac Hayes, who voices the character Chef, and from the band Primus, which performed the original opening and ending themes for the show. But another high point of the series is its dramatic score, for it dramatizes common and deep parts with a very heartwarming, melancholic or mysterious soundtrack.

South Park and politics

The political leaning of South Park has been open to some debate. The show has drawn widespread criticism from both conservatives and liberals for its themes and its offensive language. However, unlike many other satirical shows, South Park's political humor is often seen as mocking liberal celebrities and pet causes. This has in turn prompted the use of the phrase South Park Republican to describe the attitudes of some of the show's viewers. Trey Parker stated in an interview that he was a "registered Libertarian". In other interviews Trey Parker and Matt Stone described themselves as being (small 'l') libertarian-Republicans. At any rate, the show has consistently made fun of all sides of the political spectrum. In fact, a recent ad ran on Comedy Central listing many categories of people South Park has made fun of (including blacks, gays, politicians, transsexuals, Jews and the disabled) and stated afterward "We apologize if South Park has left you out."

Trivia

  • The film Bowling for Columbine includes a brief interview with Matt Stone that suggests South Park was largely inspired by Stone's childhood experiences in Littleton, Colorado. Stone presents a vision of Littleton as painfully normal, and highly intolerant of non-conformist behavior. Stone's appearance was followed by an uncredited cartoon in a style strongly reminiscent of South Park that was not the work of either Stone or Parker. It became a point of contention between them and the filmmaker, Michael Moore, as they believed Moore meant to imply they had contributed to his film. They have said the appearance of Moore as a suicide bomber in their 2004 film Team America: World Police is their sardonic response to this incident.
  • Les Misrables has had several cameo roles throughout the series, including Cosette's appearance, Cartman's prison number, 24601 (Jean Valjean's number), and an entire song in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut that is based on a song from the musical named "One Day More." Also, in episode 414 "Helen Keller! The Musical," the "musical theater expert" sounds similar to Colm Wilkinson, who played the original Jean Valjean on Broadway. In fact, Cartman says the expert (introduced as "Geoffrey Mainard") played the lead in a production of Les Misrables. Characters on The Simpsons, perhaps not coincidencially, often have the number 24601 as well.
  • A short tribute sketch was shown for the 30th anniversary of Monty Python which parodied the "Dead Parrot sketch." The parody takes part in a friends store, where Eric Cartman walks in and complains that this friend (Kenny) that he bought is dead. Eventually an ending showing crude cut outs of Terry Gilliam, Venus de Milo, and the Monty Python foot appear.
  • Parker animated a South Park version of a joke called The Aristocrats for the documentary of that name.

Evolution of the series

South Park's early episodes tended to be shock value-oriented, but the more recent episodes are often oriented more toward poking fun at current events. This was very evident in the first half of season 8: events in its episodes include Michael Jackson visiting South Park, the boys seeing The Passion of the Christ, blue-collar workers in South Park losing their jobs to immigrants from the future, and an episode featuring a "Paris Hilton" toy video camera. Season 9 premiered with the episode "Mr. Garrison's Fancy New Vagina," which incorporated uncensored footage of sex reassignment surgery.

The pilot episode was produced using construction paper and traditional stop-motion animation techniques, but current episodes duplicate the original, amateurish look using modern computer animation tools (first Power Animator, then Maya). This allows for a short production schedule which enables the creators to respond quickly to current events. For instance, the December 17, 2003 episode depicted the capture of Saddam Hussein a mere three days after his capture by U.S. forces, even referring to the "spider hole" where he was found. In the case of this and the Elin Gonzlez episode, they stopped and changed production of an episode to focus on these events.

In the audio commentary on the season 4 DVD set, Parker and Stone remarked that beginning with episode 408, "Chef Goes Nanners," they began to consistently make episodes centering on a single issue, rather than having different sub-plots going on.

In 2002 the episode "Free Hat" was aired. In this episode, prompted by Kyle's comment on Ted Koppel's Nightline that changing E.T. would be like changing Raiders of the Lost Ark, the South Park depictions of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decide to alter the first Indiana Jones film. Soon after "Free Hat" aired, the real Lucas and Spielberg announced that they would not be altering Raiders of the Lost Ark for DVD release (contrary to rumors surrounding it). Stone and Parker later claimed that their episode prevented any alterations from happening when they appeared on a VH1 special, Inside South Park.

While in college, Stone and Parker collaborated on the movie Cannibal! The Musical, a Western satire with humorous musical numbers (the "Braniff" tune that plays at the end of many South Park episodes is an excerpt from the Cannibal! song, "Shpadoinkle"). Later they created Orgazmo, a comedy about a Mormon starring in a pornographic movie, which found distribution thanks to the success of South Park later that same year. The pair starred in the 1998 film BASEketball directed by David Zucker (in a recent episode in which the boys see the Passion of the Christ and subsequently decide to get their money back for watching a lousy film, Stan comments to Kenny, "This is just like that time we got our money back from BASEketball," commenting on the film's box office failure). Their latest collaboration is the marionette action/comedy, Team America: World Police.

See also

External links

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