When South Park first came onto the scene in 1997, it caused quite a stir. The animated sitcom that follows four foul-mouthed boys and their exploits throughout a small town in Colorado was loved by audiences and hated by parents who caught their young ones quoting the show’s signature fart and pee pee jokes.
What has ultimately set South Park apart from most TV shows is its no holds barred attitude when it comes to making fun of sensitive subjects. The feature film that followed shortly after the show’s release, “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999),” tackled the issues of censorship and bad parenting.
The film centers on the release of a new R-rated movie: “Terrance and Phillip: Asses of Fire,” which main characters: Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny are first in line to see. The film becomes all the rage in South Park and soon after its release; every kid in town is quoting its crude humor. This of course sets the parents off in a rage, so much so that they end up banning all Terrance and Philip’s films and merchandise and send their kids to a rehabilitation center, so that they’ll stop swearing. They take it a step further when they end up abducting Terrance and Philip and wage war on their native country – Canada. When Cartman voices his displeasure of all this by singing a song about Kyle’s mom being a bitch, the parents implant a v-chip inside of him giving him an electric shock every time he swears. The kids of South Park are then forced to lead a resistance against the parents, save Terrance and Philip and prevent Satan from rising up and taking over the world.
Although this film came out in 1999, its stance on freedom of speech and anti-censorship are more relevant than ever. Earlier this month, the newly released X-Men Apocalypse’s marketing campaign was hit with controversy when a billboard depicting the film’s main antagonist, Apocalypse, choking Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Actress Rose McGowan slammed the advertisement, saying it was “offensive” and seemingly approved of violence against women. The backlash resulted in 20th Century Fox making a public apology and later taking down the ads, even though, according to Deadline Hollywood, a top female Fox executive approved the advertisement before it was released.
The writer of this article does not in any way condone violence against women; however, it would be insulting to female superheroes to ignore the fact that they, like their male counterparts, also receive scars while in battle with their adversaries. Mystique is arguably one of the most important female characters in the X-Men universe known for being a shape-shifting assassin. To censor the fact that such a deadly individual doesn’t fight, would not only take away from the character, but could ultimately limit the way we as artists tell stories about female characters.
Like the parents in South Park, people today continue to try and control what we watch and how we watch it. Perhaps those who don’t enjoy watching violence or crude humor can simply not watch it instead of telling others how to live their lives.
Who knows, if they want to continue to censor filmmakers, they may just find themselves being made fun of on the next episode of South Park.