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The “South Park” Syndrome

23 Apr, 2010 By: John Latchem

The pop culture world is abuzz about Comedy Central censoring even the name of a certain religious prophet on “South Park,” following death threats against the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The network even bleeped the whole final speech “about intimidation and fear,” they said.

Further, Comedy Central pulled reruns of the episode and won’t let it stream on the “South Park” website. Naturally, this has sparked a whole debate over the value of free speech in our society, and how reticent some of us are to protect it. Jon Stewart devoted a lengthy segment to the subject on the April 22 “Daily Show,” denouncing anyone who would threaten violence over a political or religious disagreement.

So what now? A lot of fans are wondering what this will mean for the eventual 14th season DVD set of the show. As the DVD (and Blu-ray) won’t be released for another year, I imagine that decision is a long ways off.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the censorship carried over to home video. The character in question did appear uncensored in the “Super Best Friends” episode from the fifth season, but that was before the controversy erupted a few years ago, and that episode has since been yanked from SouthParkStudios.com, which streams every episode for free. The season 10 episode “Cartoon Wars” specifically addressed the reaction to images of him, while also censoring his appearance. This censorship carried through to the DVD. I only hope they don’t leave the latest episode off the DVD altogether. (Ironically, the character has appeared briefly in the opening title sequence of every episode for the past few years.)

After all, the whole point of these episodes has been to demonstrate how absurd the censorship was to begin with, and for a network to step on that message is to neglect the very reason it took a chance on the series in the first place.

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