Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2010

South Park and Muhammad

During 14 years on the Comedy Central air, South Park has satirized nearly everyone and everything. But after the April 14 broadcast of the series' 200th episode—which included a Muhammad character hidden from view, thanks to a bear suit—a post on an extremist Muslim website threatened show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker: "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh airing this show." A picture of the murdered Dutch filmmaker and the listing of addresses on the site belied the insistence that this was a warning and not a threat.

The following week, South Park's 201st episode also included Muhammad...sort of. Turns out it was Santa Claus under the bear suit. Instead, Stone and Parker "showed" Muhammad under a black box and the word CENSORED. But the non-images aside, all references to the prophet were also bleeped. According to a statement from Stone and Parker, "It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too."

This is not the first time South Park has weighed in on the issue of depicting Muhammad. In 2006, following the Danish cartoon controversy, Comedy Central also put Muhammad behind a black CENSORED box. Yet the prophet had actually made his South Park debut years before: in 2001, during the show's fifth season, he was a member of "The Super Best Friends," appearing on screen with the likes of Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Joseph Smith, and Krishna.