The absurdity of the world we live in often requires satire to hold up a mirror to reflect events. While political commentary is necessary and useful, comedy often exaggerates current affairs to provide an outlet that highlights societal issues while at the same time making us laugh.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have used their outlet of South Park to provide a rich, vulgar, but ultimately relevant commentary for almost two decades. The recent E3 announcement of the latest video game in the franchise, South Park: The Fractured But Whole (hehe) was no different. The trailer itself pokes unrelenting fun at the superhero genre, mocking both Marvel, DC and the industry as a whole.
Generally thought of as a controversial show, South Park is saturated with serious issues often tackled in a crude manner. Like it or not, the adult cartoon knows exactly what buttons to press to ignite debate.
To celebrate the E3 announcement, let's take a look at the moments when Stone and Parker nailed the social commentary in South Park:
1. 'All About Mormons'
Season 7, Episode 12
The show's apparent critique of the culture of Mormons is a great illustration of balancing both sides of the story. Drawn heavily from the experiences of the two showrunners, South Park infused flashbacks to the 19th century with the story of a Mormon family arriving in the Colorado town.
As well as mocking the origin of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the episode also ended with a touching monologue from Gary, the son of the family, who highlights that if religion is used to form the basis of good morals, there really is no harm.
2. 'The Passion Of The Jew'
Season 8, Episode 3
The episode serves as a satire of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ — a film covering the final 12 hours of Jesus's life — which found itself mired in controversy upon its release in 2004. In this episode, Kyle, who is mocked by the others for being Jewish, watches the film and is disturbed by its content.
The episode received praise for its critique of the movie, with Jewish newspaper the Daily Forward calling it "the most biting critique" of the film, as well as approval from the Anti-Defamation League.
3. 'With Apologies To Jesse Jackson'
Season 11, Episode 1
Opening with Randy's racial slur while appearing on Wheel of Fortune, the episode focuses on the use of the N-word (the word is even said 42 times during the show) and the harsh repercussions it can have, largely told through the character of Token.
Considering the tension surrounding the topic, South Park was praised by action group Abolish the “N” Word for its depiction of how the work can effect individuals.
4. 'Le Petit Tourette'
Season 11, Episode 8
Tourette syndrome was the subject in question for this episode, when Cartman feigns the neuropsychiatric disorder in an attempt to get away with saying what he likes.
In what was a huge compliment to the show, the Tourette Association of America admitted that while it expected the show to be insensitive, upon viewing the episode, it was pleasantly surprised, saying in a statement:
The episode was surprisingly well-researched. The highly exaggerated emphasis on coprolalia notwithstanding, for the attentive viewer, there was a surprising amount of accurate information conveyed.
5. 'Trapped In The Closet'
Season 9, Episode 12
Scientology is in itself a contentious topic, and there were no reservations when Stone and Parker decided to shine a light on the religion during this Emmy-nominated episode. At times, a disclaimer stating that "this is what Scientologists actually believe" was shown on the screen to highlight events that were not satire.
The fallout and discussion following the episode was significant; famous Scientologist Tom Cruise was alleged to have tried to prevent any repeats, and Isaac Hayes — who played Chef on the show and was a Scientologist himself — quit the gig as a direct result.
What are your favorite satirical South Park moments?