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Thursday April 22, 2010 6:48 pm

Two-Part South Park Wraps on an Uneven Note


Update: Turns out I was wrong. Skip to the end to find out how.

Fans of noticed a striking change in the second half of the “200/201” episode, which gained some attention from a radical Muslim website earlier this week. In the first half of the episode, which aired April 14, a battle developed over ownership of Mohammed. A group of celebrities including Tom Cruise, Rob Reiner, Oraph Winfrey and every other celeb who’s ever been depicted on the show battled a group of gingers who were previously featured in a South Park episode of their own. The two groups began warring over him because they wanted his power. In the episode, the show’s two hundredth, Mohammad was shown wearing a bear costume because his image cannot be depicted.

As a result of the episode, a reactionary Muslim website made a “warning” to Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone which, in essence, threatened their lives. When the second installment of the story aired on April 21, Mohammad’s name was beeped out and his image was covered by a big, black box marked “CENSORED.”

The multiple beeping sounds made the episode nearly unwatchable, though it was peppered with many quick appearances of faces from past Park seasons and shed new light on Eric Cartman’s personal history. Kyle’s monologue at the end of the episode was beeped in entirety. Separate speeches from Jesus Christ and Santa Claus were also beeped, and all of a sudden the meaning of this big two-part episode became clear. All at once, it became evident that Trey Parker and Matt Stone added the beeps and the big, black boxes themselves. The two-part story was really about censorship, and not about trotting out the image of Mohammad to create controversy. I think.

Their message? To censor something, to make it taboo, makes it powerful - sometimes, devastatingly so. The lawlessness of Prohibition has passed beyond recent memory, but it’s one strong historical example of how creating a taboo can lead to big, big problems…where none existed before.

Update:

Looks like I was . A spokesperson for Comedy Central shed new light on the 201st episode of South Park, which was heavily beeped: “Comedy Central was responsible for the bleeps and not showing Mohammed in last night’s episode.”

Producers and show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone the editing wasn’t their own doing (despite my previous assumptions): “It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part.” According to Matt Stone, “Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear.” Maybe one of these days the unedited version will make it to YouTube.

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