South Park: A Hidden Masterpiece?

Some hate it, some love it, but do people miss the bigger picture of the show?


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The four main characters, Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny, are recognizable even when highly pixilated, they have become such a familiar, dominant presence in our culture today.

Everyone has heard of the show South Park.  A very popular adult animation series, it first aired in 1997, shocking audiences everywhere with its extreme and over-the-top satire. Now with over 20 seasons, 2 video games, and a full movie that is one of the highest earning R rated animated movies of all time, grossing $80 million (surpassed by Sausage Party in 2016), this show has a remarkable legacy as a cultural and entertainment phenomenon.

The sign to the city of South Park, Colorado. The main setting of the show.

South Park is known to have extreme profanity and serious themes, earning the TV-MA rating, but unlike movie theaters, anyone can discover it simply by flicking though channels one late night, and will not be restricted. This freedom from censorship is what leads many young teens discover their first adult animation shows, such as Family Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad, and of course, South Park.  While many guardians do not approve of this, trying their best to hide these shows, due to this age of easy technology access for all, shows like South Park are very easy to access.  Sites such as YouTube and Hulu are always simply a click away, and provide a wide variety of entertainment options, with no supervision or externally imposed guidelines or checkpoints to limit viewers.

Many students love to watch South Park, as it gives them a slight edge while watching, since it feels wrong.

But why, you might ask, do so many parents and guardians hate it so much?

South Park has always been one of my favorite shows, the entire show is on Hulu for me to binge anytime. (Mohammed Khadrane)

South Park has no limits.  It takes anyone, everyone as prisoner, and absolutely rips them apart. It is not a show for the easily offended, and truly requires a stable mind to watch it.

Looking at the undeniable success of the show, there is no doubt that the creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, are gifted. They write and direct each episode, putting love into what they call their “baby.”

The show mainly focuses on the main four 4th graders, Kyle, Cartman, Stan and Kenny.  Some argue that these characters are the reason South Park is so lovable, as the playful, foulmouthed primary school students always get into some sort of trouble, somehow extricating themselves before things become irreparably messed up.

Perhaps one of the reasons “the adults” loathe the show so much is because it is a stepping stone for young teens. No one under the age of 13 should ever watch the show, but it depends on how you feel about letting them witness the edgy, subversive, take-no-prisoners style of dark, bawdy humor Stone and Parker infuse it with.  The show can be seen as a transitional first look at the real world;  throwing viewers out into a more adult realm without any knowledge from enjoyable media can be scary and risky. A show, like this one, that doesn’t take itself seriously with a warning at the start of the show, that seems like a normal cartoon could be a safe way to young people the difference between fantasy and reality.

Clearly, how you see this show depends on your perspective and personal agenda. South Park can be seen as a horrifying, disgusting show for children, or a stepping stone for young adults.  That is the beauty of the show. It can be anything you imagine it to be.

South Park is now streaming on Hulu.