By Elizabeth Tenety
Nothing is sacred in South Park.
In the past week, the Comedy Central show has hit the headlines with two different religious controversies: (1) The show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and the co-creator of Avenue Q are producing a Broadway musical based on the Book of Mormon (no joke), and (2) in a recent episode about censorship, South Park “depicted” the Prophet Muhammad as a giant teddy bear and consequently received a veiled death threat from a fringe Muslim organization.
To Muslims or Mormons who feel put-upon by this, please note that nothing sacred is safe from Parker and Stone’s satire; they are equal-opportunity offenders. Over the years they have taken on (to name a few) atheists like Richard Dawkins, Catholic priest sexual abuse, Buddhism and Satan (in a single episode!), Judaism, and Scientology, which famously caused Scientologist and South Park actor Isaac Hayes to quit in protest.
Why do South Park’s creators take on religion with such gusto? And what do South Park’s creators believe? In an interview in 2006, Parker told ABC news:
“All the religions are super funny to me,” Parker said. “The story of Jesus makes no sense to me. God sent his only son. Why could God only have one son and why would he have to die? It’s just bad writing, really. And it’s really terrible in about the second act.”
But Parker says atheism is more ludicrous to him than anything else.
“Out of all the ridiculous religion stories — which are greatly, wonderfully ridiculous — the silliest one I’ve ever heard is, ‘Yeah, there’s this big, giant universe and it’s expanding and it’s all going to collapse on itself and we’re all just here, just ‘cuz. Just ‘cuz. That to me, is the most ridiculous explanation ever,” he says.
Judging by the show’s decade of success –with 3.1 million viewers an episode, and winning Peabody and Emmy awards along the way –South Park’s devotees adore its irreverence. But, as Isaac Hayes’ resignation proved, for some people South Park is all fun and games — until it’s your religion they’re mocking.
What’s your take on South Park’s latest faith fracases? Is it comedy or blasphemy? Is it good for South Park fans? Bad for religion? Good only for Parker and Stone’s bank accounts?