This Is the One Episode of ‘South Park’ That Was Almost Banned
After 23 seasons, 307 episodes, and near uncontested amounts of controversy since its premiere in 1997, there’s one episode of South Park that stands out from all the rest.
For a show that’s known to take on anyone, even the president of China, it’s probably fair to ask what could possibly cause any episode to get banned. On April 14th, 2010, that question would be answered after an episode that Comedy Central refuses to air to this day.
South Park’s “Banned” Episode
In April of 2010, South Park was celebrating its 200th episode milestone with a two-parter that nearly ended everything. Part one sets things in motion by unleashing nearly every celebrity the show had even poked fun at closing in on the town to take their revenge.
Partway through the episode, the town receives help from “The Super Best Friends,” a collective of religious figures from around the world which includes Jesus, the Buddha, and the prophet Muhammad among others.
In episode 201, the trouble really begins when the celebrities demand that the prophet Muhammad transfer his superpowers to them. To do this, the boys are forced to escort Muhammad, disguised in a bear costume, to the group of outraged celebrities.
Before the prophet is handed over, the other Super Best Friends arrive to save the day and a fight to save the town ensues, ending with the celebrities’ defeat and the prophet rescued.
Why It Was Almost Banned
Following the release of the 200th episode, New York-based Islamic group “Revolution Muslim” harshly criticized the show in a post on their website saying it had “outright insulted” the prophet.
References to former controversies surrounding the depiction of the prophet in media were once again brought to the public’s attention. In previous controversies, depictions of the prophet Muhammad had led to censorship and even violence by severely radical Islamic groups.
With criticism in the air and tensions still high, it’s no surprise that Episode 201, while publicly broadcast, was heavily censored with audio bleeps and black boxes.
Since it was first broadcast, Comedy Central has not once re-aired either episode. Not only that but South Park Studios, the show’s website which allows fans to watch nearly every episode, has so far not made it available to stream.
Though not officially banned, it’s still nearly impossible to watch through any official channels. Several versions of the original uncensored episode have since leaked online, but no official mention of the episode has since appeared from the network or from the show’s creators.
‘South Park’ and controversy
“In the 14 years we’ve been doing ‘South Park’ we’ve never done a show we couldn’t stand behind,” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker wrote in a statement regarding their near-banned episodes. “We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central, and they made a determination to alter the episode.”
Indeed, the 200th and 201st episodes were not South Park’s first encounter with censorship. Another two-parter from 2006 entitled “Cartoon Wars” was similarly censored by Comedy Central, likewise covering up an image of the prophet Muhammad. What’s really surprising is that the show has actually featured the prophet uncensored in previous episodes without nearly as much outrage.
The 2001 episode “Super Best Friends” which episodes 200 and 201 directly reference, features a fully drawn and animated Muhammad fighting alongside his fellow religious figures against an evil cult led by David Blaine.
That’s not to mention the show’s various jokes on the likes of Scientology, Catholicism, and various religious figures that have aired without censorship.
Having just wrapped up their 23rd season, South Park appears to be going as strong as it ever has. It is currently the 2nd longest-running animated show on television, following The Simpsons, and looks to keep that streak going for the foreseeable future.
Will there be more controversy? Probably. Matt Stone and Trey Parker aren’t known to bow to public sensitivities. Fans of the show can rest easy knowing that at least that aspect isn’t likely to change anytime soon.