South Park and Controversy

Ever since their arrival onto prime-time television, popular animated programs have caused much controversy in the public sphere. Shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and perhaps most notoriously, South Park, have pushed the boundaries of what can and can’t be said.

It is no surprise that South Park has been a focus of discussion by many in the public sphere. The program features crude humor and regularly touches on religion and famous celebrities as the centre of the jokes. Some of the most controversial episodes include “Trapped in the Closet”, which is about the beliefs of scientology and Tom Cruise’s sexuality, and “Hell on Earth”, which makes light of Steve Irwin’s death. Many would find these offensive, and I think it’s understandable. So where do we draw the line? When does it stop being funny? Does it depend on the viewer’s culture and ideologies or is there a general standard met by all viewers?

In response to the controversy, the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, stand by their program stating that they don’t care about causing controversy of offending anyone.

This video outlines the opinions about the controversy received from the television program. They state that they don’t go out of their way to offend, stating that they never begin writing an episode with “What can we say that’s offensive?”

Adults are also worried about the effects the show has on young children. I know that when I was young I was never allowed to watch South Park, and I can see where my parents were coming from. The show is crude and offensive. But this point links to the Media Effects Model. Some think that the crude nature of the show will rub off onto their kids, causing them to be rude and ill-mannered.

The main point when thinking about controversy in the media, in my opinion, is whether it comes down to taste, or morality.

For those interested, the following websites list of some of the most controversial South Park episodes:

Also, here are the opinions from Seth McFarlane and others on the Larry King Show:

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