South Park Censorship – Draw Mohammed Day
Parody, satire, and irony have long been used by the entertainment industry to shock the public. So what gives this time?
South Park, a Comedy Central show known for its satire humor on society, aired its 200th episode on April 14th. While the show has come a long way and covered a variety of controversial topics since its first season (now in its 14th), not much has changed. South Park continues to push the boundaries of what we accept as “free speech” in the media, this time with their controversial caricature of Mohammed.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators and executive producers of the show, have received numerous threats due to the episode directioning ‘blasphemy’ against Islam; the punishment in Islam for such an act is death. In the episode, Mohammed was depicted dressed in a bear costume, with audio and visual references removed in reference to the prophet. Extremist death threats that followed led the producers to vamp up censorship for their 201st episode, which was to conclude the 200th episode, with an overabundance of “bleeps.”
This is not the first time South Park has challenged accepted norms. The show has traditionally put anything and everything in society under scrutiny; no one is special nor sacred. In a show where Jesus and Buddha have both appeared in a not-so-holy light, it is hardly a surprise that the producers would feature Mohammed next.
Controversy over the issue has triggered a massive movement on Facebook and YouTube, with groups organizing an “Everyone draw Mohammed Day” on May 20th.
The censorship of a South Park episode over Islam is not just an isolated situation; numerous western institutions have pulled from publishing anything associated with Islam in fear of offending extremist groups. Threats to institutions such as the Yale University Press, Random House, and Metropolitan Museum on publication of any information potentially averse towards the religion have halted their press of Islam-related materials. Which brings to the table a larger question: when is there a line drawn between informing the public and acquiescing to the demands of a religious group?
Yes, South Park introduces controversial topics. It makes us question social norms, media, religion, politics- you name it. The lesson at the end of the day? Never blindly accept anything for what is. And props to South Park for practicing what they preach.