From Bill Gates to the Pope, South Park has lampooned dozens of famous names during its 26 series and no one and no subject is off limits
- Harry and Meghan join list of topics and people targeted by controversial satire
- The show has left almost nothing ‘off limits’ over 26 series of parody and ridicule
The animated satire South Park has been a television mainstay world over since its debut in 1997.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are now the latest targets of the show’s no-holds-barred brand of comedy, and join a long list of celebrities and off-limits talking points that have come into the show’s focus over the last 26 years.
Colorado schoolchildren Eric Cartman, Kyle Broflovski, Stan Marsh, Kenny McCormick and Butters Stotch have shocked audiences with their vulgarity since the inflammatory first episode, ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’.
But the characters have also provided show creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone with a sandbox environment in which to mock, ridicule and scrutinize famous figures and elements of popular culture.
Roping everybody from Bill Gates to the Pope into their outlandish adventures, the show has received its fair share of criticism as well as praise, banned in China for their CCP-critical episode ‘Band in China’, and targeted by fanatics for their portrayal of religious figures.
Despite lawsuits, the show has managed mostly to bat off resistance thanks to rights protected by the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech in the United States, and 26 years on the creators are still going strong despite the backlash.
MailOnline looks back on some of the most high-profile characters the show has satirized over the years.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are now the latest targets of the South Park’s no-holds-barred brand of comedy
South Park shows the couple in Paris where bemused locals look on as they chant: ‘We want our privacy!’
Tom Cruise first appeared in the now famous episode ‘Trapped in the Closet’ in 2005.
The episode parodied the actor’s relationship with the Church of Scientology, one of the religions that the creators have targeted for satire, as well as Christianity, Islam, Judaism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the episode, Cruise traps himself in a closet and refuses to come out, later joined by John Travolta and R Kelly.
When Stan denounces the church as a scam, the Scientologists and celebrity followers threaten to sue. Stan dares them and the episode ends, with the closing credits naming only ‘John Smith’ and ‘Jane Smith’ – poking at the church’s precedent for suing.
The episode was controversial, as intended, and Cruise reportedly tried to pull it from circulation. In response, the creators included him in the milestone episode #200, in which Cruise and many other celebrities parodied by the show sought revenge against the show’s creators.
One thing leads to another and the town of South Park is threatened with a lawsuit from Cruise unless they can help him meet the Prophet Muhammad.
To avoid depicting the Prophet, the children take him across town dressed in a bear suit. The episode drew further criticism from audiences and the creators received threats of violence for the depiction.
Tom Cruise featured in a controversial early episode and again for the #200 milestone show
Kanye West has also been on the receiving end of Trey and Matt’s animating stick.
The singer was portrayed in a 2009 episode called ‘Fishsticks’, in which a character based on Kanye is confused as he is the only one not to get a play on words between ‘fishsticks’ and ‘fish d**ks’.
Kanye is portrayed as narcissistic and overly sensitive, but took it well and sampled a track from the South Park soundtrack for his song ‘Gone’ that year.
South Park showed less love and in 2013 painted him as a self-absorbed hobbit trying to control Kim Kardashian.
Kanye West was depicted in the now famous ‘Fishsticks’ episode back in 2009
In 2019, South Park’s creators wrote and aired an episode called ‘Band in China’, which parodied censorship in China.
The episode also looked at some of the ways American artists and brands sidestepped moral obligations to benefit from lucrative Chinese markets.
When imprisoned in China for selling marijuana, Randy Marsh meets Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, who have been banned in China in response to memes circulated comparing CCP leader Xi Jinping to the bear.
The parody refers a real-world law in China where the leader outlawed memes likening Xi to Pooh in 2018.
South Park was banned in China for the broadcast of its episode, ‘Band in China’.
Randy Marsh strangles Winnie the Pooh who has been ‘banned in China’ and jailed
Trump and Hillary
The exact political ideology of South Park is still something of a mystery. The creators do not toe a strict party line and have been known to ridicule and scrutinize all from left to right, at home and abroad.
Inevitably they were confronted with the 2016 U.S. election, which they said was funnier than anything they could have dreamed up and made satire difficult to write.
The show used local teacher Mr Garrison as a stand-in for Trump, who became tired of Canadians migrating to America and battled against a new wave of political correctness to garner support.
Garrison has a change of heart in the show and tries to sabotage his election run, but his opponent, Hillary Clinton ‘gets in her own way’ and inadvertently builds support for her Garrison.
Both received a fair share of criticism, dubbed the ‘T**d Sandwich’ and the ‘Giant Douche’ by media in the show.
South Park’s creators have been known to ridicule and scrutinize all, including Donald Trump
South Park depicted former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Britney Spears came under the scrutiny of South Park’s creators way back in 2002, when the episode ‘Britney’s New Look’ portrayed the singer as a caricature, mocking her perceived obsession with image.
Six years later, Parker and Stone released a sequel portraying Spears as a victim of media harassment. The children of South Park try to help hide the artist from paparazzi.
Spears has been one of the more willing celebrities to make a cameo in South Park, appearing as herself in an episode in 2000. The show’s creators said she is one of few celebrities who ‘really get what we do’.
The South Park creators said Britney Spears is one of few celebrities who really get what they are trying to do
Ben Affleck became something of a regular punching bag for South Park, with the show going after the Gone Girl actor multiple times.
Famously, Affleck appeared in the series five episode titled ‘How To Eat Your Butt’. In the episode, Cartman discovers two people suffering from Torsonic Polarity Syndrome, a fictitious medical condition which means they have posteriors for faces. The punchline to the joke is that they are looking for their long lost son, Ben Affleck.
In a later series, when Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were very much a tabloid couple – before their split and subsequent reunion in 2021 – Cartman draws a depiction of JLo on his hand. Affleck then falls in love with the hand puppet with drawn-on lipstick.
Cartman’s hand puppet, Jennifer Lopez, with Ben Affleck
As one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates is certainly not free from South Park’s mockery.
The 67-year-old Microsoft founder has appeared several times in episodes. Back in 1999, a depiction of Gates was shot in the head by a US army officer after he raged at the Windows 98 operating system not being fast enough.
In a call back to the episode, Gates appeared in a later series where in which he has a bandage to cover his rather brutal gun-shot wound.
In series seven, in an episode entitled ‘A Song of Ass and Fire’, Gates returns to Microsoft to kill his CEO successor. He proclaims himself as leader of the Xbox One supporters for the imminent ‘console wars’ between PlayStation supporters.
Bill Gates pictured having killed a successor in the show, ‘South Park’
Pope Benedict XVI
Parodies of the late Pope Emeritus showed South Park was not scared of veering into religion.
An episode depicted the former head of the Catholic Church arriving in Park County, where the adult comedy cartoon is set, to inspect a bleeding Virgin Mary statue.
After inspecting the statue, the former pontiff determines that the statue is bleeding from the vagina, and says it is not a miracle because it is natural for a woman.
South Park also depicted the return of Jesus. Following the second coming, the pontiff stepped back from his role as head of the Catholic Church.
He then retook the throne but resigned again after the South Park creators showed Jesus in a doping scandal.
Even the Pope was not safe from the outrageous comedy satire of South Park
He may be, arguably, the greatest NFL player of all time, but that doesn’t seem to stop you from being depicted as having a faecal accident on South Park.
Tom Brady appeared in the season seventeen episode ‘Taming Strange’ where he accidently received the wrong medication and proceeded to soil himself during a football game.
South Park have also made numerous references to Brady throughout the show. In season nineteen, main character Cartman proclaims that he is going to ‘Tom Brady this thing’ after receiving detention for four days.
The incident references Brady being caught up in the ‘Deflategate’ controversy in which the then Patriots quarterback was accused of ordering the deliberate deflation of the ball, and was subsequently given a four-game suspension.
Tom Brady appeared in the season seventeen episode ‘Taming Strange’ where he accidently received the wrong medication and proceeded to soil himself during a football game
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