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Winning a Peabody award has made "South Park" more ballsy than ever. Known for being offensive, politically incorrect, and often downright groundbreaking, tonight the show may have bitten off more than it can lampoon. They're taking on crazed Muslim fanatics.
Tonight's episode, entitled "Cartoon Wars" parodied the Danish cartoon incident, in which a Danish newspaper published a simple cartoon depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The Muslim world went completely insane. People were murdered, threats were made, and rioting happened around the world while Muslim leaders declared a jihad on the Danish people.
"South Park", always ready to tread where no one else will, tackled the issue with their own spin by parodying "Family Guy". When an episode of the Fox cartoon airs depicting the Prophet Mohammed, the people of South Park panic, expecting lunatic legions of terrorists and fanatical bombers to attack. At the last minute, Fox censors the "Family Guy" episode, sparing the world from fiery Muslim retribution. But it's not over. Another episode of "Family Guy" is set to air in South Park in one week… and this time it won't be censored.
"Cartoon Wars" wraps with Cartman racing to California to talk Fox into censoring the new "Family Guy" episode. It's a two-parter, and the episode ends by posing a question: "Will network executives fight to defend free speech… or will Comedy Central puss out?"
What's kind of interesting is that everything released about this episode beforehand was somewhat vague. Any mention of the Mohammed plot was omitted or danced around. Clearly, they wanted this to be a surprise. Now the episode has aired and "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have backed Comedy Central into a corner. This may not have been their funniest episode, but it may end up as a precursor to their most important one.
Does that mean Parker and Stone will actually show Mohammed on their next episode? There can be little doubt that they'll try. But does Comedy Central have the cahones? Will they actually let it happen? Or perhaps a better question is… why hasn't this already been done somewhere else? Why is "South Park" the only program standing up for free speech instead of cowering in the corner and kowtowing to the oppressive demands of lunatics?
Tonight Trey Parker and Matt Stone laid down a challenge. They almost certainly have the guts to follow through, but does Comedy Central and more importantly do the rest of us? It's not just television executives being challenged to stand up for our beliefs, it's you and me too. It's been a long time since "South Park" has been appointment television for me, but I'll be there next week to find out what the hell happens. Don't bury your head in the sand, stand up for freedom and tune in next Wednesday to find out whether or not Comedy Central will.