The Comedy channel’s satirical series celebrates its 25th anniversary. First envisioned as a comic cartoon for adults, the series wanted to explore the limits of freedom of expression with a subtle sense of metaphor, contrasting with its vulgar, gory and sometimes scatological excesses.
They showed the Queen of England shooting herself in the head, Charles Manson singing Christmas rhymes or even Kanye West making his “coming out” to the fishes…
Since 1997, South Park has not ceased to shock the world, to the point that the series has been banned in China, censored in Russia and certain episodes have never been broadcast in France. But behind its many excesses, the “show” has become over the years one of the fiercest political satires on America.
In 1992, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, two film students, created a wacky short film about the spirit of Christmas. Despite the unfinished form, the “Do It Yourself” aesthetic, the irreverent spirit and certain characters are already there.
The VHS of this clip circulates under the coat, between some producers and attracts the attention of FOX, MTV, but it is finally the Comedy chain which signs them a contract and orders them a season.
The pilot of South Park was released in 1997 and tells the adventures of 4 school children, Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman in a backward and fictitious small town in Colorado, where the two creators are natives.
A mix of Monty Python and musicals
First produced in stop-motion with pieces of cardboard, the series becomes digitally animated, which allows the authors to write the episodes more quickly and react to current events, thanks to a large team of animators who can complete a 20-minute episode in just a few days.
The series has its eye on the absurd humor of Monty Python, musicals, which Parker and Stone are fond of, and sitcoms, including the series All in the Family and its grumpy and reactionary character Archie Bunker, who inspires the character of Eric Cartman.
“South Park” tackles all of America’s consensus totems, Hollywood stars, hit singers, politicians. Each episode connects two unrelated current events and imagines wild conspiracies, such as between Obama’s victory in 2012 and Disney’s takeover of Star Wars.
The authors play on the figurative meaning of certain expressions such as “staying in the closet”, or “packing logs”, which refer to repressed homosexuality. Expressions that the series literally illustrates about actor Tom Cruise…
Put everyone on an equal footing…by tapping everyone
Unclassifiable politically, South Park hits on the conservatives, on the liberals. She is able to denounce the racism of the police, the arms lobby, the hypocrisy of the evangelists, the consumer society and just after mocking progressive positions.
The die-hard radicalism of the series gives it enormous international success, fueling many controversies. But the status of all-powerful authors gives them total freedom at Comedy, as shown by the attitude of Parker and Stone at the Oscars in 2000, transvestites… and under LSD.
South Park hits hard on all religions with the same virulence: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Scientology. An episode, produced a few months before September 11, 2001, shows the Prophet Muhammad, which did not trigger controversy at the time. But when the creators wanted to bring Muhammad back to the screen in 2006, the mood changed and Comedy censored them for the first time, after receiving death threats.
With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the two brats of TV are taken aback and claim to be overwhelmed by reality,
which pushes the series to reinvent itself and innovate in special longer formats, with a tone very different.
In 2021, the two creators signed one of the biggest contracts in TV history and have returned for several seasons, at least until 2027.