South Park has been on air for over two decades, and the show was just renewed through 2022. The creators,Trey Parker and Matt Stone, sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for an interview on where they’re taking the series. The answer was basically “away from Donald Trump,” which is good news. We get enough of him literally everywhere else. But they’re not promising to be anymore “PC.”
When South Park started, it was known for being a kind of mouthpiece for libertarian ideas and its influenced the thinking of a lot of young people (for better or much worse) who have basically grown up right along with it. Some of its humor can be pretty offensive, especially through the mouth of the show’s nightmare protagonist Eric Cartman. It’s not a show that would probably be made now, as people’s changing awareness of social issues has made certain past episodes pretty unpalatable. The duo commented on what is now called “cancel culture” and how it’s different from past criticisms of their work.
“It’s new,” Stone said about “cancel culture.” “I don’t want to say it’s the same as it’s always been. The kids are fucking different than us. There’s a generational thing going on.”
He basically thinks people laugh outside one side of their mouth and criticize out the other, because they have to or risk being canceled themselves.
“I feel bad for television critics and cultural critics,” he explained. “They may have laughed like hell at that, and then they went home and they know what they have to write to keep their job. So, when I read TV reviews or cultural reviews, I think of someone in prison writing. I think about somebody writing a hostage note. This is not what they think. This is what they have to do to keep their job in a social media world. So, I don’t hold it against them.”
Over twenty years, there are bound to be jokes that don’t age well. In particular, how the show handled the episodes about the gender transition of Mr. Garrison, which basically seemed like a transphobic misinformation campaign. It’s unlikely that Parker or Stone feel the need to apologize for any of that, and they say they’re immune to “cancel culture” at this point.
They did admit there’s one character arc they regret, and it was the ManBearPig character that mocked Al Gore’s focus on imminent climate destruction. Too real!
“We just felt like, of all of our episodes, that one has not aged very well,” Stone said. “And we came up with a funny idea how to use ManBearPig as a parable. I always felt like if we were going to re-write that or comment on it or atone, whatever you want to call it, it’s in kind. In other words, we didn’t want to say in some interview, ‘Well, we don’t feel so great about that episode.’ It doesn’t feel as good as ‘Fuck that, we’ll do a whole two-parter.’ And it is not just atoning. We beat ourselves up pretty good.”
Parker added, “We could just do an entire season atoning. It’s been fucking 22 years. We’re pretty different people now.”
Different people who just can’t seem to get canceled.