All characters and events in this show - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional. All celebrity voices are impersonated...poorly. The following programme contains coarse language and due to its content it should not be viewed by anyone.
...or so it says at the start of every episode of South Park. While the warning is intended as a joke, it might be suggested that it should be heeded and that nobody in possession of a sane mind should watch the show. Criticised by many, adored by many more, the show features a combination of satire, surrealism, and toilet humour. Its first series was a massive hit and the show became a huge pop culture phenomenon. The show is currently on its ninth series in the US and it has spawned a film.
South Park is a 'quiet, little, p*ss-ant, redneck, podunk, jerkwater, three corn, one horse, one hole, chicken butt, right wing, missing stuff, no mail, truck driving, old track, spacey, pea-brain, horsewhipped, hungry, unkempt, white trash, kick-*ss mountain town' near Denver, Colorado. The show is loosely based on the lives of the show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and their childhood growing up in separate mountain towns in Colorado.
The show follows the lives of four young boys who live in South Park. At the start of the show they are all eight years old and are in third grade, but in the fourth season they all become nine years old and progress into fourth grade.
Stan is based on the show's co-creator, Trey Parker, and he's the closest thing the show has to a normal person. He's a good, honest, and decent person and he's the unofficial leader of the group. He has an on-off relationship with Wendy Testaburger, but he gets so nervous around her that he normally just throws up on her.
Stan lives with his parents, Randy and Sharon, his bullying sister Shelly, and his crippled grandfather Marvin, who keeps calling him Billy. In one episode, Stan's parents get divorced and Stan's mother marries a control-freak called Roy, but all returns to normal by the end of the episode. Stan also has a gay dog called Sparky1.
Kyle is based on the show's other co-creator, Matt Stone. He's Jewish and has a strict overbearing mother who he hates. He and Stan are best friends and the two normally end up on the opposite side of an argument from Cartman. Being the only Jewish child in South Park, Kyle finds it hard at Christmastime.
Kyle's parents Sheila and Gerald are devout Jews, and they don't like Kyle getting swept along by popular trends. Kyle's baby brother, Ike, is actually an adopted Canadian who Kyle has grown to accept.
Normally just called by his surname, Cartman isn't based on a real person, but rather on the fat kid in every group of friends. He's a racist who's especially prone to anti-Semitism, which makes him and Kyle at odds on many occasions. He also loathes hippies and frequently calls people he hates such. Despite these traits, Cartman does have a softer side and can often be found having tea parties with his teddies. Fat and lazy, Cartman has one goal in life, to make $10 million.
Cartman lives with his nymphomaniac mother Lianne, who's actually his dad since she's a hermaphrodite. She completely spoils him and allows him to do nearly anything he wants. He has two pets, a cat called Kitty and a pig called Fluffy, which he apparently enjoys hitting with sticks.
Kenny is based on the poor kid from every community. He always wears an orange parka that covers up his face and makes everything he says inaudible to the viewer, although people in the show can understand him perfectly2. He's the most foul-mouthed of all the characters and his lines would probably be censored were it not for the fact that nobody can understand him.
Kenny is the strangest of the characters on the show for one reason: he keeps dying. In the first few series he would die nearly once every episode, but he'd always be back the following week3. By the end of the fifth series it was getting harder to write Kenny death scenes so, in a special episode about him, a terminal disease killed him off permanently. He did make a slight comeback in the sixth series when Cartman accidentally drank his ashes, thinking it was chocolate milk. This led to Kenny's soul getting stuck in Cartman's body for a few episodes. Kenny returned without explanation in the final episode of series six and has been in the show since4.
Kenny lives in a small, dilapidated house with his poor parents and his stupid older brother. His family could probably be best described as white trash. His father Stuart is an unemployed alcoholic.
Leopold 'Butters' Stotch
Butters was in the show from the first series, but only as a background kid from school. He was given his big break in the final episode of series five where there was an episode based entirely on him. In the sixth series he replaced Kenny as the fourth friend of the group, but he annoyed them all so much that he was fired halfway through the season. This made him very angry, so much so that he made himself into a super-villain called Professor Chaos who has been his alter-ego ever since.
Butters is a nice, quiet boy and very gullible, a characteristic that the gang prey on. Cartman hates him, probably more so than he hates Kyle.
His parents, Chris and Lynda, are fairly normal parents... or so it seems at first. In the special episode about Butters, it is revealed that his father likes to frequent gay bath-houses. When Lynda finds out she goes insane and attempts to kill Butters and herself. Naturally, it all works out in the end.
Tweek joined the show in the second series for one episode as a boy who's addicted to coffee because his parents own the town's coffee shop. After Butters was dropped by the gang, they held reality TV-style auditions to find their next fourth friend, and Tweek was the one who was selected.
Tweek is very nervous and speaks in a high-pitched voice. His coffee addiction has led to constant jittering and the 'tweeking' of his eye. He never buttons his shirt correctly, and his hair is a constant mess. His parents believe this is all down to him having Attention Deficit Disorder.
Chef - Jerome 'Chef' McElroy5 is the cafeteria chef at South Park Elementary and is one of the few black characters in the show. Promiscuous in the extreme, his favourite pastime is sleeping with 'fine white women'. The boys really look up to him and are constantly asking for his advice. Unfortunately, his advice normally comes as a rather adult song which the boys don't understand.
Mr/Mrs Garrison - Mr Garrison is the boys' third grade teacher. He had a lot of psychological issues, the most important being that he was a closet homosexual with homophobia. He was fired for allegedly abusing a child and went on to write a best-selling romance novel that won a gay-Pulitzer prize. After this, he confronted his homosexuality and admitted to himself that he was gay.
He has had a number of puppets/sidekicks in his time. The first, Mr Hat, was a puppet that was actually a personality in his head. Mr Hat disappeared for a short time in the third series, and was replaced by Mr Twig6. When Mr Garrison was rehired by the school as a kindergarten teacher, he got rid of Mr Hat and replaced him with Mr Slave, his sex-slave boyfriend. He was then made the fourth grade teacher.
In the ninth series Mr Garrison had a sex-change operation and became a woman called Mrs Garrison. This led to Mr Slave leaving her.
Mr Mackey - Mr Mackey is the school guidance counsellor. He has several traits, such as an impossibly large head and the fact that he ends most sentences with 'mmm'kay?'. He is very anti-drugs, which is ironic as he becomes a drug addict in one episode. He temporarily takes on the job as the boys' substitute teacher in the sixth series.
Wendy Testaburger7 - Wendy is Stan's girlfriend until she dumps him for Token. Probably the most intelligent person in the class, Wendy has very liberal views which are always bring her into conflict with Cartman.
Token Black - Token Black is exactly what his name suggests. He's the only black kid in school and he normally only gets minor parts. His father is a successful lawyer and the richest person in town.
Timmy - Timmy is mostly disabled and used to be considered retarded. He can only say a handful of things, of which 'Timmah!' is the most frequent. Despite this, Timmy shows signs of being very intelligent. He uses an electric wheelchair to get around.
Jimmy - Jimmy is also handicapped like Timmy, but he uses crutches to move around. He's always telling jokes and wants to be a stand-up comedian. This makes him very popular and hence Timmy gets jealous and tries to kill him. Eventually the two get over this problem and become good friends.
Pip - Philip 'Pip' Pirrip is an unpopular British classmate. He is always being called French in a derogatory manner, despite the fact that he hates the French himself. He is loosely based on the character of Pip from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
Jimbo and Ned - Jimbo Kerns is Stan's gun-nut uncle. He loves hunting, explosions, and anything else which liberals hate. He served in Vietnam, and that's where he met his best friend, Ned Gerblansky. Ned lost an arm in the war and needs a voicebox to speak.
Mayor McDaniels - She is the mayor of South Park, a town that she hates. She cares little about the fate of the town or its people, and is far more interested in her public appearance. A typical politician then...
Big Gay Al - Al is a stereotypical gay man. He's very camp, and as a result many of the parents don't want him around their children. He used to be the boys' scout-leader, but was fired because of fears that he may molest children. He also runs a home for homosexual animals.
Terrance and Phillip - Terrance and Phillip are two Canadian comedians who have a children's television show. Their show is essentially just a bunch of fart jokes, and the boys' parents don't like them watching it.
Towelie - Towelie is a genetically-engineered towel who likes to get high. He originally appeared in the series five episode 'Towelie', an episode based around the US military's attempts to capture him, and was designed to be a really bad character. He was so bad that fans of the show loved him, and he was brought back for several cameo appearances, mainly to remind the boys to bring a towel with them8.
Mr Hankey - Mr Hankey is a Christmas poo. He's essentially a piece of excrement that comes up people's toilets every Christmas and gives people of non-Christian faith presents. He lives in the sewers, and has magical control over all poo.
Santa Claus - Despite doing all the normal things that Santa should do, he's also a gun-toting maniac who likes to kill satanic animals with a shotgun.
Jesus - Jesus is the resurrected son of God who tries to live a normal life in South Park. He had a cable access TV show called Jesus and Pals where he would try and deliver the word of God. Despite some hostility between them at the start of the show, Jesus and Santa grew to be good friends, and Jesus was killed9 while trying to rescue him from one of Saddam Hussein's sons who was torturing him.
Satan - Satan is the master of all darkness and the leader of the minions of hell. He's gay and generally tries to get along peacefully with God who is an old friend of his.
Saddam Hussein - The evil Iraqi dictator was initially in a special episode about Terrance and Phillip, but his big break came in the South Park film where he was Satan's lover. The two have since broken up and Saddam was punished by being forced to live in Heaven10. For some reason, he has a desire to control Canada.
How it came to be
The show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, originally met while film students at the University of Colorado. The two teamed up since they shared the same sense of humour, and were the only people in the class who didn't want to make art-house style films. In 1991 they made a crude animation-short called Jesus v Frosty which featured the kids from South Park11 building a snowman that came to life when they put a magic hat on him. Baby Jesus then saved the day by decapitating Frosty with his halo.
Years later, executives at Fox saw the film and they commissioned Trey and Matt to create a video Christmas card along those lines. This film, called The Spirit of Christmas was a big hit, especially on the Internet12. Its popularity led to talks with Fox about making it into a show, but Fox thought it might be too risky, and hence Comedy Central bought it. The show was produced and premiered on Comedy Central on the 13 August, 1997.
South Park's Traits
The shows follow the tried and tested formula of having bad things happen, then having the boys learn something from the experience. Most episodes end with either Stan or Kyle saying 'You know, I've learned something today...' after which they explain what they learned. As a result, most of the shows have a good moral message to them that you might not expect from a show about four foul-mouthed young boys.
A lot of the shows are 'issue-shows' where the writers13 try and put their point of view across. The political leaning of the show is quite complicated as it makes fun of conservatives and liberals alike. Mainly the show is very libertarian, and frequently makes fun of political correctness. In an interview, Trey Parker once said he was a registered member of the American Libertarian Party.
The show's animation is very crude. The original episodes were stop-motion-animation using construction paper, but since then they have used computers to achieve that effect. While the 'poor' animation quality may seem like a drawback, it's actually very useful as it allows the shows to be made very quickly. Whereas an episode of The Simpsons takes nine months to go from writing to being shown on screen, an episode of South Park can take only a few weeks. This allows them to do episodes on current events; for example, an episode where the town debates whether or not to remove Kenny's feeding-tube was shown in the US during the Terri Schiavo case14.
One aspect of South Park that comes up a lot is Trey Parker's and Matt Stone's musical abilities. The two are trained musicians and both studied music in their youth. There are a number of original scores that they wrote in the series, such as Montage, a song that is played during a montage. They also write the songs that Chef sings in the show, hence Trey's and Matt's claims that they've written songs for Isaac Hayes. Their musical talent can be seen most prominently in the feature film. One of the songs in it, Blame Canada, was nominated for an Oscar and was sung by Robin Williams at the awards ceremony.
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is the feature film based on South Park. Released in cinemas in 1999, (during the show's third series) it's notorious for one thing: its frequent use of swearwords. In fact, this film has the record for most swearwords used in a film so far. It's essentially a musical in all but name.
The story begins with the boys going to see 'The Terrance and Phillip Movie' and despite its R-rating15, they manage to get in. The frequent bad language used by the fictional Canadian comics Terrance and Phillip influences their 'fragile little minds', and they start swearing constantly. When their parents find out about this, they set up an organisation called 'Mothers Against Canada' and manage to convince the US government to arrest Terrance and Phillip and plan to have them executed. In retaliation for this, the Canadians bomb the Baldwin family, and this triggers off World War III.
Meanwhile, down in Hell, Satan is being manipulated by his lover Saddam Hussein, and is planning his invasion of Earth, which can take place once Terrance and Phillip's blood hits American soil. The only hope for the world is that Kenny16 can convince Satan that Saddam is using him.
The film was a huge success. One of the big hypes about the film was the fact that fans would finally be able to see and hear Kenny without the orange parka. The film made huge profits, partly because it was so cheap to make. Plots from the film, such as the Satan/Saddam relationship have been continued in the TV show.
The show was a huge success from its first series and it passed into American pop-culture within its first few episodes. Its success led to angry protests from conservative groups in the US, and it is right up there with the Grand Theft Auto computer games on their list of things to ban.
One of the show's most notorious episodes, the series-five episode entitled It Hits the Fan, had 162 uncensored utterances of a notorious four-lettered swearword, making it the most profanities ever spoken on TV in 23 minutes. Despite the writers doubting the show would ever be allowed, the episode aired with very little controversy, perhaps a sign that the boundaries have already shifted and sensitivities are changing.
Perhaps the greatest gift that South Park ever gave humanity was its sixth series episode Free Hat. Prior to the DVD release of Raiders of the Lost Ark there were rumours that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were going to redo the special effects to 'make the film better'. So Free Hat was written as a parody where they do remake Raiders of the Lost Ark and it turns out to be so bad that it kills the entire audience. Shortly after the show was aired Lucas and Spielberg announced that there'd be no changes to the film, something which Trey and Matt claim was prompted by the episode.
So South Park can't be all that bad.