'South Park' and Jersey: How the latest episode compares to the show's past celeb satires
"South Park" has aired on Comedy Central for an astonishing 13 years. As a consistent pop cultural force, it's gone the same route as its animated-comedy godfather, "The Simpsons": The show's satire is revered yet somehow often forgotten in the daily conversation about what's buzz-worthy on television.
Then every once in a while, Trey Parker and Matt Stone create an episode that gets everyone talking and reminds America that Cartman and Co. have indeed continued to be funny long after "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" came out. That's exactly what they did with last night's skewering of all things Garden State-related, "It's a Jersey Thing." An episode that imagines a scenario in which New Jersey is taking over the nation (it does kind of feel that way sometimes, doesn't it?), the installment may be most notable for its less-than-flattering depiction of Snooki. And by less-than-flattering, I mean inappropriate enough that I don't even feel comfortable embedding video of it in this blog post. (You can watch the full episode here.)
How does the Snooki mockery -- which, based on her Twitter response, the real Snooks seems totally okay with -- compare to four of their numerous past celebrity sendups? Time for a quick comparison.
Barbra Streisand in "Mecha-Streisand" (season one): Icon Streisand is depicted as a massive mechanical dinosaur bent on destroying South Park, until Robert Smith of the Cure assumes the form of a moth and kills her.
Controversy level: Minor, although Streisand reportedly didn't care for the episode.
Compared to "It's a Jersey Thing": "Mecha-Streisand" was not as funny. And not as much of a water cooler moment, either. Babs has nothing to worry about.
Mel Gibson in "The Passion of the Jew" (season eight): Cartman becomes the leader of the Mel Gibson fan club (and begins to dress sort of like Hitler). Stan and Kenny travel to Gibson's mansion to ask the director for a refund of their "Passion of the Christ" ticket money. Gibson behaves like a lunatic who is desperate for someone, anyone, to torture him.
Controversy level: Um, you read that plot description, right? Actually, the episode was critically well-received. Well, probably not by Gibson...
Compared to "It's a Jersey Thing": A braver and ultimately more shocking bit of cultural and celebrity commentary.
Tom Cruise in "Trapped in the Closet" (season nine): Stan becomes a Scientologist and is believed to be the second coming of L. Ron Hubbard. This prompts Cruise to come to his house, only to lock himself in a closet when he finds out Stan doesn't think much of his acting. Cruise refuses to come out of said closet until the end of the episode, when he threatens to sue Stan.
Controversy level: Huge. Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef, left the show, allegedly because of this episode. And there was a major kerfuffle when Comedy Central didn't re-air the episode for a while, sparking outrage from fans and speculation that Cruise put pressure on Comedy Central corporate parents Viacom and Paramount so they would not rebroadcast it, something the actor denied.
Compared to "It's a Jersey Thing": Again, this was braver (and better) comedy. After all, Cruise could have sued over this. Is Snooki going to sue for being accused of wanting to have too much sex? Don't think so.
The Jonas Brothers in "The Ring" (season nine): Kenny and the boys realize that the Jo Bros are encouraging their impressionable female fans to wear purity rings as part of a Disney Co. plot to subliminally sell sex to girls.
Controversy level: Minor. This didn't spark the kind of dialogue that the Jersey takedown did.
Compared to "It's a Jersey Thing": "The Ring" was funny, but in this contest, "Jersey" wins. But maybe just by a Snooki.
What did you think of last night's episode? And how does it rank in the pantheon of "South Park" satires?
| October 14, 2010; 6:57 PM ET
Categories: Pop Culture, TV
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