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For 25 years, the creators of South Park have looked at how far they can go

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Whether it’s religion, politics, celebrities, activism or current affairs: everything and everyone gets a kick out of American television programming. South Park, celebrates its 25th anniversary this weekend. Fan Leander van Nieuwpoort says: “Musicians play to the extreme with poor politics or taboos.

The award-winning animated satirical show first aired on US television on August 13, 1997. The title of the first episode, Cartman gets a probe from behind (Cartman gets a probe in the back), gives a sense of how graphic and juvenile the jokes are, especially in the earlier seasons. But under this flat, according to enthusiasts, there is an extra layer in which society keeps up a mirror.

Thanks to the minimalist animations, the production of an episode takes about a week. According to 31-year-old Van Nieuwpoort, this speed explains why, in his opinion, the show is still so important after more than 300 episodes.

‘Start with current affairs’

“If you want new episodes, for example, The Simpsons in Family Guy seems, which takes a lot of time to do, then they have jokes about things that happened six months ago. That is a big difference South Parkwho can immediately deal with recent events.”

In a quarter of a century, the controversial series won four Emmy Awards. But in addition to rave reviews, there was also a lot of fuss and criticism. Religious organizations, from Scientology to Islam, sometimes distorted the parody that cried. The episodes in which the prophet Mohammed could see, or in what was initially the intention, led to threats against the musicians.

“Some people say, ‘Wow! I can’t believe they’re making fun of something so important.’ And that’s exactly why we joke about something,” co-creator Trey Parker told the AP news agency. He and Matt Stone are the brains behind the series.

‘All right, China?

The way the pair usually deal with criticism is by adding a satirical joke on top. An example of this is reaction in 2019 on removing the reference South Park on Chinese social media after an episode about self-censorship by western companies.

Here is an excerpt from the episode that was banned in China:

“We also love money more than freedom and democracy. Long live the Chinese Communist Party! Everything okay, China?” Parker and Stone said in a statement. The duo also once launched the “#CancelSouthPark” campaign, as a parody of the so-called cancellation culture.

Van Nieuwpoort: “Matt and Trey want to see how far they can go. For some people they have really gone too far. I can laugh about it, but I can imagine that others do not feel comfortable with it.”

“I watched it since it came on TV in the Netherlands, on Net 5. Then I recorded it with a video tape,” says Maarten Lemmens with a laugh. The 37-year-old from Hoek van Holland is the founder and manager of a Dutch South Park fan website. “It’s very funny and still relevant. For example, the whole corona pandemic was ridiculed last year.”

A difference from previous seasons is that the episodes have built on each other more often in recent years. “It used to have more separate episodes,” says Lemmens. “I think it has slowed down a bit, but I still watch when there are new episodes.

According to Lemmens, it doesn’t always work out that there is now a more continuous scenario. Van Nieuwpoort adds that this is the risk if a plot twist actually has consequences. In this way a scenario continues even if it is not so strong.

Viewer adjusted

De Kijkwijzer recently adjusted the age classification for South Park. After complaints about, among other things, the use of language, the advice applies from season 20: viewing from the age of 12. For previous seasons, it was 6 years and more.

Enthusiast Lemmens understands that the age has increased. “It’s not a show for kids, more for adults. Actually for just-not-adults, because the humor works very well with 16-year-olds.”

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