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`South Park’ stirs up a lotta (bleep)

Jun 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

What the (bleep) will “South Park” do to top last week’s episode, the one in which the cute cut-out animated grade-school kids with the TV MA-rated mouths uttered a certain four-letter expletive (the one that translates as “merde” in French) no fewer than 162 times?
An animated counter in the corner of the screen was keeping track during the episode, and yes, the perhaps-having-it-both-ways moral at the end of the story was that casual use of curse words can harm a society.
In the case of the “South Park” episode, the unconstrained use of the word “shit” actually brought on an epidemic of the Black Plague. As usual, the inside jokes in the episode-which creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone delivered to the network the same evening it was broadcast-were fast and furious.
In the episode, the person most harmful to society was a ratings-crazed network president who came up with the idea of introducing the word “shit” into every show in prime time, so that he can promo “The Night of a Thousand Shits.” And who eventually rides in to society’s rescue? It’s the heroic Knights of Standards and Practices, no less.
“[If] You want to teach a lesson about how it’s wrong to curse,” said Parents Television Council president L. Brent Bozell of the episode in question, “don’t say the word `shit’ 162 times. This is `South Park’ being cutsey-pie. They’ve clearly gone over the line.”
“That’s basically what you hear from the cultural warriors,” said Mr. Stone. “If we let `shit’ out, it’s just going to be the end of civilization. They could be right, but I don’t think it’s up to biblical plague proportions yet.”
Mr. Stone expressed surprise that the network didn’t put up any opposition to the episode, saying that he and Mr. Parker had figured, “If we start the fight now, maybe we’ll get it on next season,” but Comedy Central put it on right away.
As for topping the controversy of last week’s episode, there’s always “cartoon penetration,” Mr. Stone said.