How “South Park” Challenges the Sacred


“South Park,” running for 26 years, is known for its vulgar comedy. (Courtesy of Instagram)

If you know me or any of my roommates, you would be aware of the TV show that has played non-stop on the television every day: South Park. I can’t even recall how we became fiends for such a crazy, outlandish television show, but two months into 2023, we have binge-watched nearly all 26 seasons in its entirety. 

On the surface, many see the show as a vulgar, trashy and downright disgusting piece of television. It’s honestly what I thought going into the show, and I had little interest in it. However, the more I watched, the more I became enthralled with what the show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker had done what they had challenged with the creation of “South Park.”

“South Park” hit televisions in 1997, running for a whopping 26 years, and has garnered criticism for being too vulgar, with media advocacy groups such as The Parents Television and Media Council describing it as “a malodorous black hole of Comedy Central vomit.” But the so-called “trashy content” actually had me reflecting on things I learned so far during my time at Fordham.

Last semester, I took one of my favorite classes at Fordham called Church and Controversy, where we discussed how there is a concept the Church relies on to maintain power called the sacred. The sacred essentially means that it is a concept or way of thinking used by a group that cannot be challenged or questioned, or the foundation that the group establishes will fall apart. So when discussing challenging conventions, there’s no better show for the task than “South Park.” 

At its core, the show is a satirical take on political and real-world topics that may be seen as too taboo to be addressed. Yet, Stone and Parker took it upon themselves to address these  controversal issues such as mental health, abortion and religion. 

Through the use of these vulgar elementary school children, the creators inflate the topics to a ridiculous scale to reach both sides of the political aisle. The show notably critiques both major political affiliations rather than taking a single form of agenda. 

But what makes the show very interesting to me is how entertaining it is to find humor in almost every single major world event or severe topic. Part of the issue for why there is a lack of communication between people is they don’t know how to address political issues. “South Park” completely ignores that dielmma by weaving in these topics in such a crazy way that you have to discuss and unpack what you just saw.

The show sees no topic as too dangerous to cover, even blasting celebrities for their poor behavior while also defending those who may not get the proper coverage. In Season 12’s “Britney’s New Look,” in which Stone and Parker commentate on how the media treats people suffering from mental health crises like Britney Spears, they are intentionally disturbing to emphasize the toxicity of how the media treated her. By being so outlandish the episode sticks with the viewer even after it ends, and creating a memorable piece of television is Stone and Parker’s ultimate goal.

The thing that works so well for the creators is how easy it is for them to create episodes. The animation style is simple, with paper-like cutouts, and the episodes run for 20-30 minutes. Coupled with the endless amount of real-world topics and problems to address, it’s possible that “South Park” may continue for years to come.

I think what I like most about it is that, at the end of the day, it just makes me laugh. One of the reasons people watch television is to be entertained and laugh after a hard day of life. I feel that with “South Park,” I’m getting to discuss problems I think are real and challenging with comedy and humor, something that can unite us all. The show is almost effortless with how funny it is, and it encourages you not to take life too seriously, something I sometimes find myself struggling to do. But at its core, it is something that bonded my roommates and I together this year as we spent nights sitting on the couch, scrolling aimlessly through episode after episode.