They dropped acid and wore ball gowns to the Oscars. They made a movie where puppets engage in piss play. They were so determined to skewer Scientology, they let their biggest-name star quit the show for the pleasure of making fun of his religion. But Trey Parker and Matt Stone couldn’t possibly make fun of Donald Trump.
In an interview with Australia’s ABC News, the creators of South Park revealed that the next season of the long-running cartoon won’t take aim at current U.S. politics, “because satire has become reality,” Parker said. He went on to say that throughout the last season, which aired during the election, “we were really trying to make fun of what was going on, but we couldn’t keep up, and what was actually happening was much funnier than anything we could come up with.” It was, indeed, hilarious when a racist misogynist reality-TV star won the presidency, and yet the South Park team managed to carry out the task at hand, re-writing their post-election episode in a single day to reflect Trump’s win.
But now, Parker said, “we decided to kind of back off and let them do their comedy and we’ll do ours.” Hang on — isn’t South Park predicated on indiscriminately making fun of everything and everyone in a zealous attempt to piss off as many people as possible? For the record, here’s a very incomplete list of entities South Park has impaled on its comedy spear over its 20 seasons:
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda
Pope Benedict XVI
John Wayne Gacy
George W. Bush
Bill and Hillary Clinton
Honey Boo Boo
Queen Elizabeth II
Barack and Michelle Obama
Osama bin Laden
It’s interesting that just as mainstream culture appears to be catching up to Parker and Stone’s libertarian, anti-PC, everyone-is-an-equal-target brand of humor — and, in some cases, taking it into morally and ethically iffy territory — the pair is suddenly extolling the merits of keeping your mouth shut.
In an interview with Vulture in July 2016, Stone said, “‘Political correctness’ — I feel like that’s becoming a catch-all term for just shit that you don’t like. I don’t think I probably agree with Donald Trump, but we did a whole bit about political correctness last year. We’ve been interested in that debate for a long time. But not everything is political correctness gone mad. Sometimes you just shouldn’t say something.”
It appears that when faced with a figure who’s so outrageous that making fun of him on a satirical cartoon series is unlikely to turn heads or piss off the majority of the country, Parker and Stone just aren’t feeling it. In a way, the rise of the alt-right has given them a golden opportunity to make a statement about what humor can and can’t do, or at least explore the consequences of a movement that enshrines free speech and the right to offend above all else. Instead, it seems Parker and Stone have retreated to their comfortable perch atop the ladder of TV comedy, taken one look at the current political hellscape, and sighed, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”