The Secret Handshake Between South Park and the Simpsons

At this point, you must have heard about the Prophet Muhammad brouhaha stirred up with last week’s South Park episode, “201“. It is certainly nothing new for creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who have already tackled the issue of censorship and Muhammed with their “Cartoon Wars” two-parter, when Cartman also goes on his Family Guy witch-hunt. The bigger issue here, “Censorship In The Media,” is again referenced in the episode with a guest appearance from Bart Simpson, his skateboard, and his impeccable comedic timing. Noting signs of an animated alliance, we began to wonder when and where signs of such a “relationship” between the shows first took shape…

Back in 2002, having acknowledged that The Simpsons has already lampooned everything there is to lampoon, South Park‘s Stone and Parker paid homage to their “adult” cartoon counterpart, dedicating an entire episode to Matt Groening and his similarly hypercritical American satire. Groening would then reciprocate a year later with Bart and Millhouse watching South Park in “The Bart of War.” So begins their back-scratching relationship, and more head-scratching.

This near-decade long back-and-forth has evolved into quite the symbiotic relationship between the animated behemoths, not just through their mutual distaste for tangential, derivative shows like Family Guy but also through their similar approach to politics. They both knowingly tow a line between controversial and conversational — Stone and Parker on the shout-y end of the spectrum, while Groening goes about it with a bit more subtlety. Almost ten years later came last night’s episode of the Simpsons, with Bart writing on the chalkboard again (and again), but this time with solidarity.

Interestingly enough, this confession isn’t as much from Groening himself, but rather a simultaneous rally of support for the audacity of South Park and a meta-joke about the ensuing media shitstorm. Pretty bold move on behalf of the the longest-running American sitcom ever created. Back in South Park, Colorado, it looks like Stone and Parker are wheeling towards “less” controversial topics with their upcoming summer camp episode, but then again, we never really know what to expect from the two.