25 Years of Trash: Why I Still Love “South Park” So Much

In July 1998, France crossed a border. An event of capital importance opens the doors to a new universe in the country. Internationally, the Nation joins the greats. There is no question, here, of evoking July 12, which marked me only slightly. If it is indeed a band of close-knit and talented guys, their sport is more about kicking the anthill than the ball. On July 17, 1998, at 8:35 p.m., Canal + of the great era, then still caustic, offbeat, impertinent, daring, broadcast before our astonished eyes the first episode of the American animated series South Park. And I was.

The series has no favorite target but likes to “tease” Canadians and draw them differently. The song Blame Canada from the feature film was nominated for an Oscar.©Comedy Central

I was barely 12 years old and parents not only subscribed to the encrypted channel, but above all open. I am privileged, I know it. Some of my buddies didn’t have my luck, their parents not seduced by the American proposal. And it didn’t take me three minutes to feel fulfilled. The French title of the episode is “Cartman has an anal probe”. The first light-hearted exchanges between the protagonists bounce from a “big bitch” has a ” fatty “of a “probe in the ass” has a ” band motherfuckers “of a “big puff” at “unmold a cake”. And, between two kicks in a baby passing by, it’s about dildos.

Mr Hankey or the uncompromising personification of scatological humor that stings the South Park : Christmas shit that talks and sings.©Comedy Central

Did I even know what it was at the time? No matter, I was bent over these colorful characters, cut out, glued together, badly animated, at least in a summary and artisanal way, for my greatest pleasure as a preteen soon fascinated by Do It Yourself, punk and irreverence, already good at simpsonsthen, more seriously still, to Jackass from 2000. A bunch of kids in geometric shapes who waddle, badly brought up, therefore, who were to become among my best friends. We are in July 1998, but the series has existed for a year in the United States. The lucky guys eat South Park since August 1997 on Comedy Central. It was 25 years ago. And South Park forever become pop culture’s decadent enemy within.

Overdose of effervescent antacids

South Park, or the daily life of four kids in elementary school in a small town with the same name of the same name in Colorado, confronted with the paradoxes of a neurotic society and adults who are even more neurotic. Stan Marsh, first, the nice guy a little naive, but not fooled and in love with his comrade Wendy Testaburger in front of which he vomits a little too easily. Kyle Broflovski then, his best friend, one of the most intelligent of the characters, with the apple green chapka, with a marked temperament and from the only Jewish family in the area – which is often pointed out to him and not in the usual way. nicer.

There is also Eric Cartman, awful obese jojo, mean, racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, without any limit of vulgarity, without any sense of decorum, but endowed with an ironclad determination. Finally, the iconic Kenny McCormick, all wrapped up in an orange outfit that barely lets his eyes see and makes him speak in a muffled voice that only his fictitious interlocutors can understand – the latter repeating his words each time or responding in a to make us understand what was gibberish.

His specialty, dying at the end of a large number of episodes, a terrible and bloody death. A sequence followed by the same words: “Oh my god, they killed Kenny!” “, ” Band motherfuckers ! ». He died impaled, shot, burned, crushed… then always eaten by a hungry pack of rats. In episode 7 of season 4, he gorges himself on sweets which are in fact effervescent antacids. It swells and explodes all over the room. His buddies, taken aback, end up bursting out laughing. And Stan concludes: “Ah, she was good that one! »

Draw inspiration from reality

And you know what ? This same Kenny, who has died more than a hundred times, is inspired by a childhood friend of the brilliant and crazy creators of the show, Matt Stone (a former student, moreover, of Columbine High School in Colorado where he took place a mass shooting on April 20, 1999, and interviewed in the documentary Bowling For Columbine by Michael Moore) and Trey Parker. He was skipping school and pretending to be dead only to turn up like a flower a few days later. The others are also direct references to the more or less distant entourage of the two acolytes who met in film college before sealing a bubbling creative friendship with a lot of sleepless nights of work and psychedelic products.

These four children, this is one of the great contributions of the series. The world is uncompromisingly deciphered through their dumbfounded gaze at the behavior of their elders: despite themselves, they are a kind of voice of reason in a barred and gunned-down world in full derailment. Do not believe either that they are gentle lambs: all have, after 25 seasons, a criminal record of which the worst psychopath on Earth would not manage to reach the hundredth.

Scientology and scatology

But, for 25 years, the strength of South Park it is its relationship to freedom of expression and entertainment, to the cultural industry. For the first time, there is something libertarian in the series: all the speeches, but really all, from the most angelic to the most virulent, obscene, violent, toxic, are evoked, quoted, personified without detour. And above all, laughed at without any restraint. A ferocious ability to dissect everything, particularly linked to the production method of the program: animation takes a very long time to design, but each episode of South Park cover to cover is produced in just one week. Thus, the news is as ubiquitous as it is boiling. Season 12’s “About Last Night…” for example, discusses Obama’s 2008 victory less than 24 hours after the results, among a host of other examples.

But what Matt Stone and Trey Parker prefer even more is to dismantle their fellow artists and other figureheads of culture or public life. Thus, several hundred personalities took their toll: Bono, the Cures, Britney Spears, David Caruso, Patrick Duffy, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Marc Zuckerberg, Lorde, Kanye West, Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, or even Tom Cruise and John Travolta in an episode dedicated to Scientology.

“Trapped in the closet”, season 9, episode 12, led to the departure of Isaac Hayes (actor and creator of the soundtrack of shaft among other jewels), himself a follower of the cult and the emblematic voice of the character of Chef, a black cook, a libidinous soul singer. In short: think of someone in the American news, you will find him somewhere in South Park.

Through these satires, it is both the media and cultural system eaten away by dogmas that our obsessive relationship of unhealthy spectators to pop culture, to celebrity, to the image that is put into play. But, to tell the truth , it’s so mean and cartoonish, in the best sense of the word, that it’s hard to take it the wrong way. And all of this, of course, with the help of a gigantic paraphernalia of scatological jokes: South Park talks a lot about poo and loves it, without complex. Another quite rare parameter of which the series is a proud standard bearer.

Terry Gilliam loves it

The success was so rapid that a first feature film was released on world screens in 1999. A musical (the music is a key element of the series, and in the service of let’s say bold messages) hailed by Terry Gilliam, mainstay Monty Pythons, cult director of Las Vegas Parano, Army of the 12 Monkeys, Brazildirect inspiration from the absurd to the South Park. Before the release of video games and other off-format proposals such as creation South Park Post Covid59-minute episode of season 24.

Absurd, vulgar, crude, satirical, violent, insightful, eloquent, South Park knew how to make people laugh with serious and serious subjects, and it’s far from over.

25 Years of Trash: Why I Still Love “South Park” So Much