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September 2, 2015

South Park: Cartoon Wars

by Adam Finley, posted Apr 6th 2006 9:17AM

south parkLast night South Park, in a way only South Park can, managed to mix Family Guy and the recent kerfuffle over cartoons involving the Prophet Muhammed into a scathing indictment of both. In the South Park universe, the "offensive Muhammed cartoon" is an episode of Family Guy which the Fox Network decides to censor. Cartman convinces Kyle to join him on his quest to get the episode off the air. It turns out Cartman doesn't care about the offensive episode, he just really, really, hates Family Guy, calling it poorly-written and accusing it of using interchangeable jokes, rather than jokes that actually have something to do with the plot.

I've said it on this blog and elsewhere that Family Guy's humor can be very jarring at times. Whatever plot there is has to be ground to a halt in order to insert as many one-off gags as possible. There's no effort on behalf of the writers to try and weave jokes into the story, jokes simply pop in and out wherever they seem to fit. In that regard, it's not even comparable to shows like South Park and The Simpsons, which take a more substantive approach to their humor and satire, even if South Park appears to delve into the same scatological humor as Family Guy at times.

There's a mistake that a lot of critics make, and that's to judge a show on what you think it should be rather than what it's actually trying to be. Does Family Guy use interchangeable jokes? Yes, it does, and so did the classic Warner Bros. cartoons from which the show takes its aesthetic. Family Guy has never been about depth, it has always been, from the first season on, about getting yucks. It is a CARTOON in every sense of the word, a series of animated drawings packed with as many jokes as possible, plot be damned. Nobody watches Family Guy hoping to hear some profound truth or see some hidden injustice exposed. If they want that kind of experience, they'll watch South Park. Or, if they can wrap their mind around the concept that two cartoons can have vastly different approaches to humor, they might actually be able to watch and enjoy both.

There's a moment toward the end of the episode when Kyle's Big Wheel goes crashing off a mountain, stops, and then bursts into flame. This same joke, one in which something shouldn't catch on fire but does, has been done before by both The Simpsons and Family Guy. In fact, you don't have to watch any of these animated programs for very long before you start to see some of the same gags and pop culture references. When I watched the Big Wheel explode, I thought to myself that despite making every effort to set itself apart from everything in order to have a more accurate satirical vantage point, South Park and its creators don't exist in a vacuum. Many people will tell you that any creative endeavor is just a matter of filtering and arranging ideas which already exist, and this is especially true for comedy writers. If you find something funny, it's likely someone else found it funny as well and has done it before. It's not about who did what first, it's about how you frame the joke and give it your own personal signature. In that regard, I think both Family Guy and South Park do just fine.

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I don't care which show people feel is better, but I find it hilarious that this article implies that people watch South Park "hoping to hear some profound truth or see some hidden injustice exposed". People make me laugh.

July 20 2012 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

South Park already did it -in the episode "The simpsons already did it" they highlight that a show such as the simpsons (or these days family;)) has been running so long that theres bound to be some overlap. Its likeley that the big wheel explosion was a diliberate parody anyway. I like the Trey & Matt disagreement idea above^ Thats very plausable. I didn't think the family guy insults where very hurtful anyway. They made fun of themselves just as much about "preaching" and so on

April 17 2006 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael Shapiro


April 16 2006 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episode was superbly written and South Park is evolving into the ultimate multi-layered social commentary in the U.S. wihtout forgetting to make fun of itself: "at least family guy doesnt get preachy and up its own a** with messages"

well, many people have pointed out to several things but I believe the primary point of this episode lies in the final scene: the hypocrisy of US media and even more than that, the public opinion. Political correctness in this country has reached such a state that even before any fanatic Muslim's reaction, we the American people would automatically find a two second shot of Muhammed inappropriate but won't object to Jesus taking a dump on the President and the flag.

The scary part is the internalization of this double standard by the people and the process of rationalizing it by false arguments such as "trying to avoid bloodshed". That's how one can live with a buried head in the sand.

South Park is truly a great show; not necessarily funnier than Family Guy but completely on another level and much more worthy of praise.

April 15 2006 at 6:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tracy R Twyman

Have you heard about the direct reference to the president of Comedy Central at the end of the second South Park Mohammed episode? When Kyle is pleading with the president of the Fox Network to air the image of Mohammed in The Family Guy uncensored, he says at one point, specifically:

You cant do what he [Cartman] wants, just because hes the one threatening you with violence. Yes, people can get hurt. Thats how terrorism works. But if you give in to that, Doug, youre allowing terrorism to work. Do the right thing here.

This is the only such reference to "Doug" in the script. Everywhere else in the episode, this character is simply referred to as Mr. President. This "Doug" is undoubtedly Doug Herzog, the President of Comedy Central.

You can listen to the audio clip, here: http://plusultrablog.com/blog/?p=1209

April 14 2006 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timmy O'Toole

Don't Let Terrorists Take Our Freedom!

Please sign the online petition http://www.petitiononline.com/ccentral :

To: Comedy Central
We, the South Park fans and freedom lovers of the world, demand that Comedy central re-air the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars II" with the image of the prophet (sic) Muhammad (also spelled Mohammad) uncensored.

You may contact Comedy Central at http://www.comedycentral.com/help/questionsCC.jhtml

To learn more about this global travesty please visit the following sources:


The Undersigned


April 14 2006 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My own personal feeling and I think the South Park people might feel the same way is that South Park and the Simpsons are like the Warner Bros. cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, et al.), and Family Guy is like Tom and Jerry. Is this fair? Useful? Delicious? Please advise.

April 14 2006 at 2:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i never thought of Family Guy as having "interchangable" jokes... they are more random, and that's the point. it's a show that you have to keep your eye on because at any moment there is something random being thrown at you, like a 'short-attention-span-theater' of sorts.

i thought the black out of the second episode was weak and pointless, although the entire concept could have been M&T's retaliation for Comedy Central pulling the Church of Scientology show from repeats (and the one with the bleeding virgin Mary).

April 13 2006 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why the hell did comedy central take out the Mohammed scene. That is stupid it's just a cartoon, I get why matt and trey did it in cartoon wars part one. But why the hell did comedy central block out that scene, I wanted to see what thebig dam deal is. Yell they made fun of other shows and so fourth. Come on people it's just a wacky crazy show, we watch for fun so why do u all care what they show?

I looked up this Mohammed guy on google and it's was no big deal ok. So stop whinning and show the damn scene.

April 13 2006 at 4:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It must be said....The creators of South Park are geniuses.

April 12 2006 at 11:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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