An old controversy surrounding Comedy Central’s animated hit “South Park” has resurfaced, as HBO Max will not stream five episodes which depict the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
HBO now offers all 23 seasons of the show on its platform, but episodes prodding Muhammad are not available to stream, according to Deadline.
Citing anonymous sources, the entertainment industry outlet reported the five episodes were excluded in a package offered to streamers by Comedy Central owner Viacom and South Park Studios.
The episodes were also absent from a previous streaming deal with Hulu, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
An equal opportunity offender, “South Park” has lampooned or otherwise targeted nearly every sector of society since the late 1990s.
But the show’s depiction of the Islamic prophet goes too far, according to critics who lambasted the show beginning in 2006.
The program’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, have gotten death threats due to the show’s depictions of Muhammad, as images of the prophet are strictly prohibited by Islam.
In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 caricatures of Muhammad, leading to riots across the Muslim world, according to the BBC. Parker and Stone were unbothered by the controversy, and they reportedly wrote Muhammad into the 2006 two-part episode “Cartoon Wars” in part as a response to it.
“‘Super Best Friends’ from the fifth season, ‘Cartoon Wars’ parts I and II from the 10th season, and ‘200′ and ‘201’ from the 14th season are all absent from the newly launched streaming service because they depicted a character based on the Prophet Muhammad,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The decision to not include the episodes is no surprise, considering the current political climate, but it is noteworthy, as earlier this month HBO pulled the classic 1939 film “Gone with the Wind” after it was criticized for apparently racist depictions of film’s black characters.
The film also came under fire for allegedly romanticizing the Antebellum South during the Civil War.
HBO, which is rumored to have paid $500 million for the rights to stream “South Park,” has not commented on the five episodes that are missing from its streaming service.
— South Park (@SouthPark) June 25, 2020
“South Park” has been renewed for a 24th season, which will premiere in the fall and be available on the HBO platform — presumably barring any appearance by Muhammad.
MTV News reported on the 2006 Muhammad controversy in 2010 after the show depicted the Islamic figure again, only to be censored by Comedy Central over fears of a backlash.
The show’s creators were not pleased with the censorship.
“In the 14 years we’ve been doing ‘South Park’ we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part,” they said in a statement at the time.
“Comedy Central added the bleep,” Parker and Stone said. “We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Parker previously said: “What p—ed me off about episodes ‘200’ and ‘201’ was that I thought the episodes ended up being really good.”
“We were so exhausted by it all, we were like, ‘F— it, just get on to the next episode.’”
“South Park” has lampooned black and celebrity culture, Christianity and Buddhism, in addition to routinely mocking Jewish characters, though all of those episodes are still available for streaming on platforms which carry the show, including HBO Max.
But the fact that the show is valued at such a high price, despite its many controversies, speaks to a demand for content which bucks the modern mores of political correctness.
Parker and Stone announced their political leanings after receiving a “freedom” award in 2018 from the People for the American Way Foundation, a liberal group.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone of @SouthPark asked me to introduce them when they received a “freedom” award from Norman Lear’s organization. After they graciously accepted, they said, “We’re republicans.” Nervous laughter. They repeated, “No, seriously, we’re republicans.”#Priceless pic.twitter.com/v6ICEXR6Eh
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) March 24, 2018
“We’re Republicans,” the duo said, according to conservative radio host Larry Elder. “No, seriously. We’re Republicans.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.