Unsurprisingly, South Park has been banned in China after an especially critical episode. The adult animated sitcom South Park has been closely followed by criticism and controversy since its debut in 1997. The series has been constantly criticized for its depiction of taboo subjects, dark humor, portrayal of different religions, and overall representation of political and social issues. While some find it to be repulsive, others enjoy the series quite a lot, so much that it’s currently on its twenty-third season and still has a pretty solid fanbase.
South Park has fired shots at almost every topic considered taboo and every major political situation around the world, always with its peculiar type of comedy and characters that often use toilet humor no matter the subject. It’s not surprising, then, that some episodes and even the series in general have been suspended or banned in some countries, the latest one being China. South Park knows no boundaries and one of its recent episodes earned it a ban in that country.
The episode, titled “Band In China” follows Randy Marsh as he travels to China to expand the family’s marijuana business there. Once he arrives, he is arrested and is witness to harsh treatment of prisoners in China. Among the prisoners are Piglet and Winnie-the-Pooh, as they were banned in that country after several memes compared Chinese president Xi Jinping to the animated bear. Meanwhile, in South Park, Stan is approached by a producer who wants to make a biopic of his band. Stan accepts but is quickly met with the harsh reality that some aspects of the band’s lives will have to be edited or cut out entirely in order to make the film marketable in China due to their extreme censorship of the media. The episode criticized not only the country’s current political and social situation but also how Hollywood has been adapting its products to suit the Chinese market. This storyline earned South Park a ban in China, which went as far as to delete any and all material related to the series.
The government of China has control of content in the media, and can censor it as they please. This censorship has become more strict since Xi Jinping became President in 2012, with the government maintaining control over all media that can reach a wide audience, including television, film, radio, print media, theater, instant messaging, video games, literature, and the Internet. Anything controversial or politically incorrect (to their standards) is either censored, blacked out, or banned. China even has its own versions of popular websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, all of which have been banned.
There was no way South Park was not going to get its dose of censorship, but the government took it a few steps farther by banning it completely. The series has reportedly been deleted from every streaming service, social media, and fan page, with searches on Weibo (the equivalent to Twitter) not turning up any mentions of the show, and the streaming service Youku not showing any clips, episodes, or full seasons anymore. All threads and sub-threads on discussion platforms have also disappeared.
What happened to South Park is quite ironic, but it’s something the creators surely saw coming, and as they have never been afraid of mocking and criticizing anyone, they aren’t really concerned about their show being banned in China. South Park’s ban only shows that censorship in that country is being taken to extremes, and it (sadly) shows no signs of stopping soon.