South Park takes shots at Chinese censorship in 300th episode

Randy Marsh has an uncensored message for the Chinese government.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

On Wednesday night South Park marked its 300th episode by doing exactly what the irreverent Comedy Central animated show has been doing since 1997: mocking the powerful.

The new episode, Shots, the third installment of season 23, included a plot making fun of anti-vaxxers, featuring the always-ignorant Cartman claiming vaccination shots would turn him "artistic." But another plot featured Stan's dad, Randy Marsh, shouting, "Fuck the Chinese government."

The episode was following up on the global controversy created by its previous episode, Band in China. In that episode, Randy tries to expand his marijuana business to China and lands himself in a Chinese labor camp. That episode also poked fun at American organizations such as Disney and the NBA for doing business with China, and mocked Chinese censorship of stuffed bear Winnie the Pooh after some Chinese people compared his looks to those of Xi Jinping, China's president.

The Band in China episode angered Chinese censors, who wiped out video clips and discussions of the show on major platforms, such as the social network Weibo, according to The New York Times.

But the banned episode was apparently shown on the streets of Hong Kong.

"Tonight in Sham Shui Po, ⁦South Park⁩ episode 'Band in China' shown on street to large & appreciative audience," wrote author Kong Tsung-gan. "Street cinema's been yet another important facet of HK protests." 

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, no strangers to controversy, issued a fake apology Monday.

"Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts," they said. "We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn't look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?"

Fans in countries that were allowed to see and discuss the latest episodes thanked Parker and Stone on social media. "You know you really made it when you get banned in a country," one Twitter user wrote. "Congrats on 300."

Another called South Park the "best social commentary since Archie Bunker."

South Park wasn't the only China-focused controversy to make headlines recently. 

The world of video games was drawn into its own China situation. Blizzard, the company behind the game Hearthstone, removed pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai from a tournament and suspended him from pro play for one year after he made a statement supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Earlier, the NBA scrambled to apologize to Chinese fans over the weekend when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support for the Hong Kong protesters.