While the second episode of South Park's twenty-third season, titled "Band in China," has...well, been banned in China, you can still see it in North America, and comedy Central is taking full advantage of the controversy to push out a tweet directing fans who are trying to make sense of the latest controversy to check out the episode and judge for themselves. "Band in China," which sees the characters of South Park weigh ethical principles against the prospect of making money in China, has been scrubbed from the Chinese Internet and streaming sites, after previously being available to viewers in the region. And, in doing so, the Chinese government may have just proven the very point that South Park's creators were trying to make.
In a statement earlier today, Parker and Stone invoked the NBA, taking shots at the organization's recent attempt to smooth things over with China after general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets Daryl Morey expressed support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
South Park is no stranger to controversy and that's certainly the case just two episodes into season 23. The Comedy Central series' episode "Band in China" ended up being banned in China, scrubbed from its internet and streaming sites. Earlier today, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are responding to the ban with a statement that is perfectly on brand for South Park, using their statement to take a jab not only at the censorship, but at the NBA for their recent apology to China as well.
You gotta lower your ideals of freedom if you wanna suck on the warm teat of China. #southpark23October 7, 2019
"Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts," the statement reads. "We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doens't look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10 p.m. Long live the great Communist Party of China. May the autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful. We good now China?"
What started the situation was, the "Band in China" episode of South Park which saw Randy Marsh -- who currently owns Tegrity Farms, a marijuana business -- decide to open up the Chinese market to legal weed. At the same time, Stan Marsh and friends start a heavy metal band and are "discovered" and the record label retools the band to a more Chinese market-friendly concept. It's meant to be commentary on the Hollywood practice of molding export content to China's censorship policies. The episode also openly mocks China’s authoritative grasp on its citizens through censorship. The main example in the episode is Winnie the Pooh and Piglet being locked in Chinese jail because of a popular meme that compares China's president Xi to Pooh.
As a result, everything about South Park vanished from China's internet and social media, including mentions on the country's Twitter-like Weibo, while links to episodes and seasons on streaming services no longer work. Even manual attempts to locate message threads come back with a notice that "According to the relevant law and regulation, this section is temporarily not open," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In 2010, South Park's 200th episode -- appropriately named "200" -- resulted in the series being banned in Sri Lanka after the episode depicted the Buddha snorting cocaine. South Park has also courted controversy and even boycotts in the U.S., including from episodes that depict violence, abundant swearing, and literal toilet humor. In 2002, Parker and Stone incensed the American right by appearing in Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, the controversial and Academy Award-winning documentary from Roger & Me's Michael Moore.