Amidst many other throwbacks to past episodes in "200" and "201," Muhammad is the most noteworthy: he appeared as a character in an early season, but was later censored in the 2006 two-parter "Cartoon Wars," which was written in part as a response to the censoring of a Dutch newspaper for comic strip representations of Muhammad. The funny thing about "201" is that it was heavily censored. All mentions of the Islam founder's name were bleeped out as was Kyle's summarizing message at the end of the episode. Many of the edits were implemented by Comedy Central, not Parker and Stone, and the series creators have now responded to the move.
In a statement posted on the South Park Studios website, Parker and Stone write:
"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. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it."
I have to say, I'm surprised to hear that the summarizing message was bleeped out at the end. When hopeful fans navigated to South Park Studios to stream the episode and were greeted with the message that Comedy Central had censored parts of the episode, I think most figured -- I certainly did -- that those edits were the Muhammad bleeps.
The end-of-episode moral bleeping felt like a joke; Parker and Stone, for all of their crass humor, can do subtle. And faking a redacted message felt very much in keeping with their sense of humor. I'm distressed to hear now that there was something written, and that it didn't even mention Muhammad.
Bleeping the Islam founder's name is a justifiable network decision. It is potentially offensive to a religious group and Comedy Central did what they deemed necessary to not offend their broad viewer base. Removing Kyle's message is another story; Parker and Stone meant to make a point, and they should have been allowed to. In an effort to keep the message broad, and perhaps realizing that "Muhammad" might be an issue, they left the name out of that monologue. And still they were censored. I don't get it, and I don't agree with it.
It will be interesting to see how Parker and Stone's promise that "we'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different" plays out. I imagine we'll see some sort of response to this week's shenanigans, but I have to believe it will be something more clever than a rejiggering of "Cartoon Wars," which was itself a commentary on overly sensitive media censoring. What do you fans think we can expect?