A long time ago, in an America far far away, South Park used to be about fart jokes and pushing the envelope for the sake of it. Then, as we covered recently at Cultured Vultures, the show evolved. Matt Stone and Trey Parker, almost by accident, turned out to be masters of on-the-nose satire.
The best thing about modern South Park, though, is the parody episodes. Whether they’re making fun of World War Z or sending up Tron, Stone and Parker always manage to tackle stuff from an oblique angle.
Sometimes the pair will drop in a film homage to reflect something happening in pop culture. Remember the time they used The Shining to make fun of Blockbuster’s march towards obscurity? Are any of you even old enough to remember Blockbuster? You lucky things.
In chronological order, here’s our top five South Park parody episodes.
1. The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring To the Two Towers (Season 6)
What it parodies:Lord of the Rings
In 2002, Lord of the Rings was walking around with its big boy pants on. The Two Towers managed to beat out Harry Potter, Star Wars and Spider-Man as the biggest film of the year. South Park took that as a challenge.
As eight year olds are want to do, the kids of South Park are playing as whatever’s popular at the movies. In full wizard and elf dress up, the kids are tasked by Stan’s parents to take their Lord of the Rings rental to a friends house. Only, is it Lord of the Rings in the box, or is it the porno Stan’s parents rented as well?
Needless to say, the impressionable Butters, who hasn’t seen Lord of the Rings yet, is scarred for life. Like the One Ring, the porno video has a power the kids don’t understand. The gang are tasked to take the video back to the rental store, all the time being pursued by a horde of horny 6th graders.
Of course, this wouldn’t be South Park if it didn’t push the envelope for as far as it would stay funny. When the town’s parents find out what’s happened they rush to ensure the kids get proper context for what’s in the video. When they finally deliver this context the looks of confusion and horror on the kids’ faces are unforgettable.
2. The Snuke (Season 11)
What it Parodies: 24
Eric Cartman’s bigotry is well documented, but here South Park uses it to masterfully lampoon both xenophobia and 24. Remember 24? That show about Kiefer Sutherland going around torturing folk and generally being a slightly scary agent of the American government?
The episode revolves around a new Muslim student in Cartman’s class. To absolutely no one’s surprise Cartman immediately suspects the new student of terrorism, leading to him calling the CIA for help. The whole thing balloons from there, with Hillary Clinton revealed to be the target of an actual attack from one of America’s oldest enemies.
It’s chock full of nods to 24, including the split screen and the beeping 24 hour clock. There’s plot twists, moments of false jeopardy and lots of secret agents. Oh, and Cartman uses farting as an instrument of torture.
3. Night of the Living Homeless (Season 11)
What it parodies:Night of the Living Dead (and other George A. Romero zombie flicks)
Stone and Parker cleverly switch out the undead for homeless people in this parody of zombie films. On one level, the episode is altogether too harsh on homeless people. On another level it shines a lens on the irrational fear so many ordinary folk have of the homeless.
There’s an increasing number of homeless people appearing in South Park. Kyle, with his strict moral compass, decides to give one some change. Unfortunately, this leads to an ‘epidemic’, with Randy Marsh and friends barring themselves inside the community centre.
The episode takes the chance to indulge in as many zombie genre tropes it can squeeze out. There’s the scientist who saw it coming, the homeowner who loses his mortgage and becomes ‘one of them’ and the zombie-hardened survivors.
Satire should always endeavour to punch upwards, and here South Park manages to land an uppercut on our own tendency towards panic and hysteria. Instead of trying to solve the route causes of homelessness, the people of South Park treat them like zombies. It’s not a perfect parody by any stretch, but when you really think about it the episodes real bad guys are us.
4. Major Boobage (Season 12)
What it parodies:Heavy Metal
Long before South Park ever farted onto the airwaves, the 1980s bore us a cult cartoon film called Heavy Metal. Less of a movie than a collection of short stories, the reason for Heavy Metal’s success eluded many critics for years. Was it the mix of sci-fi and fantasy? Was it the funky animation style?
No. It was the boobs. It was always the boobs. With Major Boobage, Stone and Parker used the same cartoon style and sci-fi weirdness to remind us of this fact. Kenny quickly becomes addicted to a new legal high (male cat urine, if you’re interested) that sends him on a series of drug-induced visions.
In his head, Kenny is on a stark, dusty planet where he falls in love with a skimpily dressed cowgirl. Every building on the planet is decorated elaborately with stone cut boobs. The whole thing ends with Kenny fighting Kyle’s dad in what he believes to be a colosseum, but which is in fact a local playground.
Don’t do drugs, kids, and just admit why you watched Heavy Metal. We all know.
5. Medicinal Fried Chicken (Season 14)
What it parodies:Scarface
When KFC react to new fast food laws by closing all their eateries in Colorado, Cartman is devastated. Quickly though, KFC becomes a new street product and smuggling begins.
In Scarface, Al Pacino becomes the cocaine king of Miami. Here, Cartman becomes the KFC kingpin of Colorado. The stand out gag is a parody of Scarface’s scene in Bolivia, where Al Pacino meets a powerful cocaine supplier. Here, Cartman meets a terrifying version of KFC founder Colonel Sanders, who warns him in no uncertain terms: “don’t ever fuck me, Eric.”
Like Al Pacino’s Scarface character, Cartman becomes grossly addicted to his product. Throughout the episode he can be seen with an almost constant supply of KFC stuffed in his face. At one point he even snorts the skin through his nose. When everything goes wrong for Cartman it’s all the more fun to watch. He’s out of control, but he’s such a selfish character we don’t mind when it comes back to bite him in the ass.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures may contain affiliate links, which may provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.