Given the controversy surrounding the release of “The Passion of the Christ,” "South Park" could have made an entire episode out of resident anti-Semite Cartman using the film’s depiction of Christ’s death to lure unwitting Christian fans of the film to follow him on his quest for ethnic cleansing. However, why miss an opportunity for a celebrity parody?
After deeming the blockbuster a “snuff film,” Stan and Kenny travel to Malibu to demand their money back from Mel Gibson, who turns into a gun-wielding Looney Tunes-type character that wears various costumes and sings show tunes. While the depiction of Gibson could be seen as “over the top,” even by "South Park standards," it’s interesting to note that this episode was created years before Gibson’s very public arrest for, well, acting like a crazy person after being pulled over for drunk driving.
Oprah’s public shaming of James Frey after it was revealed that his memoir was partially fictional was viewed as a PR move for the media mogul to save face. It also earned her a place in the pantheon of the show's celebrity parodies. It is certainly the show's strangest celebrity parody, since the main players are actually two of Oprah’s body parts, which speak with English-y accents.
Long forgotten by the media mogul on her way to the top, the two body parts decide to get Oprah fired in order to get the attention they crave. They plot to expose marijuana-addicted towel and official Oprah Book Club honoree, Towelie, for fudging details in his personal account “A Million Little Fibers.” This episode also includes appearances by Geraldo Rivera and Larry King.
It's unclear what bothers Babs more in this episode -- her dreams of world domination being thwarted by kids in grade school, or the fact that everyone she encounters doesn't seem to know or care who she is? In the show's homage to the original Godzilla films, Streisand is a woman bent on taking over the world by reconnecting the two triangles of Zinthar.
After torturing the children through her singing, she retrieves the missing triangle and turns herself into Mecha-Streisand, a robotic monster who destroys everything in her path. (But she still has time to sign an autograph from possibly her only fan in town.)
Rather than focus on the more controversial aspects of Jackson’s personal life, this episode hilariously lampoons his lifelong quest to recreate a fantasy childhood wonderland. Despite his desire to lay low in South Park as Martin Jefferson, Jackson’s need to have a childhood makes him an instant favorite among the town’s children. This eventually irks local law enforcement who -- upon hearing a rumor that a wealthy African-American male has moved to town -- go on a mission to frame him.
A touching game of “I’ve Got Your Nose” between Jackson and a perpetually-masked Blanket quickly turns horrific, setting off a chain of events that leads Jackson to realize a parent needs to focus on the welfare of his children versus being focused on his own needs. This episode features a rare appearance from Kenny -- sans hoodie -- and with audible dialogue.
Honey Boo Boo and Mama June take center stage in this episode, which looks at the cultural bar being lowered so much that no one feels any sense of shame anymore. While the depictions of the child beauty queen and her mom are hilarious, they are almost too spot-on -- with the commentary being that not even "South Park’s" creators can deliver a parody more over the top than the actual antics of these reality TV stars.
The episode's highlights include James Cameron diving in his personal submarine on a mission to "raise the bar" and Cartman wrestling Honey Boo in a pool of “sketti” and butter.
"Jersey Thing" answers the question, “What if reality TV stars were your next-door neighbors?” The reality stars descend on South Park (and half of the country) with their big hair, layers of makeup, hair-trigger tempers, over-the-top accents, muscles and tans.
While New Jersey takes most of the heat in this episode, it’s really a critique of America’s obsession with reality TV in general. At the time the episode aired, the depiction of Snooki as a gnome-like creature constantly looking to “smoosh smoosh” got most of the media attention, but scenes featuring the RHONJ cast are a lot funnier. The dinner party and salon scenes are the true highlights, encapsulating everything addictive and horrible about reality TV.
Serving as a commentary on the manufactured nature of pop music by honing in on this particularly overexposed celebrity couple known collectively as "Bennifer," "Fat Butt" is one of the show's most entertaining celebrity parodies.
For multi-culture week, Cartman decorates his hand, gives it a dress and names it "Ms. Lopez." Much to his friends' chagrin, Cartman’s racist ventriloquist act not only wins top prize, but Ms. Lopez’s music videos prove so popular that the real J-Lo is replaced at her music label. Even Ben Affleck leaves the real pop star for her rival which, given exactly what Ms. Lopez is, makes for a very unique consummation of that relationship.
Here, the show takes on the then-new trend of “celebutantes” and the increasingly sexualized marketing practices aimed at young kids. Original celebutante Paris Hilton arrives in town to open her new store, “Dirty Filthy Whore,” which is an instant hit among daughters and moms alike. Drunk and hung over at the same time, Paris staggers her way through town adopting a new pet (poor Butters in a bear costume), and challenging Mr. Slave’s status as the sluttiest person.
In one of the most graphic face-offs ever depicted, Mr. Slave wins by a landslide -- with a move that should never be depicted anywhere else... ever. The episode's highlight is an 80s-era board game commercial for the "Dirty Filthy Whore" video playset -- which includes camcorder, night vision and two tabs of ecstasy to allow young players to create their own sex tapes.
This episode stands out because it offers a sympathetic look at a celebrity while simultaneously skewering both the media and public’s participation in Britney's public breakdown. After hearing that Britney is in town, the media descends. When the boys sneak into her hotel room to get a picture in order to get paid a lot of money, she attempts suicide -- leaving her severely disfigured (pictured).
While "New Look" features the show's brand of gratuitously funny storytelling, it also elevates their parody game with one the most biting critiques of the entertainment industry, the media, and the public’s fickle attitude towards celebrities.
“Dad! Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet!”
"Closet" has become legendary for its scathing parody of both Tom Cruise and Scientology. Believing that Stan is the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientologists -- and their poster boy, Cruise -- invade South Park. However, the meeting does not go as planned when Stan informs Cruise that he prefers Leonardo DiCaprio or the guy from "Napoleon Dynamite." This devastating revelation sends Cruise into the boy’s closet, where he remains for the rest of the episode. Entreaties for him to come out of the closet from Nicole Kidman, John Travolta, and Katie Holmes fall on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, after learning the true story of Scientology (the first time ever depicted on television), Stan rejects his newfound faith and his status as its reincarnated leader. One of the best moments of this episode happens after it ends. As a reference to the lawsuit Scientology was threatening against the show and Comedy Central at the time, during the episode's end credits, the names of cast and crew were changed to John and Jane Smith.