In August of 2001 (about a month before the Sept. 11th attacks), South Park released an episode called “Super Best Friends”. In the episode, David Blane starts a cult and Stan enlists the help of Jesus to stop the cultists from committing a mass suicide. Jesus and a bunch of other founders of major religions form a group called the Super Best Friends (a parody on various super hero cartoon shows), and guess what? One of the Super Best Friends who is shown is none other than the Muslim prophet Mohammad. For those of you who don’t know, Muslims consider it blasphemous to show an image of Mohammad, and this has recently become a big censorship issue (remember the European newspaper cartoon that got lambasted for showing the image?).
Four and a half years later, in April of 2006, South Park released a two-part episode set titled “Cartoon Wars Part 1 and 2”. The episodes chronicled a supposed situation where Family Guy was not allowed to air an image of Mohammad because it offended Muslims. At the end of “Cartoon Wars Part 2”, South Park was going to show an image of the prophet (this was done by showing South Park characters watching Family Guy – the premise of the image was not that South Park was showing the image, but that the South Park version of Family Guy was showing the image). According to the episode, Comedy Central would not allow the image of Mohammad to be broadcast, so instead they did an offensive sketch featuring Jesus and President Bush that featured a lot of poop.
Whether or not Comedy Central actually wouldn’t let South Park show the image, I don’t know. They could have just made that scenario up so they had an excuse to show a picture of Jesus shitting on an American flag (not that they need an excuse; they pull stuff like that all the time). But nobody seems to remember that just a month shy of September 11th, South Park broadcast an image of Mohammad on air. I’m not sure if Comedy Central still airs the episode – I recently watched it on the Comedy Central website, but I haven’t seen it on television.
So this begs the question: out of all the offensive things someone can do or say (whether it’s about religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever else), why is showing an image of Mohammad such a big deal? And if offending Muslims is a big deal, why isn’t it a big deal to offend Christians in our society? And if offending Christians isn’t a big deal, why is using the word nigger a big deal? Who decided that racial epithets and sexism are completely inappropriate, yet making fun of Christianity is totally ok? And since when can we only make fun of Christians, but not minority religions?
I’m not saying that I’ve never poked fun at Christians. And goodness knows that I pick and choose what I’m “politically correct” about – I’m never exclusively one way or the other. I’m just wondering who decided what is ok to make fun of, and what deserves censorship.