Last Wednesday, Comedy Central’s South Park took aim at China with an episode criticizing the country’s overarching censorship practices and their impact on the American film industry. Per the Hollywood Reporter, China has responded by eliminating every trace of South Park on its version of the internet. The show has been completely removed from the Chinese streaming service Youku, while social media sites Weibo and Baidu Tieba have been purged of any mention of South Park.
The episode in question, entitled “Band in China,” begins when several of the boys in South Park form a metal band and are promptly — absurdly promptly — offered their own biopic. In the process of generating a fabricated story for the film, however, they run into challenges when their producer forces rewrite after rewrite to reduce the grittiness and controversy in the script. The reason for this? For the film to be truly profitable, it must be accepted by Chinese censors and allowed into the Chinese market. The episode also mocks Disney’s relationship with China and pokes fun at the nation’s ban on Winnie the Pooh due to a running joke that the character resembles its president, Xi Jinping.
The moral of the story is given in a line by Stan Marsh, one of the band members, at the end of the episode. After one compromise too many, he puts a stop to the biopic, insisting that achieving success is “not worth living in a world where China controls my country’s art.” He continues, “I want to be proud of who we are, guys. And anybody who would betray their ideals just to make money in China isn’t worth a lick of spit.”
Kyle returns to South Park and gives Stan a great idea, but the boys realize they can’t betray their ideals. Watch the all-new episode, “Band In China” for FREE – https://t.co/oktKSJvjxS #southpark23 #fingerbang pic.twitter.com/Bq5K6gWjOV
— South Park (@SouthPark) October 3, 2019
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt stone released a highly sarcastic and irreverent statement following the backlash, feigning an apology over their episode’s content. In it, they proclaim, “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
— South Park (@SouthPark) October 7, 2019
The satirical statement references another major media controversy in China. Following a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of anti-Beijing protestors in Hong Kong, several of the country’s broadcasters threatened to cut all ties with his basketball team. The NBA responded by disavowing the comments, and Morey walked back his statement.
While South Park’s presence in China may be a thing of the past, its run on American airwaves endures. The show will air its 300th episode this Wednesday at 10pm ET/PT on Comedy Central.