The Celebrities That Got It the Easiest on ‘South Park’
The sickly satirical South Park is, perhaps, best known for its ability to ruthlessly burn whichever pop-culture figure currently dominates the headlines. But for every high-and-in heater that Trey Parker and Matt Stone threw at Paris Hilton, Robert Smith of The Cure was lobbed a softball.
The disclaimer text at the beginning of every South Park episode is, typically, a prescient predictor for the level of not-quite-legally-defamatory degradation that the celebrities depicted in the show will endure. “All characters and events in this show — even those based on real people — are entirely fictional,” is essentially TV-speak for, “We’re going to tear Barbra Streisand a new one, and there’s not a damn thing she or her lawyers can do about it.” South Park rarely shies away from the opportunity to push the envelope and attack public figures in ways that their targets may find distasteful — well, except for Snooki, who still loves how ruthlessly South Park roasted her.
Despite their ample ability to cut any A-lister down to size, every now and then, Parker and Stone let a celebrity off-the-hook in a way that leaves us wondering, “Wait, why was this parody so complimentary?” The South Park subreddit recently discussed this phenomenon of strangely positive portrayals, and they’ve made a list of the least-insulting celebrity depictions in South Park history, starting with…
In the South Park universe, it takes incredible skill and willpower to stop Cartman from doing any terrible thing he wants at any given moment, which makes the Dog Whisperer star one of the most formidable figures in the entire canon. Millan’s techniques in the 2006 episode “Tsst” are astoundingly effective at taming Cartman and suppressing his worst impulses. Sadly for Liane Cartman, Millan declines to stick around for longer than a single episode, but his efforts to subdue Cartman’s sinister side may have saved countless lives — especially Liane’s.
If it wasn’t clear that Parker and Stone were massive fans of The Cure before they made the Season One episode “Mecha-Streisand,” there was no doubt about it when Cartman cried, “Robert Smith kicks ass!” Fighting alongside film critic Leonard Maltin and acting legend Sidney Poitier, Smith’s opposition to the monstrous Streisand (whom Parker and Stone really, truly despise in real life) made him a hero to both the population of South Park, Colorado, and 1980s alt-rock fans everywhere.
For all of R. Kelly’s horrific offenses, his brief portrayal in the iconic 2005 episode “Trapped in the Closet” was decidedly tepid. The singer who is currently serving a 20-year prison sentence for sex crimes involving multiple minors was already known to be a bit of a creep (to put it lightly) by the time the episode premiered, and using the R. Kelly South Park character as an easy reference to the singer’s musical soap opera Trapped in the Closet was uncharacteristically toothless of the series.
The top pick couldn’t be anyone in the South Park canon except figure-skating world champion Brian Boitano, who is portrayed about as glowingly in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut as Jesus was in the Bible. In the South Park universe, Boitano isn’t just a figure skater — he’s an altruistic, all-powerful activist superhero whose mere existence inspires the boys to go out and save Terrance and Phillip — as well as one of the catchier ditties in the South Park songbook.
Ironically, before South Park turned him into a benevolent god figure, the American Boitano was best known for beating Canadian skating phenom Brian Orser at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the “Battle of the Brians.” But after Kenny saved Terrance and Phillip (along with everyone else who died during the movie) with a wish granted by Satan, perhaps all can be forgiven with our frozen northern neighbors.