Scientology vs “South Park”

south parkThe works of Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not for everyone. They specialise in biting satire presented with such creatively bad taste, that it’s in good taste.

They are probably best known for the anarchic cartoon series “South Park”, which has so far seen 247 episodes over 17 seasons.

Of course, “South Park” is featured here because of its conflict with the Church of Scientology. This began with a short film (“The Gauntlet”) followed by the full episode “Trapped in the Closet”. This episode satirised not only the beliefs of the Church, but also the character and  behaviour of its celebrity adherents (notably Tom Cruise, who believes himself to be ‘second in command’ in the Church hierarchy).

Typically, Scientology could not ignore this challenge, and attempted to strike back at South Park Studios in a number of ways – all of which backfired on them by attracting media attention to the very points that they were trying to suppress.

Click ‘continue reading’ to view/download all three South Park  Scientology episodes

the gauntlet2000 | The Gauntlet

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This is a very short film made  for the MTV Movie Awards

It opens with  Stan, Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, and Timmy fighting Russell Crowe and the other gladiators in what, at first seem to be a parody of the film “Gladiator”.

After Kenny is killed (again) the remaining boys are  saved at the last minute by John Travolta and the Psychlos from the movie “Battlefield Earth” (consistently voted one of the worst films ever made) and the audience goes wild.

“Battlefield Earth” was, of course, based on a critically mauled novel by the founder of Scientology himself. It’s plot includes many Scientology concepts.  For example, Scientologists are taught that the evil alien Psychlos are among us, in the form of Psychiatrists who are supposed to be responsible for much of the evil in the world (including the Nazi holocaust).

It took Parker and Stone five years to produce an episode-length satire of Scientology which is consistently voted one of the most popular television episodes ever made.

trapped in the closet2005 | Trapped in the Closet (Season 9 Episode 12)

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Stan is induced by a Scientologist to take a ‘free personality test’ and then an ‘introductory Scientology course’. During the course, it is ‘discovered’ that he is the reincarnation of the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard.

It should be noted that Scientologists really do expect Hubbard’s to return in a new body. Every Church building (or ‘Org’) is required to keep an room free which he can use an office when he reappears. This ‘LRH’ Office is furnished and stocked according to exacting specifications.

010320-xenuHighlights of the episode include a sequence (subtitled “This is what Scientologist really believe”) which sets out Scientology’s secret OT3 teachings in typical South Park style.

The Church of Scientology  responded when Tom Cruise reportedly threatened to back out of his promotional obligations for the Paramount Pictures film Mission: Impossible III if Viacom (the owner of both Comedy Central and Paramount) allowed a repeat of the episode to be broadcast. It was replaced, in both the US and the UK, leading to accusations of censorship.

The Church of Scientology also allegedly launched an undercover operation, aimed at Parker and Stone personally, using its own ‘intelligence’ department (the Office of Special Affairs). This included attempts to recruit a spy from their Studio Staff.

The controversy also tragically impacted the life of  Isaac Hayes (a celebrity Scientologist himself) who recorded  the voice of the popular recurring character ‘Chef’ (see “The Return of Chef” below).

chef2006 |The Return of Chef (season 10 Episode 1)

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After “Trapped in the Closet” was broadcast, Isaac Hayes (who voiced the popular character Chef) was placed in a serious dilemma. Having lost the rights to his songs, he depended on this work for income. However, as a Celebrity Scientologist, he was also being put under serious pressure by the Church of Scientology  to quit the programme for offending their ‘religious’ sensibilities.

In March 2006, he suffered a stroke. Unable to sing, he need the income even more. Hayes both needed and enjoyed the work, and did not want to leave. The Church of Scientology left him no choice. On August , Scientology issued a press statement announcing his resignation.

Hayes was supposed have been motivated by the ‘religious bigotry’ expressed in “Trapped in the Closet”. This was an unconvincing position, as during his time with the programme, “South Park” had satirised (and offended) a wide range of groups, including (but not limited to) religions.  It was a little late to be claim to be concerned about the programmes lack of respect for religious dogma.

It should be noted that, as a celebrity Scientologist, Hayes’ staff were provided and overseen by the Church. Like Christian Scientists, Scientologists believe that their practices along are sufficient to maintain physical and mental health. Medication of any kind (including medication to treat the aftermath of a stroke and prevent its recurrence) is prohibited.

Hayes died on August the 10th 2008.

Details here and here

This episode could be interpreted as an attack on the Church of Scientology (AKA the “Super Adventure Club”) for its cruel, self-centred and manipulative treatment of Hayes. His dialogue was patched together from that recorded for previous episodes.