March 17, 2006

"Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies."

Such is the statement to Daily Variety, signed "Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu," addressing the mysterious substitution of an old episode of "South Park" for the scheduled "Trapped in the Closet" episode (the one that shreds Scientology):
"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"
Variety reports the rumor that Comedy Central was catering to Tom Cruise, who threatened not to promote "Mission: Impossible 3," Paramount's big summer movie. Paramount and Comedy Central have the same parent company, Viacom.

Andrew Sullivan is urging readers to email Viacom at and demand that they show the episode.
Comedy Central has already yanked one South Park episode, under pressure from the Catholic League. Now they're caving in to the Scientologists. Can you see them allowing another South Park episode which includes Muhammad? South Park has portrayed Muhammad before, but that was before the Islamist bullies took to the streets. You think Viacom cares about freedom of expression?
Sullivan recommends "Support Freedom of Speech" as the title of your message, so you should do that, if the spirit moves you.

Comedy Central's official excuse, by the way, is that they wanted to show "Chef's Salty Balls" as a tribute to Isaac Hayes, who just quit the show because of the way it mocked Scientology. We were just talking about Hayes's quitting, and, in the comments to that post, the subject of the episode swap comes up, and I offer the explanation that they were paying tribute to Hayes. I note that "Chef's Salty Balls" really is a prime Hayes episode, and it has the added timeliness of making fun of artsy movies about gay cowboys (eating pudding). Hey, is Comedy Central reading my blog in search of feeble excuses?


Wade Garrett said...

I've read that, shortly after the 'Trapped in the Closet' episode premiered, Issac Hayes defended it in a radio interview. When he quit the show, a lot of people suspected that it wasn't really his decision, but that it was forced upon him by higher-ups in the "Church" of Scientology. Does anybody know if this is true?

I e-mailed Comedy Central today. That episode of South Park is an absolute classic and they shouldn't let and insane couch-jumper like Tom Cruise blackmail them like that.

Ann Althouse said...

I did a LEXIS search for Hayes and found nothing prior to the current wave of stories on the subject. I did notice that he was hospitalized in January. Some stories say "stroke" and some say "exhaustion." I'm going to just feel sorry for Hayes. Comedy Central should be the target of criticism over this.

Verification word: nrqdead. Put that in your conspiracy theory. Something -- nrq -- dead!

XWL said...

This is either blatant self promotion on my part, or on topic musings that resonate with what Prof. Althouse is also blogging about.

(I'll link, you decide)

I'm hoping they'll get creative with casting a new Chef.

And I'm making predictions about the subject matter of Wednesday's season 10 premiere (though recent events may lead them in a skewering of Scientology direction once again, All Hail Xenu!!)

All in all the South Park fellas make out well with this move by Viacom. Parker and Stone get more mainstream publicity for their season premiere than they normally would, and should get a decent tune in on Wednesday.

(which in turn will help out Viacom, though they, along with Tom Cruise look like asses)

lindsey said...

Isn't Tom Cruise legally bound to promote his new movie? I just don't see him being able to pull off his threat, and even if he did, at least he'd reconfirm for the world what a gigantic flaming asshole the man is.

MadisonMan said...

Yes. Viacom should have called his bluff. Idiots all. Not that I'd see the movie anyway. MI without Barbara Bain as Cinnamon just isn't MI.

Beth said...

I'm downloading the torrent of the episode as I type; it's going really quickly, and I assume that means there are a good many folks doing the same thing. Nice work, Viacom.

Eli Blake said...

Not such a joke. Without much fanfare or press coverage, the scientologists have quietly gone about the business of gaining influence over lawmakers and others who are key in the decision making process. To their number one target, mental health providers, they are more than just a nuisance, they are a serious threat.

The scientologists, as well as the Unification movement (Moonies) have learned to play the political game very well, and now wield influence over areas of our lives that we may not even have a hint they have anything to do with.

michael farris said...

"Isn't Tom Cruise legally bound to promote his new movie?"

I'm sure he is, but:

If he stalls, he can afford enough lawyers to duke it out with viacom long enough to sabotage the movie's opening and movies are all about openings now.

Or, he could 'promote' it in a way that is legally unactionable but sabotages the movie. There's a very thin line between Tom Cruise the charismatic movie star and Tom Cruise the off-putting whacko cult-boy and I assume he knows it and can cross the line when he wants or needs to. Maybe his Oprah appearance should be reanalysed in this light?

michael farris said...

Parker and Stone are trying to put a good face on the unpalatable fact (to them and many of their fans) that they are hired hands whose value to the mothership depends on them not interrupting the revenue flow.

If this conflicts with their carefully built up iconoclastic image then too bad (for them).

Gil said...

Maybe the plot of Mission Impossible 4 should revolve around trying to get me to pay to watch Mission Impossible 3.

Gaius Arbo said...

Viacom is also owner of CBS, is it not? We aren't talking highly ethical here.

There was a story today about a high school teacher in Missouri who resigned after a few members of some church objected to her selection for the high school play.

verification word: yupiw. I'm not sure for what, but it must be some sort of affirmative.....
A little too much silencing of people who refuse to bend to other's sacred cows lately.

KCFleming said...

Another example of how modern demands for "tolerance" beget enforced intolerance of viewpoints one does not like. The restriction of speech to avoid mockery or criticism is now rightly seen as the best method to coerce a public into accepting odious beliefs.

Hooray for leftism! We now must tolerate intolerance.
Tom Cruise uber alles!

knox said...

MFarris said:

"Parker and Stone...are hired hands whose value to the mothership depends on them not interrupting the revenue flow....If this conflicts with their carefully built up iconoclastic image then too bad (for them)."

Oh, give them a break. They are part of a very few in show business who have refused to bend to PC dictates. They get extra credit for not taking themselves too seriously.

I know it's just a cartoon, but they deserve some real credit. And, I'd add, their response here was brilliant.

Simon said...

Call Viacom to demand they show the episode? A few months ago, a new show was due to air, "the book of daniel," which was described by many christian conservatives as blasphemous, and - even more damningly - by most TV critics as "utter crap." Our local TV station refused to air it, either because they didn't want to be associated with blasphemy or because they didn't want to be associated with crap television (frankly, given their other content, it's hard to imagine it's the latter); a few people got very hot under the collar, because they felt it was their right to watch the show, and the TV station had no business deciding what it was and wasn't going to air.

Isn't it amazing how some people think - when it suits them, of course - the first amendment not only DOESN'T protect free association, not only DOES protect their right to free speech, but ALSO protects their right to watch whatever they want on television? Has anybody waned HBO?

I wonder how many people who supported FAIR are going to line up to demand the network waive its rights not to be associated with content of which it disapproves.

Michael said...

Scientology has this really interesting problem, which is that it desperately wants publicity (hence its shameless chasing after celebrities) and yet whenever it gets some it backfires on the cult because the most ludicrous aspects of its sci-fi religion get public attention and ridicule. (Xenu and Thetans used to be closely held secrets, now they're common enough knowledge that the South Park guys can make fun of them and expect people to get the joke.)

To a certain extent any new religion will face this problem as it tries to go mainstream. In fact, I think this is one of the overlooked aspects of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney running for the presidency-- there's been a lot of talk about whether Americans are ready for a Mormon president but the real question is, is Mormonism ready for press attention? Is it ready for Time and Newsweek stories on polygamy, on the Meadow Mountain Massacre and Brigham Young's possible culpability, for Jay Leno jokes about sacred underwear, for the country to really examine how Utah ignores the line between church and state? As with Scientology, they may well find that their big moment in the spotlight exposes some uncomfortable things.

in memoriam Greg Bashaw, Scientologist rejected by his cult when the money ran out

Mitch said...

Tom Cruise's career is circling the drain as it is. All he needs to do now is to screw up the publicity on a movie, and he'll have lots of time to read "Goodnight Moon" to the new kid.

knox said...

"Daddy, what's a thetan?"


sonicfrog said...

...and come on, you don't think Parker and Stone are going to take this lying down, do you? They are two of the deadliest satirists in the business today. Look out Tom Cruise - Scientology!

It's important to note that P and S may hold more sway at Paramount than we know, as South Park costs pennies on the dollar to produce, where the expensive TC could become a much costlier liability if his movies tank. He is already suing them over the original airing of the episode.

PatCA said...

"Daddy, what's a thetan?"



Okay, I've never gotten into South Park. I want to, after seeing Team America, but I feel like I'm too far behind to get it. Where should I start--Season 1 from Netflix?

Charlie Martin said...

Parker and Stone are trying to put a good face on the unpalatable fact (to them and many of their fans) that they are hired hands whose value to the mothership depends on them not interrupting the revenue flow.

If this conflicts with their carefully built up iconoclastic image then too bad (for them).


Not to put too fine a point on it.

Ann Althouse said...

PatCa: Just watch any episode. You don't need any backstory. Weird things happen in one episode, but then in the next episode, they are back to their original position, in classic cartoon fashion. The town has been changed/destroyed repeatedly.

michael farris said...

"Daddy, what's a thetan?"

Well honey, millions and millions of years ago there was a very bad man, well actually he was a space alien, anyway this very bad man Xenu ... (skip whole volcano shtick) ... and that's why you've got thousands and thousands of bad aliens in you, princess. They're called 'body thetans' and the only way you can get rid of them is by paying a lot of money to the experts who know how to take them out of you. And _that's_ why I want you to do your very best and be chosen to do this dogfood commercial, so you can afford to get rid of my, oops, I mean your body thetans. Okay princess?

Arthur Parry said...

I’ve got to hand it to the boys for once again placing their cross-hairs right on the confluence of vital current events. On the first hand, there is Scientology and the Scientology celebrities. If ever there was a group sorely in need of mocking, it is them. The most damaging part, however, was not the mocking, but the expository section about Xenu the galactic tyrant who transported the thetans to earth in DC8-starships and murdered them in volcanoes. This is the honest-to-ron previously secret scripture of Scientology.

On the next hand is the issue of censorship and religion. Some of us are still amazed at the attitudes of supposed liberal free-thinkers concerning that other cartoonist/religion mix-up. It seems that freedom of speech must also be balanced against the need to avoid offending anyone’s sacred sensibilities or challenging their beliefs. This episode evokes the ad-absurdum consequences of that stance. If you allow veto of free speech for any chucklehead with a glyph on a stick and a funny hat, your eventual incontestable overlords may not be neocons, islamists, or transnational progressives; they may be operating thetans.

On the third hand is the dust-up with Isaac Hayes and Viacom. It’s a shame to lose chef and all, but the bizarre fact is that a major media company seems to be beholden to a goofy UFO cult. This is not an actual first amendment issue because Viacom and Comedy Central are completely within their rights to determine what is broadcast on their dime. But if this episode is pulled from reruns, syndication, and/or DVD, people are going to talk. Makes you wonder what value, if any, a media company brings to the process of animating construction paper cut-outs. Makes you wonder when we will see the first “hit show” distributed directly over the internet. Seems like we are overdue for this, we just need the right edgy iconoclasts to step into the vacuum. Matt and Trey?

inmypajamas said...

You know that Parker and Stone are loving every minute of this. They are satirists and deliberately court "controversy". They are in their element.

As a Catholic, I have to say that I thought the "Bloody Mary" episode was gross and juvenile, but, hey, that's part of their charm, isn't it? As a conservative, however, I thoroughly enjoyed "Team America" (well, maybe not the Barbie doll sexcapade part - just too dopy). Because they are equal opportunity satirists and skewer sacred cows of all descriptions, I think they offer something for everyone to enjoy.

I am sorry some Catholic leaders thought that a boycott of that episode was necessary. The Catholic Church has weathered 2000 years of criticism and controversy - I think it will survive a South Park episode. Being able to tolerate humor directed at yourself is a sign of maturity, I think, individually, religiously, or otherwise. We are a quite orthodox Catholic family but I recently re-watched "Life of Brian" with my 14-year-old daughter and we both enjoyed it (except I had forgotten about Graham Chapman's full monty! - thank God for fast forward).

We seem to have lost our sense of humor about ourselves. Everyone is just too darned EARNEST. The end of the world is before us - "Vote or Die!" Parker and Stone are crude but they bring some much needed humor and perspective to our lives.

Bill Dalasio said...

So, does this mean we have to respect Tom Cruise's authoritaugh??? Cruise probably had Viacom over a barrel on this one, so they really had to go along with it. But, if I were a Viacom exec, I'd be very quietly making it known that Mission Impossible III will be Mr. Cruise's last film. Unless you want a war with Paramount, you don't work with Tom Cruise. Ignoring the ethical issues in this, its very bad business to allow employees to dictate terms in this way. If Cruise gets away with this, I'd very much be looking into using similar techniques to bump up my pay on the next movie I do for Paramount, if I were an actor.

Martin Weiss said...


there is a story line about Kenny becoming a suicide bomber after converting to Islam.

this has been up for several years and SouthPark hasn't finished it yet

I think SouthPark has been told not to produce this.

Jeremy said...

The funny thing about the Bloody Mary episode is that it wasn't making fun of Catholics, but of 12 step groups. The bleeding statue was largely incidental to the episode.

The reason it got pulled (the episode) is because some bigwig at the company is deeply involved in a 12 step group.