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South Park Outrage! Was Cartman’s Hand Just In Blackface?

Yesterday’s conclusion to the two-part South Park (in which the show’s creators dealt with issues of censorship) was already being talked about before it even aired. As the episode unfolded, South Park fans turned into the equivalent of Losties, awaiting the absolutely mind-blowing answer to the great question of Cartman’s lineage, and wondering if Muhammad would ever make an appearance.

But in the middle of all of the censorship issues, show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker took it one step further by tackling race relations in America, and having Cartman’s hand (supposedly possessed by Mitch Connor) in blackface.

As the creators played with censorship to prove a point, first censoring the image of Muhammad, then bleeping out his name, then bleeping out everything that was said towards the end, they hit back at censorship by showing a character in blackface. So you can show a character in black face talking about how – in a post-Obama America – a white man won’t let a black man use his phone. Oh, the irony.

Ok, let’s put all the cards on the table. Some may likely say that this wasn’t really blackface, in the sense that he’s not portraying a traditional minstrel show character. Fair enough. But it is hard to argue that the major elements of it aren’t there: speaking with a stereotypically “urban” dialect, using phrases like “yo” and “dawg,” black makeup and a wig, and then there’s the lips. I know that first Cartman’s hand was Jennifer Lopez, then Mitch Connor, and throughout the lips have remained the same. But it’s hard not to see a connection.

May I also remind everyone that this is not the first time that Parker and Stone have played with this trope?

The bottom line: when it comes to cultural censorship, there is a huge inequality between what can be portrayed and what is deemed “over the line.”  South Park has had no issues making fun of anything and everything over the past 14 seasons (including showing an image of Muhammad in Cartoon Wars, parts I and II), so why draw a line for one group’s sensitivity and not another’s?

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