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Stars Who Hated Their Portrayals On South Park

Since its premiere in 1997, "South Park" has stayed true to its signature shocking, satirical humor despite the resulting backlash and controversy over the years. Media attention and lawsuits are commonplace for creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who are able to keep each episode topical by implementing a rigorous one-week turn-around schedule for each episode. This model of work has made "South Park" Comedy Central's most successful, longest-running show, with Paramount+ renewing the series through Season 30.

When it comes to social critiques and mockery, nothing is off-limits, especially hypersensitive topics, including religion, politics, and cultural events. One way the show pushes boundaries on taboo subject matter is by depicting public figures in surreal, unflattering ways and satirical parodies of celebrities have become a celebrated motif for "South Park." Everyone from Martha Stewart and her unconventional Thanksgiving turkey recipe to Dick Chaney and his hunting "accident" has been targeted with taunting and criticism. Some have even volunteered to lend their voices in guest-star appearances, such as Jay Leno and Cheech & Chong, but not everyone shares the same crude sense of humor. So let's go on down to South Park and have ourselves a time with the stars who hated their portrayals on the show.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

The Duke and Dutchess of Sussex are some of the latest victims in the long history of celebrity parodies in "South Park." Although Meghan Markle and Prince Harry aren't explicitly named in Season 26, Episode 2, "The Worldwide Privacy Tour," plenty of unsubtle resemblances make it clear who the two characters represent. In the episode, their characters appear on "Good Morning Canada" following the Queen of Canada's death to demand privacy from the public while promoting the prince's new book, "Waaagh," a parody of Harry's memoir, "Spare." The host points out the hypocrisy of constantly staying in the spotlight while wanting privacy; criticism that has been aimed at the couple since their widely publicized sit down with Oprah Winfrey in 2021.

While on their tour, the prince and his wife decide to settle down in South Park, with Markle's character declaring, "If we moved here, people would think we're really serious about wanting to be normal." Multiple other digs are made throughout the episode, including Markle's many front-page exclusives and referring to their brands as "sorority girl, actress, influencer, victim" and "royal prince, millionaire, world traveler, victim." Shortly after the episode aired in February 2023, reports surfaced that the pair were considering legal action, however, according to People, a spokesperson for the couple has since denied the rumors.

Tom Cruise

By this point in their careers, Parker and Stone have become unfazed by entitled celebrities and their baseless threats of lawsuits. But in 2005, they almost met their match when they went toe to toe with Tom Cruise and the Scientology community. Cruise is widely known for being a member and advocate for the controversial church, so it was only natural for "South Park" to satirize the ordeal in Season 9, Episode 12, "Trapped in the Closet."

In this episode, Cruise shows up at Stan's house, believing he's the reincarnation of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. When Stan admits to enjoying other movies over Cruise's, the actor locks himself in the boy's closet and refuses to come out. Ultimately, Stan tries to expose the church for being a scam, but the members respond in outrage, with the president of Scientology and Cruise threatening to sue the boy. The show's end credits were all changed to John and Jane Smith presumably to avoid legal action.

No one was ever sued, however, Cruise and the group made their disdain known. Cruise was alleged to have blocked the episode from reairing in March of 2006 by threatening not to participate in the promotion of Viacom's "Mission: Impossible III." Parker and Stone responded with an official statement: "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."

Jennifer Lopez

Before Jennifer Lopez was ever parodied in "South Park," Parker and Stone were already on Lopez's radar for a stunt they pulled at the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony in 2000. One month before Parker and Stone hit the red carpet for their best original song nomination, Lopez made headlines with her green Versace dress at the 42nd Grammy Awards ceremony. Its low plunge neckline and blue palm leaf print stirred up quite the discussion, which was taken even further when Parker flaunted an identical dress for his Academy Awards red carpet look.

Three years after stealing the spotlight from Lopez, the creative duo debuted Season 7, Episode 5, "Fat Butt and Pancake Head." In the episode, Lopez is depicted as an egotistical, rageful diva whose identity is stolen by Cartman's hand puppet posing as a younger, more desirable Lopez. As the hand puppet takes over her career and boyfriend, Ben Affleck, Lopez's means of putting a stop to the hand escalates, ending in her arrest and a new job at La Taco.

Lopez's reaction to her unflattering, stereotyped depiction only helped some of Parker and Stone's points. During audio commentary for the episode, Parker recalled hearing from some friends that Lopez fired crew members on the set of one of her movies who referenced her "South Park" episode. Later, during an interview with The Project, Parker revealed a time when the two encountered Lopez at a party where she pushed past them.

Barbra Streisand

It's a mystery as to what Barbra Streisand ever did to Parker and Stone to deserve such harsh treatment in her "South Park" episodes, but it's clear the creative duo have some unfavorable opinions of the singer. In 1998, Streisand was among the first celebrities "South Park" poked fun at. Season 1, Episode 12, "Mecha-Streisand," features a caricature of Streisand, who uses her tortuous singing to retrieve the Triangle of Zinthar found by the boys during a field trip. She then uses the triangle to transform into a giant robotic Mecha-Streisand, who wreaks havoc on South Park.

In a 1998 interview with Mirabella, the real-life Streisand expressed her grievances with the show's negativity and effects on children: "These youngsters are formulating their attitudes and maybe they come away feeling that any woman who dares to accomplish something is the incarnation of self-centeredness and greed. And that would be very unfortunate, especially for young girls."

This, of course, didn't stop Parker and Stone from featuring Streisand again in Season 2, Episode 15, "Spooky Vision," where Streisand's face is repeated in all four corners of the screen. Photos of the singer were also used during scene transitions. Streisand's alter ego Mecha-Streisand returns once again in the famous two-parter, "200" and "201." In it, all 200 celebrities parodied in the show team up in a class action lawsuit against South Park. Mecha-Streisand is eventually taken down by the Super Best Friends group.

Sarah Jessica Parker

Season 14, Episode 2, "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs," ridicules both "Sex in the City" lead Sarah Jessica Parker and reality stars, the Kardashians, however, the two parties reacted in vastly different ways. The episode begins with the boys writing a book with the intent to make it as offensive as possible. In the book, "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs," Parker is repeatedly mocked for her appearances, with a quote from the book calling her a "transvestite donkey witch." When a second book is released, a reader is inspired to go on a killing spree that's reminiscent of the claim that "The Catcher In The Rye" influenced John Lennon's death. The reader brutally kills the Kardashians, while the boys set up Parker to be killed in a similar fashion in order to get the books banned.

Following the episode's airing, the Kardashian family responded positively to the episode (via Us Weekly), with Kim Kardashian writing in a blog, "Thanks Trey Parker and Matt Stone... we're honored!" However, despite being silenced on the show with no speaking lines, the real-life Parker had some thoughts of her own. In an interview with Stylist, the actor doesn't call out "South Park" by name, but it wasn't hard for fans to make the connection. "Proper film or theatre criticism is a part of what I do; I don't read them but I don't begrudge a critic an opinion. But personal criticism I find distasteful," Parker disclosed.

Mama June Shannon

"Mama" June Shannon and her daughter, Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, rose to fame in 2011 when the pair appeared in TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras." Controversy has followed the family from the beginning, with many criticizing the exploitative nature of child beauty pageants and the family's unhealthy lifestyle. Following the release of their reality show, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," Parker and Stone decided to add some commentary of their own with the Season 16 episode, "Raising the Bar." In the episode, Kyle is inspired by June and Honey Boo Boo to profit off of Cartman's obesity with a reality show of their own.

The episode doesn't hold back with its offensive depictions of Honey Boo Boo experiencing heart failure and needing a pig heart transplant. When Honey Boo Boo's show outperforms Cartman's, June encourages her daughter to wrestle Cartman in a pool of spaghetti. "Ain't no one can beat my Boo Boo in s'ghetti wrestling," June declares.

In an interview with TMZ, June made it clear she was not laughing along at the "trashy" portrayal. "Me being a big person, I didn't take offense ... that show is just not a show that I would want to be on in the first place," June expressed. Despite the reality star's disapproval, the episode went on to win an Emmy for outstanding animated program.

Sally Struthers

Sally Struthers, wasn't happy with her recurring portrayal in "South Park," to say the least. At the time, the actress was known for her commercials as a spokeswoman for the Christian Children's Fund, where she would bring awareness to children suffering in developing countries while pleading to the viewers for their donations. These commercials were designed to invoke sympathy and heartache, however, Parker and Stone had different reactions.

In Season 1, Episode 8, "Starvin' Marvin," the boys donate money after seeing one of Struthers' commercials and end up with an Ethiopian child. When the charity comes to retrieve the child, they end up taking Cartman instead. In Ethiopia, Cartman discovers a gluttonous Struthers hoarding all the food for herself. Struthers appears again in Season 3, Episode 13, "Starvin' Marvin In Space," where she's depicted as a monstrous Jabba the Hutt. She returns once more in episodes "200" and "201" to join the pack of celebrities in their attempt to take revenge on South Park.

In the Season 1 commentary, Parker addressed some of the backlash, saying how "people thought it was really mean to Sally Struthers." The two also revealed Struthers' reaction, saying, "Apparently Sally Struthers was a fan of 'South Park' up until she saw this episode and it really bummed her out and what we heard was that she cried for, like, days."

Nick Jonas

Tween sensation boy band, the Jonas Brothers, become key players in Kenny's sexual awakening in Season 13, Episode 1, "The Ring." After discovering his new girlfriend gets turned on by the sight of the trio, Kenny buys tickets for the two of them to see the band live in concert. His girlfriend ends up getting called backstage to meet the brothers, who convince the girls and Kenny to wear purity rings.

During this time, the brothers were known for being outspoken about participating in religious purity culture – a popular phenomenon among Disney Channel stars of this era. When the brothers attempt to distance themselves from their purity ring image, their boss — an aggressive Mickey Mouse — takes forceful action.

In a Reddit AMA, Nick Jonas answered a question asking about his feelings toward the stunt, admitting to originally hating it but eventually warming up to the parody episode. "When it first came out I didn't think it was funny to be honest, but probably because I was actually living all of that in real time and so it just made it harder to come and live your life as a young person and have all that going on. But years later and once the purity rings were no longer around, it was very funny to me and I've actually watched the episode a few times," Jonas wrote.

Terri Irwin

Many people remember the controversial 2006 episode featuring Steve Irwin that landed the creators in a big mess. But his first appearance in the show dates back to 1999 in the Season 2 episode, "Prehistoric Ice Man." In the episode, the boys are inspired by Irwin's wildlife adventures to hunt for crocodiles, only to find a man frozen in ice. Federal agents kidnap the man while Stan and Kyle devise a plan to set him free. They smuggle him on a train, but the agents show up to stop him — along with Irwin. At the end of the episode, "The Crocodile Hunter" dies after getting caught in a helicopter blade. Publicly, this depiction didn't seem to offend anyone, but just a few years later, "South Park" would cross the line for many.

In Season 10, Episode 11, "Hell on Earth 2006," Satan throws a Halloween costume party, where Irwin's character shows up, which aired just weeks after the figure's death. Satan insults Irwin, thinking it's an offensive Halloween costume, but Irwin reveals he's not actually dressed up at all. Although the joke is self-aware, the timing spawned outrage. Irwin's widow, Terri Irwin, spoke out, calling the episode "cruel." "Steve had as big a sense of humor as anyone, but this goes too far too soon," a friend of Irwin stated. A spokesman for "South Park" responded by saying, "We have offended people in the past and will probably do it again."

Richard Dawkins

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins takes over Mrs. Garrison's class to teach the kids about the science of evolution in the Season 10 episodes, "Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII." Initially against the idea of evolution, Garrison is convinced by Dawkins after the two spark up a romantic relationship. Together, they campaign for worldwide atheism, with Dawkins' mantra being, "Logic and reason aren't enough: You also have to be a d*** to everyone who doesn't think like you." Cartman gets transported to the future of a Godless world on the brink of war and tries to warn his friends in the past. In the process, Dawkins discovers Garrison's sex change procedure and leaves feeling repulsed. This change alters the future, and the war ceases to exist.

In a Reddit AMA, Dawkins gave his opinion on his portrayal, writing, "Satire is supposed to satirise. Depicting somebody as having a predilection for buggering a bald transvestite is not satire and not witty. The futuristic projection of wars between atheist factions is genuine satire and quite witty. I think it's important understand the difference. I preferred the experience of going on The Simpsons." Understanding Parker and Stone's mindset by now, they likely didn't take Dawkins' comments to heart.