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Saturday, March 18, 2006

South Park versus The Scientologists

I'm not a fan of Comedy Central's South Park. The cutout animation makes Nickelodeon cartoons look like Golden Age Warner Bros. and Disney. I find it unnecessarily crude, slightly annoying, and not as hilarious as advertised (I realize this last charge has been leveled at us on occasion...thank you for that Zimpter). Etcetera. etc. etc.

Still, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker do know how to zing a target. This week Comedy Central pulled an episode of South Park that featured Scientologist Tom Cruise choosing to hide in a closet, after one of the characters in the show is hailed the saviour of Scientology. (John Travolta eventually goes into the closet to coax him out. These lads have heard all the Hollywood stories, haven't they.)

The show was reportedly pulled because Tom Cruise threatened not to do any publicity work for Paramount's upcoming release Mission Impossible III, in which he stars as a secret agent who gets involved with a much younger actress and fights his enemies by bouncing off a gadgets-loaded sofa -manufactured by BMW. ("Mr. Phelps, this couch will explode in five seconds.")

The connection? Paramount and Comedy Central are both owned by Viacom, the weasels.

I don't know what's more pathetic, Viacom's support for Cruise or their support for Mission Impossible III, a film with all the glorious promise of Leonard, Part 6.

Also, Issac Hayes, another Scientologist, left the show. He claimed that it was hostile to religion. I suppose he could have been off counting up all his Shaft residuals when they aired the episode Super Best Friends five years ago.

The most amusing part of the whole row so far is where Parker and Stone threatened, in Daily Variety of all places, to keep "Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies," a threat Cruise surely fears almost as much as someone spiking his sweet vermouth and Zima with Ritalin.

The other interesting thing about the conflict is that Stone and Parker have so little to lose. South Park is an immensely popular programme, and Comedy Central wouldn't dare cancel it for fear of perishing in Kenny's place. Also, the two creators of the show fear publicity - positive or negative - only slightly less than Al Sharpton. So, this has been a lark in the park for them. Finally, Tom Cruise is considered by the average human being to be as looney as if he actually had Thetans roaming around in his bean (as if such creatures weren't anything but the wild-eyed megalomaniac imaginings of L. Ron Hubbard, in-between global voyages on his yacht, The S.S. Bit O' Tail).

So, I predict that the South Park blokes will come out on top of this conflict, despite the enormous volume of post-midnight crank calls they'll get, scurrilous diggings into their sexual and ethical practices by "secretly-funded" private investigators, and the odd visit from Cruise at 2 a.m., bouncing on their couches and screaming at the top of his lungs about how much he loves Katie Holmes and is virile enough to have impregnated her. That, and they may get sonogramed repeatedly, which does present some health risks.

On the other hand, Cruise gets more people wondering about his sexual proclivities, his involvement with Scientology, and also asking him on chat shows what he's gone and done with his cerebellum. Given that this is part and parcel of any publicity tour for M.I. 3, I suspect he wasn't trying to get the episode in question pulled at all. Rather, he was probably trying to get out of all those uncomfortable interviews.


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