- "You know, I've learned something today."
South Park is fantastic for not only having Anvilicious episodes, but having that Anviliciousness most often being completely justified and absurdly hilarious at the same time.
General / Multiple Episodes
- The show likes to remind celebrities that their egos can sometimes outstrip their talents, if they were ever talented to start with, their extravagant Hollywood lifestyles have caused them to lose touch with the common folk and the working world, or that they have gone too far, as seen in "Free Hat", "Fat Butt and Pancake Head", "Butt Out", "The Biggest Douche in the Universe", "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset", "The China Probrem", and "Fishsticks".
- The show also highlights how absurd some trends are, such as in "South Park Is Gay!", "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset", "Chinpokomon", and "Smug Alert!"
- Other chapters lampshade how crazy humanity is and has become as a whole: "Freak Strike", "I'm a Little Bit Country", "Butt Out", "Douche and Turd", "Follow That Egg!", "Britney's New Look", and "The Ring".
- The Movie, its predecessor "Death", "Good Time With Weapons", and a few other episodes show that there are much worse things in the world than swearing or impropriety, and that parents should spend more time with their kids and stop going on senseless attempts to sanitize the world.Stan: You know, I think that if parents would spend less time worrying about what their kids watch on TV, and more time worrying about what's going in in their kid's lives, this world would be a much better place.Kyle: Yeah, I think that parents only get so offended by television because they rely on it as a babysitter, and the sole educator of their kids.Kenny: You know what I think? Basically, if you let the decision of what you watch stop at the parents' control, then what can you see? It'll stay the same because they'll just get offended although their kids are not delighted with the television series they put on for their kids.
- Most of the show's episodes on religion - be it examining Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, Judaism, or even atheism - focus around a central theme: see the forest for the trees. At its core, religion is about being a good person by promoting virtues like generosity, selflessness, kindness and altruism. That's what you should be focusing on, rather than minute details of a religion's canon. And that absolutely includes your own religion.
- Several episodes, such as "Fat Camp" and "Die Hippie Die", say that if you want something to change, you need to take the initiative to make it happen, rather than just sitting around expecting or hoping it will happen.
- Jimmy and Timmy teach that disabled people are human too, as both are portrayed as being humanly flawed beyond just their physical disabilities, but having strengths as well.
- Several episodes teach that everyone has a right to their own beliefs and interests, and you can't force people to view things the way you want them to. The show also says that, quite often, you're Not Helping Your Case when you push back too hard, because it will just drive people further away and make them even less likely to listen to you.
- Episodes like "A Scause for Applause", "Butterballs", "Rainforest Schmainforest" and "Safe Space" show that public or online support isn't as noble as it seems. Self-righteous people will only promote equality or peace for self-gratification, to save themselves or to absolve themselves of guilt, all while doing nothing to solve the problem itself. They'll often only do good deeds in front of a camera and throw empty and weightless statements to appear heroic and compassionate, rather than, confront the issue or actually help.Reality: What a lovely charity event. I suppose you're all feeling pretty good about yourselves, hm? What have you done? You've raised $300 by spending half a million on filet mignon and crystal glasses. [crowd is silenced and ashamed at themselves] Look at you, Vin Dipshit. You think fat-shaming is wrong, so in response, you show off your abs. YOUR'E THE ONE FAT-SHAMING, IDIOT! What's the matter with you people?! You're sad that people are mean? Well, I'm sorry, the world isn't one big liberal arts college campus! We eat too much; we take our spoiled lives for granted, feel a little bad about it sometimes! No, you wanna put up all your shit on the Internet and have every single person say "Hooray for you!" Fuck you. You're all pricks. And I've got news for you! While you've all been sitting here trying to feel good, the little boy who sucked all your shit is about to die from it!
- "Big Gay Als Big Gay Boat Ride" teaches that being gay is completely acceptable. While this may seem like a Captain Obvious Aesop nowadays, at the time it was made, homosexuality was still seen as evil.
- "An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig" challenges the Double Standard by showing the others making fun of Stan for getting beat up by his sister, then showing how bad it is. Seeing that Trey Parker had that experience with his own sister, it's a very well-played (if frightening) moral.
- "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo" teaches that trying to remove every little thing someone hates, even mildly, can ruin something that used to be fun.
- "Conjoined Fetus Lady" has a rather nice anvil about how people with handicaps or physical deformities shouldn't be put on a pedestal to be worshipped, as the attention makes them more of an outcast than the actual deformity. There are also people with handicaps or deformities that don't want attention or want to be advocates for peace, they just want to live their lives the way they want to and you shouldn't force them to be advocates for a better world or portray them as unsung heroes of inequality.
- "Gnomes" has three excellent ones:
- First, that a corporation being a big powerhouse doesn't automatically make it evil. By the same token, being a small business doesn't immediately equate to being a better option. This was shown by "Harbucks" Coffee being far better tasting than the small town coffee shop, but the townspeople only found out at the end of the episode because they were so focused on yelling at the big corporate entity that they never actually bothered to taste the coffee.
- Second, that big corporations are the reasons we have all our luxuries like indoor plumbing and cars. They're also what helps the economy thrive so greatly.
- Third, using children to promote your political agenda is immoral, exploitative, and outright manipulative since many of these issues are too complex for children to understand.
- While "Rainforest Schmainforest" had the Family-Unfriendly Aesop of anti-environmentalism, it also showed the dangers of joining an organization without knowing the consequences of what it stands for, and how most "environmentalists" are people who feel guilty about their overconsumption, but do nothing about it.
- Another more mild one is that regardless of your opinion on the rainforest, it's actually a very dangerous place.
- From Jakovosaurs, we get the aesop that extinction is natural and sometimes trying to save an species from extinction can do more harm than good
- The movie drops 139 F-bombs, which are just about enough to remind people that there are far worse things in the world than swearing — a message that ties in nicely with Season 5's "It Hits The Fan". Especially since, ironically, when the movie came out, a lot of people were complaining about it, and they acted akin to Kyle's mom (minus the whole war thing). Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren't bad at predicting the behavior of Moral Guardians.
- Amidst all the uncensored swearing, it also has a few big ones: violence can be just as bad as swearing, and the "blame the media for your children's bad behavior and lobby to censor it" approach to taming unruly kids is a very bad idea.
- "Cartman's Silly Hate Crime 2000" had the Aesop that just because a crime with a victim who happens to be a minority occurs, it doesn't necessarily mean the crime is targeting said person because they're a minority.
- "Cartman Joins NAMBLA": Most of the time, discriminating and persecuting those who are born different or have different beliefs is wrong. However, there are some beliefs and behaviors that are harmful and completely unacceptable, such as adults having sex with children. Even if the NAMBLA pedophiles' attraction was something they were born with, they still chose to act out on those feelings instead of pursuing alternative courses of action to prevent innocent children from getting hurt.
- "Cherokee Hair Tampons" has a strong message about the consequences of trusting pseudoscience over medicine in order to cure serious illnesses. The fact that the episode aired way before the deaths of several celebrities such as Steve Jobs enforces the message.
- "Chef Goes Nanners" shows that even in noble causes, extremism on either end is unhealthy and can result in doing bad things you never meant to do.
- It also teaches that just because someone is part of a questionable movement, it doesn't mean they're bigoted. Everyone for keeping the flag the same, except the Ku Klux Klan, either did it for the sake of preserving history (Jimbo) or they had no idea the flag was symbolizing racism in the first place (Stan & Kyle). When Jimbo's side got support from the KKK, Jimbo immediately denied their support and was disgusted by them. This causes Jimbo, in turn, to realize that sometimes preserving the more unsavory aspects of history isn't worth it.
- "Do The Handicapped Go to Hell?" and "Probably" teaches not to live your life in fear of going to hell and the consequences of using fear-mongering to get people to believe in something. It also shows the effects of using fear to make people do good things or follow the bible.
- "Trapper Keeper" has Mr. Garrison drop one about the need to respect others' political opinions after Rosie O Donnell gets involved in the dispute over the kindergarten class election results and makes the fighting worse.Mr. Garrison: Oh, STOP IT, STOP STOP IHIHIHIHIT! Look kids, we're all in this kindergarten class together. We have to respect one another or else we're in for a terrible school year.Rosie O'Donnell: We're just making sure that the kids that voted for my nephew don't get cheated.Mr. Garrison: Half the kids in the class didn't vote for your nephew! So what about them?! You don't give a crap about them because they're not on your side! People like you preach tolerance and open-mindedness all the time, but when it comes to Middle America, you think we're all evil and stupid country yokels who need your political enlightenment! Well, just because you're on TV, doesn't mean you know crap about the government! Now get your ass back on first class and respect this class's right to make up their own minds!
- "It Hits the Fan" continues the Aesop from The Movie about swear words, showing that some swear words become completely meaningless if you use them repeatedly and should be curbed as they aren't suitable for everyday conversation.
- "Cripple Fight": Big Gay Al's speech to the community about forcing people to accept homosexuality is not the right way, but educating people about it so they will do so on their own is. Freedom is a two-way street, and if you're allowed to express yourself, then others should be, too, no matter how wrong you believe they are.
- Another Aesop that needed dropping was, "Being gay is not the same as being a pedophile, as not all homosexual men prey on little boys."
- "Proper Condom Use": Children (when they're ready) need good sexual education from adults they can trust, and sex education in schools is only a good idea if you have teachers that actually know what they're talking about, won't use scare tactics to frighten students, and aren't depraved perverts who shouldn't be around kids in the first place.
- "The Death Camp of Tolerance" has Mr. Garrison's speech that being over-tolerant is just as bad as being intolerant. He also mentions that some groups you tolerate can still piss you off and that people shouldn't preach about tolerance, but instead preach acceptance.
- A briefly touched upon Aesop in said speech is that there are some things that are absolutely unacceptable no matter who is doing it.
- "My Future Self 'n Me": Be honest with your kids, especially when it comes to talking about the dangers of doing drugs. If you try manipulating them with exaggerations and lies, they're not going to believe you when you tell the truth.
- "Grey Dawn" applies Both Sides Have a Point very well; there comes a time when the elderly must accept that they're not as capable as they used to be and must relinquish some of their rights for the sake of others, but at the same time, that's no excuse for the young and healthy to strip them of their dignity and treat them like lesser citizens.
- "All About Mormons" teaches that while religions may have some crazy beliefs that do not make sense, they still promote good values that everybody should live by, such as being kind to others and helping those in need. Moreover, it's pretty intolerant to refuse being friends with someone simply on the basis that they have different beliefs from you.
- "Butt Out": Even noble, "good" causes can have horrible people working for them and using them for their own gain. Also, people who smoke are not inherently evil.
- Also, it and a few other episodes show that people should really stop blaming corporations for everything.
- "Raisins" has two aesops. First, the world is not all gloom and darkness, because the only reason people could feel sad and depressed in the first place would be if they could feel happiness before. The second aesop is that bad things will happen in life, and the trick is not avoiding the problem, but instead learning to accept the bad with the good.
- "Good Times With Weapons" regarding the double standard society has towards sex and violence. Cartman is vilified for public nudity, while Butters taking a shuriken to the eye and being left for dead is pretty much ignored.
- "Goobacks" is about people from the future traveling to the past to find work, and used as a commentary on the issue of immigration, which is still controversial years after it first aired. Immigration is too complex of a topic to try and simplify into a basic solution like "let them all stay" or "kick them all out." While the people from the future do have it bad in their time, they also end up having a negative impact on the people of South Park, as they end up losing their jobs because of them. The episode acknowledges that Both Sides Have a Point and suggests taking the middle ground instead of the two previously mentioned extremes, by trying to improve the future to the point that people won't travel back in time in the first place.Stan: Look, it sucks that the immigrants' time is so crappy, but the cold hard truth is that if we let them all come back to our time, then it's just gonna make our time crappy too.
- "Something Wall-Mart This way comes" has the message that ultimately all the evils of capitalism lie on the consumers not the big businesses themselves. If you don't like something a company is doing, your only recourse is to not give them your patronage even if it is inconvenient. Even if you are successful in stopping big business some other way, eventually they will find some way to succeed until they start losing customers.
- "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset" has the Aesop that parents need to teach their children who are good role models so they don't follow the path of horrible people.
- "Best Friends Forever" lampoons the entire Terri Schiavo debate raging at the time (winning an Emmy in the process) and concludes with this brief statement from the missing section of Kenny's living will broadcast on national TV, and the fact that Schiavo had been described as a somewhat shy introvert makes it even more poignant."If I am ever in a persistent vegetative state, please..." turns page "for the love of God, don't ever show me in that condition on national television."
- "Ginger Kids" shows the dangers of abusing free speech to marginalize minority groups. This is a big one, considering Matt and Trey are Freedom of Speech advocates.
- "Trapped in the Closet", and the views of the destructiveness and nonsense of Scientology. They were willing to alienate a long-time cast member and fan favorite to get the message out. Although Isaac Hayes didn't want to leave the cast, he was pressured into it by Scientology and was in tears when he went to Matt and Trey to break the news. He had enough of a sense of humor to say "they've done that to every religion"; Scientology did not.
- "Bloody Mary" teaches that true disciprine is about learning to moderate addictive vices rather than completely abstaining from them, because in a way, going to the other extreme still allows that vice some control over you.
- The two-parter "Cartoon Wars" gives us the message that using the threat of terrorism to get what you want is just as bad as active terrorism. In a speech to a network executive, Kyle adds that giving in to those kinds of threats is what allows terrorism to work.
- "Miss Teacher Bangs a Boy" teaches that female rapists can be just as dangerous as male ones and that no matter how many people try to defend, justify, or condone it, they are still rapists nonetheless and should be treated as such.
- It also shows that student-teacher relationships are not okay no matter how attractive the teacher is, or if the genders are reversed. It also shows that teachers in those kind of relationships usually aren't right in the head to begin with. The gender abuse is still very relevant today.
- Another point that is hammered is that while Ike is okay with the relationship, it's because he is a toddler and barely aware of what is going on; Sheila even says he is too young to understand the subtlety of love and sexuality.
- The two-part episode "Go God Go"note has a rather dark yet necessary moral in response to Richard Dawkins and the belief touted by some vocal agnostic atheists: removing religion will not stop conflicts or end the world's problems. And if we did get rid of religion, we would still have those problems, but use something else as an excuse to justify them. This is exemplified by "The Great Question" of the atheists, which is "what should the atheists group call itself?" Ironically, since that episode, Dawkins and many other members of the "New Atheism" have become even more controversial and intolerant with their statements (such as Dawkins claiming Islam was the world's greatest force for evil even while admitting he's never read a Koran and that atheists should be intolerant towards religion and persecute religious people), to the point that a lot of atheists don't like being associated with them (similar to how theists in real life view their more extremist counterparts).
- A moral that isn't given as much attention from that story but is still there is that it isn't fine being religiously intolerant (as in, blind intolerance to the concept of religion itself and the very state of being a theist, not intolerance towards harmful religious dogmas) even if you're not religious, as shown when some atheist Otters murder a wise old Otter just for saying that maybe religion isn't all bad.
- Butters' rant in "Cartman Sucks" to the counselors at a "Pray the gay away"-style camp about how bi-curious people aren't a blight in God's eyes was one that really needed dropping.
- "Le Petit Tourette": Just because you can say whatever you want doesn't mean you should. The things you say publicly can come back to bite you.
- In the "Imaginationland" trilogy, the terrorists managed to get into Imaginationland because we've become so paranoid over terrorist attacks, we're basically allowing them to come in and take over our imaginations. In short, don't let fear control your life.
- "Britney's New Look" carries the Aesop of "Celebrities are people too, and shouldn't be pushed around and mocked just because their lives aren't going so well."
- "Canada On Strike": Don't join a revolution just because the leader has charisma. If they don't know exactly what they're doing, it's always the little people who'll suffer the most.
- "The Ring" teaches its audience to be wary of multi-million dollar corporations who virtue-signal for monetary gain.
- "Margaritaville" dropped the anvil that we're all partially accountable for the Global Financial Crisis.
- "Fatbeard" revealed that people who turn to piracy are often not doing it out of a sense of romance and adventure, but because they're trapped in a Darwinian nightmare from which a life of crime is their only recourse.
- "Dances With Smurfs" deals with pundits who slander political figures for their own personal gain. After several weeks of Cartman harassing Wendy because she's the class president, Wendy steps down and names Cartman her successor. The end result is Cartman getting Laser-Guided Karma as he's conditioned all the students to hate the class president for not pandering to their whims.
- Sexual Healing" shows the dangers of bestowing success on irresponsible people. The plot shows over a dozen celebrities colluding with the government to enforce the idea that their promiscuity is a curse (to the point where they kill a man over it), all because they're too small to admit that they should have known better.
- "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs": Sometimes an anvil is only in the imagination of the beholder.
- Crack Baby Athletic Association sheds a light on how the college sports industry borders on exploitation in that the universities and sponsors will do whatever they can to avoid paying the athletes, even though said athletes put themselves in harm's way to generate millions of dollars in revenue and often come from underprivileged backgrounds.
- You're Getting Old and Ass Burgers handle the complexities of outgrowing what you used to love and that change is a natural part of growing up.
- "Butterballs" illustrates that anyone (including family members, people trying to stop them, and Jesus Christ Himself) can be a bully.
- Also, anti-bullying messages won't stop the bullies or make them see the error of their ways.
- While bullying itself is bad, exploiting it for fame and fortune is even worse.
- A more subtle one in "Raising the Bar" is that even through obesity is unhealthy and something must be done about it, it's still wrong to mock and dehumanize people suffering from it.
- A Scause for Applause shows how society has taken social awareness issues and turned them into a fashion statement, but not actually doing anything for the causes they claim to support. Meanwhile, high-profile figures who actually do try to improve the world are vilified over trivial reasons.
- "Informative Murder Porn" spoofs the perceived notion of some overzealous Moral Guardians that kids will inevitably become violent because of video games (and also pointing out the multitude of graphic television shows for adults). The kids become concerned their parents will try to kill each other because of a popular crime show, and set a parental blocker on the channel. The adults then become addicted to Minecraft, and start subconsciously imitating it. The message being if kids gets so brainwashed by these games that they decide to copy them, why aren't they copying any non-violent games? Taking the absurdity of the concept to its logical conclusion.
- The "Black Friday" trilogy shows us that the consumer-driven madness of Black Friday is completely senseless and stupid. This lesson hits home at the end of the third part, which cuts from animated shoppers killing each other to live-action footage from actual Black Fridays.
- Another one is that the Console Wars are ultimately pointless and stupid.
- "The Hobbit": Though it's not solely responsible, edited photos in magazines have had a hand in fueling unrealistic beauty standards. Likewise, what's in those pictures aren't real and neither should it be treated as or aspired to as such.
- "The Cissy": Everyone should have the freedom of choice to make their own decisions. While bad apples can spoil the bunch, like Cartman selfishly exploiting the girls toilets under the disguise of being transgender, there are responsible authority figures to talk to about your concerns. You can't promote equality and freedom while suppressing the freedom of another.
- "Freemium Isn't Free" drops the huge one about people playing free games but still paying money just to progress in those games and how people are addicted to games like this.
- As a Whole: While fighting for social justice can be a good thing, that doesn't make every PC/left-leaning person a moral paragon. There will always be people that either stumble in without knowing all the facts or just want to use social justice as a tool for their own selfishness and you have to stand up to them as much as any societal ill.
- As well as the fact that political incorrectness can often be done not out of malice, but of ignorance and that to paint every single un-PC act with the same brush borders on fascism.
- Thirdly, "praising someone simply for being part of an oppressed group as opposed to their actions is misguided at best, and harmful at worst".
- "Stunning and Brave" shows that forcing and intimidating people into having a closed mind and that, once again, extremism can lead to toxic behavior.
- "Where My Country Gone?" exposes the dangers of giving political power to the loudest voice over the quiet but competent. Also the danger of complacency over the duty to oust said person before it is too late, as shown by Canadians who neglected the rise of President Evil that later forced them to seek refuge in America as a result.
- "Safe Space" challenges the idea of safe spaces by showing that the only thing they do is inflate people's egos and prevent them from being able to take constructive criticism or deal with the harshness of reality, that people need to stand and fight their own battles, and ultimately that there are more serious issues to be dealt with than people calling you names.
- There's another underlying message about how closing yourself off from negative comments is harmful in the long run; you can't close yourself off forever, and when you are inevitably exposed to criticism, you won't know how to properly handle it. Also, being so self-conscious and paranoid about what people say is bad, because it will only end up doing harm to yourself.
- In many cases, charity balls can be counter-productive. Reality points out that South Park spent half a million dollars but raised only $300, so it's obvious the guests cared less about improving the world and more about treating themselves.
- "Tweek x Craig" shows that people need to recognize the border between fantasy and reality. Even if Tweek and Craig do go into a relationship in the end, both Tweek and Craig weren't gay and nobody wanted to listen to them. You also shouldn't put people on a pedestal for their sexuality.
- "Naughty Ninjas" shows how fast people who follow a movement for their own self-image will turn on their beliefs as soon as their actions backfire on them.
- "Sponsored Content" shows that many men who support the feminism and women's rights movements can be just as misogynistic as those who don't. PC Principal explicitly tells the frat bros they shouldn't be using their social justice views to get sex, as doing so is manipulative and unfair to the women.
- "PC Principal Final Justice" shows how gun ownership doesn't automatically make you strong, since everyone around you can also own a gun. In every instance where two or more people pull guns on each other, they manage to work through their issues not with threats of violence, but by listening and reflecting on how they could improve themselves. Then again, theyre probably acting that way because they have a gun pointed at them, so Spoof Aesop?
- "Member Berries" points out how our obsession with reliving our childhood memories is anti-progressive and that bigotry is just nostalgia taken to the extreme.
- It also shows the consequences of using the Streisand Effect to compensate for lack of substance.
- "Skank Hunt" shows how even the most normal people can be absolute monsters online.
- It also teaches how obsessed society has gotten with social media, that quitting it is literally viewed as committing suicide.
- "The Damned" drops the anvil that your online actions can have real-world consequences, both for yourself and others.
- "Wieners Out" and "Fort Collins" sustain The Horseshoe Effect by showing that people against an issue can sink as low as the people causing the issues themselves.
- Wieners Out also shows that boys are just as deserving of respect like women are and shaming them for their gender will cause them to get fed up and bite back.
- As a Whole:
- Personal responsibility is the line between decency and outright cruelty. There's a lot of emphasis on Cartman being an emotionally manipulative boyfriend towards Heidi Turner and the odd bit of shade thrown over the sex crimes being exposed in Hollywood.
- Additionally, if someone continually plays the victim card and others enable it, it will eventually cause the person to justify any of their actions, no matter how horrible they are.
- "Put It Down" shows that, sometimes, trying to solve a loved one's problem with logic isn't what they need. You should just talk with them and empathize with their feelings and many times this will help them figure out a solution.
- "Doubling Down" shows that you shouldn't mock people who made horrible mistakes and treat them like idiots for it, or else they'll just dig their heels deeper and not fix it, or just go right back to doing it again.
- "Super Hard PCness" shows that the actions of today's PC culture can be very similar to the Moral Guardians of yesteryear. And that following such actions that tends to demonize others blindly could have far reaching negative repercussions.
- "Splatty Tomato" has Heidi realize that Cartman didn't turn her into a horrible Jerkass like him but rather it was her own self-proclaimed victimhood mindset. Playing the Victim Card and blaming others for your own faults practically guarantees that you'll never make any positive changes and be happy in life.
- "The Problem With A Poo" shows that making the same mistakes will only worsen your current predicament, especially when you refuses to acknowledge them. Also helping those who continue to make these same mistakes doesn't make the current predicament any better, and will only result in you getting dragged down with with them.
- This is balanced out in "Bike Parade". While bad behavior shouldn't be encouraged, one must be careful not to deal out excessive punishment.
- "Time To Get Cereal" and "Nobody Got Cereal" deals with the issue resulting from ignoring genuine issue, which also act as Matt and Trey's shift in mocking Climate Change—which was represented by Man Bear Pig—to actually addressing it. Despite the change in belief, these two episodes also showed additional messages on justifying inaction and complacency—shown by Al Gore's bailing out of the situation, and entire town deciding to extend his return date rather than stopping Man Bear Pig—by claiming said actions on others is futility in actually resolving the problems.
- "Buddha Box" shows how easy it is for people to manipulate anxiety. Anxiety comes in many forms and the genuine cases of anxiety are more severe than just a difficulty with talking to people. Anxiety can't be used as an excuse for bad behaviour.