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‘South Park’ tackles trans athletes in controversial episode

'South Park's' satirical take on the controversy surrounding trans athletes.

Since its debut in 1997, South Park has been well known for consistently raising eyebrows thanks to its many satirical takes on taboo and controversial subject matter.

And in the show’s most recent episode, Board Girls (Season 23, episode 7), creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been labelled as “transphobic” by many viewers after portraying trans athletes in a negative light.

The episode sees South Park Elementary school’s vice-principal Strong Woman (yes, that’s her name) in the town’s annual “Strong Woman Competition” — where participants showcase their athletic abilities and compete for a trophy.

She is faced with an extremely masculine challenger named Heather Swanson — who supposedly began identifying as a trans woman “just two weeks” prior.

Randy Savage, aka Macho Man Randy Savage, 1994.
Randy Savage, aka Macho Man Randy Savage, 1994. CP Images Archive

Multiple outlets, including the Hollywood Reporter, reported that the character was inspired by Randy Savage, as Swanson bears a physical and audible likeness to the late-professional wrestler.

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In the episode, Swanson was even introduced by news anchor David Perry as “not exactly the average trans athlete,” suggesting that she was merely pretending to be a trans woman in order to win the competition.

“I’m not here to talk about my transition, I’m here to kick some f**king a**,” Swanson says to Perry after being asked about her identification.

Woman and Swanson then go head-to-head in the contest. Swanson ultimately wins with ease and claims the trophy, raising suspicion, among the other contestants, of her true identity.

Season 23, episode 7 of ‘South Park’: (L-R) Vice-principal Strong Woman, Heather Swanson, and another contestant in the controversial episode aired on Nov. 13, 2019.
Season 23, episode 7 of ‘South Park’: (L-R) Vice-principal Strong Woman, Heather Swanson, and another contestant in the controversial episode aired on Nov. 13, 2019. Much/Comedy Central

In response to the episode, social media users criticized the animated show for being “transphobic” and “lazy.”

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“I’m not particularly mad about the South Park episode,” tweeted one user. “Yes it’s transphobic. Yes it contributes to harm to trans women and girls, but they’re lazy and increasingly irrelevant.”

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They continued: “South Park has been deeply transphobic the *entire time*. This isn’t their first explicitly transphobic storyline. It won’t be their last. Stone and Parker are transphobes. Write them off.”

Here’s what some other angered users had to say:

Another wrote: “Real nice for South Park to put an episode out with the outdated, lazy, and dangerous ‘trans women in sports are just men trying to usurp cis women’ stereotype, complete with an overly masculine caricature… during f**king trans awareness week.”

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“Wait South Park was virulently transphobic AGAIN?” tweeted another. “Anyone noticing a pattern here? Maybe a phobia of some kind? Idk s**t really makes you think, huh?”

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As of this writing, South Park has not addressed the controversy surrounding its latest episode

READ MORE: ‘South Park’ episode banned in China screened on Hong Kong street

The show was banned in China last month after another Season 23 episode titled Band in China aired.

Band in China heavily mocked not just Hollywood and the NBA but China’s censorship standards and the country’s current president, Xi Jinping.

‘South Park’ creators offer mocking ‘apology’ to China over episode
‘South Park’ creators offer mocking ‘apology’ to China over episode

Following censorship of the show’s episode, Stone, 48, and Parker, 50, issued an “apology” to the Chinese government.

They later included another jab at the country’s politicians in South Park‘s 300th episode, Shots!!! — which remained on-brand for the creators and poked fun at the anti-vaxxer movement.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca