'South Park' versus 'The Simpsons': Which is better?
Comparing South Park to The Simpsons is like comparing cheesy poofs to doughnuts. Both are delicious, rich, and stay with you even after they’re finished. (Gross!) So how can we possibly determine which is the more superior animated comedy? It’s a tough debate, but Sandra Gonzalez and I attempted to name a victor. So read on, neighbor-inos, and let us know what you think in the comments below, m’kay?
(This is part of an ongoing series of posts in which EW writers debate the most defining pop culture rivalries. Past subjects have included Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera, Schwarzenegger/Stallone, Godfather/Goodfellas, Movies/Videogames, and the neverending boy-band battle between ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. Come back here Thursday for more exciting face-offs!)
Kate Ward (South Park: Oh, awesome!): Okay, let’s get this started. Now, if the argument here was South Park versus The Simpsons seasons 1-11, I’d say you’d surely win in a landslide. Unfortunately, The Simpsons has allowed itself to shrink into a state of irrelevance over the past decade. Say it with me: D’oh!
Sandra Gonzalez (Mmmm… The Simpsons): Are we really going to talk worst seasons here? Because in that case, I’d like to introduce you to the last four years of South Park. Let’s face it, what keeps people talking about South Park and The Simpsons after 15 and 23 seasons, respectively, are not the bad seasons, but the great ones. The ones that remain embedded in pop culture and our memories. So while we could spend the next 600 words comparing “A Million Little Fibers” to “The Ned-liest Catch,” let’s not do that do our dear readers — and most importantly, ourselves.
KW: Fair point. The mere mention of Towelie just makes me want to
get high shudder. Yet, when it comes to this match-up, it’s still impossible not to note the fact that Springfield, wherever it’s located, has gone South. It’s true South Park has lost a bit of its luster post-“Imaginationland,” but it is still relevant enough to be able to acknowledge that it has lost its luster. Re-watch “You’re Getting Old.” The Simpsons could use some self-awareness like that. Or it can just continue doing Twilight parodies two years too late.
SG: HAHAHA! It’s funny ’cause it’s true. Ehem. That said, they might have not delivered the first Twilight parody, but I guarantee you they certainly won’t deliver the last. And that also brings me to a point: The Simpsons, for me at least, has never been about spoofs, parodies, or even timely social commentary. What attracted me to the show in the first place was my love with the oddly illustrated yellow people of Springfield, from every member of the Simpson household to Bleeding Gums Murphy (R.I.P.). The show’s crude humor mixed with normal family happenings not only reminded me of my own family, but also made me want to be part of their entire odd community. I’ve never felt that while watching South Park. Find me a single moment in South Park that was as sweet as watching Homer scrub the green off of Bart after his science experiment went wrong. It was subtle, it was touching, and they ended the scene with green Bart running naked through the house to escape Homer’s wrath. It’s a mix of heart and hijinks that I’ve always found, simply, excellent.
KW: What are you talking about? South Park has plenty of tender family moments! Remember when Cartman found out that his mother was a hermaphrodite and his father was Scott Tenorman’s dad, who he murdered in season 5? Oh, wait. I see your point. So South Park isn’t the most touchy-feely program on TV. But if I wanted sweet family programming, I’d watch Cosby Show reruns. There’s no other show out there even remotely comparable to South Park. It’s immature, offensive — and, yet, undeniably intelligent. Show me any other series that offers social commentary as brilliant and on-point as South Park in such a fast turn-around time. Whenever any big story hits the news cycle, South Park becomes appointment viewing — that’s a rare feat for a cartoon. And they rarely disappoint, touching on topics like elections, religion, and/or pop culture’s worst. And, yes, poop. Because poop is funny. Come on, Sandra, respect my authoritah!
SG: I won’t for a second debate the brilliance of Matt Parker and Trey Stone. I appreciate their message and satirical voice. (Also, I heard that Broadway play they did is sort of okay, too.) But I want more from my cartoons. This robot needs to feel! (Speaking of which, hat tip to Futurama in this great debate.) But even though The Simpsons has, at its best, made me sob like a Hallmark movie at Christmas, I would never go so far as to link them to the Cosbys. (If only the Cosbys had more butt scratching and beer drinking!) The heart is simply the salt in this dish of undeniably trailblazing animated comedy, anchored by an overweight, obnoxious-yet-lovable character. And not that I’m saying anyone borrowed from anyone’s idea, but remind me again, Kate, who is the main character in South Park (1997)?
KW: Well, hold on a second! South Park‘s Cartman is definitely overweight and obnoxious, but loveable? Sandra, I’m going to have to start screening your dates! And besides the fact that they’re both beloved, long-running animated series, there’s very little else that the two series have in common. Including the fact that South Park actually doesn’t have a main character, which allows the show more creative freedom. Should its creators want to devote an entire episode around, say, Satan and his My Super Sweet 16-esque Halloween party, they can do so, without having to force in a storyline for a supposed “lead” character. But, since you agree that South Park‘s creators are genius and I agree that Simpsons, in the past, has delivered some of the most touching moments on TV, we’re in a fix. How do we truly determine which series is superior? I’ve got an idea: Let’s bring Mel Gibson into this. Sure, the actor — the subject of memorable episodes for both shows — brought us the Shifty-Eyed Dog on The Simpsons, but South Park managed to predict Gibson was crazy way back in 2004. That kind of foresight definitely needs to be rewarded over Simpsons‘ constant celebrity glad-handing, doesn’t it?
SG: Wait, you’re looking to Mel Gibson for a logical conclusion to our debate, and I’m the twisted one? I think the only conclusion is this one: Despite their constant comparisons, South Park and The Simpsons are two completely different shows. One is — at its best — a character show and another makes characters out of the news. Both are fine in their own right, but when it comes to labeling one “the best” (if you’re going to go there — and we did) I’ll always give my vote to a character-driven show that’s been home to some of the best voice talent of our time. (God bless you, Monorail man.) To anyone who disagrees, I say (in my mind with quiet rage): Hate world, revenge soon, take out on everyone.
KW: As Stan would say, you know, I learned something today: When it comes to two critically lauded mega-hits, it doesn’t really matter which one is considered better. We don’t need to necessarily determine a winner because we are the winners. We’re so incredibly lucky that there are two series on air that have touched us — not in that way, Sad Panda — and continue to entertain us.
…But still, South Park is better. And to anyone who disagrees with that: Screw you guys – I’m going home!
SG: Let’s both go home. Not together. That would be some Family Guy s—-.
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