South Park is not new to controversy, this is an adult animated show that aired an episode titled Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants two months after 9/11, showed a cartoon image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and had an entire episode dedicated to calling Kanye West a gay fish.
So it’s no surprise that the latest season brewed fresh controversy only two episodes in - the season 26 episode The World-Wide Privacy Tour, which landed on Paramount+ on Thursday 16 February sparked rumours that the show’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone would be sued.
The pair have managed to avoid any major legal action since they started the show 25 years ago, but this time some believed they may have gone too far and provoked legal action from royalty itself.
The episode in question took aim at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, lampooning them over their apparently contradictory claims about their desire for privacy.
What was the Harry and Meghan South Park episode about?
The World-Wide Privacy Tour the ‘Prince and Princess of Canada’ - clearly based on Harry and Meghan - as they visit South Park as part of their very public privacy tour.
The prince is also shown promoting his book, Waaaagh, a not so subtle dig as Harry’s memoir Spare in which he spoke about his relationship with his family and dealing with a frostbitten penis.
Harry and Meghan has been criticised by some members of the media for complaining about their lack of privacy whilst also putting themselves in the public eye through high profile interviews, book deals, and a $100 billion Netflix documentary.
This is the general theme of the South Park episode, which also shows them holding a sign reading ‘we want our privacy’ as they travel the world on a private jet for a series of media appearances.
The regular South Park character Stan Marsh also refers to the royal pair as the ‘dumb prince and his stupid wife’.
Are Harry and Meghan suing over the South Park episode?
A source told The Spectator that Meghan Markle had felt “upset and overwhelmed” following the release of the episode. However, it appears that legal action will not be taken.
A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex confirmed that the pair had no intention of suing the South Park creators over the recent episode which poked fun at them. The spokesperson told People: “It’s all frankly nonsense. Totally baseless, boring reports.”
In December 2022, Harry paused a libel case with Associated Newspapers, owner of the Mail on Sunday over an article which alleged he had tried to keep details of his legal fight to reinstate his police protection secret.
Has South Park been sued before?
Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise threatened to sue Parker and Stone in court over a 2005 episode which mocked the Church of Scientology, which Cruise is heavily involved in, and strongly hinted that he was secretly gay - his character was ‘trapped in a closet’ for most of the episode.
The credits at the end of the episode listed all of the cast and crew members as either John or Jane Smith to anonymise those involved in a reference to the Church’s notoriety for suing detractors. In the end, Cruise did not follow through with legal action.
The show’s creators were sued for copyright infringement over the use of a character in the 2007 episode Imaginationland. Exavier Wardlaw claimed in 2012 that the South Park character The Lollipop King was a rip off of his character Big Bad Lollipop, from his children’s show, The Lollipop Forest.