Comedy Central is not a network known for its conservatism, but for as long as its been on the air, South Park has always embraced the free market. Fortunately, its new season returns tonight—hopefully the GOP presidential debate is over by the time South Park airs!
Last season, there was an entire episode, "Handicar," dedicated to explaining the model of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and praising their innovation while attacking the taxi monopoly's efforts to regulate them out of the market. It their typical style, they did this in the most raunchy format possible.
At one point, the character Mimsy says to the cab drivers:
“I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you guys just make your cars cleaner and nicer, and try and be better to your customers, so you can compete with [their] popularity in the marketplace?”
There was also an episode released in 2014 making fun of the gluten-free trend. In the episode, the FDA and USDA were trying to fix the food pyramid. At one point, a USDA employee says, "We are the USDA! Without us, people would be eating dirt and—chairs," reflecting the South Park creators' long-held disdain for the elite—both government and Hollywood—belittling the American people.
As co-creator Matt Stone has said, "In Hollywood, there's a whole feeling that they have to protect Middle America from itself ... Political correctness started from there, with the idea that the middle of the country can't handle sophisticated jokes. And that's why South Park was a big hit up front, because it doesn't treat the viewer like a fucking retard."
Even the 1998 episode in which underpants gnomes stole underwear was laden with subtle economic themes. The "gnome" reference itself is actually a reference to capitalism. Paul A. Cantor explains it here.
The South Park creators, Stone and Trey Parker, don't affiliate with either party, and are contrarian by nature. Stone once said, "I had Birkenstocks in high school. I was that guy. And I was sure that those people on the other side of the political spectrum were trying to control my life. And then I went to Boulder and got rid of my Birkenstocks immediately, because everyone else had them and I realized that these people over here want to control my life too. I guess that defines my political philosophy. If anybody’s telling me what I should do, then you’ve got to really convince me that it’s worth doing."
The show has also generally avoided being preachy. A passive viewer will often notice little more than the show's audacity and vulgarity. But dedicated viewers who know the show see its depth and underlying messages, which are often strengthened by the show's obscenity.
Despite the racy content of the show, Reason's Nick Gillespie once made the case for having your children watch South Park. I've watched the show since I was eight years old, and can attest to its pro-free market influence on my life. And as I've said for the last 14 years, I'm looking forward to tonight's new episode.