Maybe they’ll call it “South Park: Smaller, Shorter & Definitely Cut.”
While those little two-dimensional kids from Colorado used every four-letter word in existence last summer in their big-screen debut, at the Academy Awards later this month they may have to bite their tongues.
“South Park” “Blame Canada,” the bring-down-the-house number from “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,” is nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, but its use of the dreaded “F” word and other naughty references has become a hot potato for the cartoon’s creators, Academy officials and ABC network censors.
One thing’s certain: “Blame Canada,” like all the other nominees, will be performed at the Oscars, as per tradition. But will the offensive words be deleted? Will the TV network bleep out the foul language, like CBS did when Alanis Morissette performed “You Oughta Know” (which contained the dreaded “F”) on the Grammys in 1996? Is the song being rewritten (as the latest Internet rumors suggest), with primetime-friendly words? If so, will it still be funny?
“As it stands now, the song lyrics are in the hands of Marc Shaiman and Trey Parker, the writers, to see how they want to present it,” says Jane Labonte, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Labonte says the Academy hasn’t issued any edicts to the “South Park” guys about the lyrics and that such matters are to be decided by the ABC standards and practices department.
Meanwhile, a network spokesman says it’s up to Shaiman, Parker and the Academy Awards to propose whether the song be reworked. When that happens, ABC will issue its yay or nay.
For the uninitiated, “Blame Canada” is the satirical lynchpin of “Bigger, Longer & Uncut.” The mothers of Stan, Cartman, Kenny and the gang sing it after deciding that the flatulent cartoon characters Terrance and Philip, and other Canadian cultural exports, are to blame for all the ills of their world and their foul-mouthed kids.
In the song, the moms bemoan that their little darlings “just want to fart and curse,” or want to “run off and join the Klan.” One mother says her once loving son now “tells me to [expletive-deleted] myself.” Some of the refrains include, “It seems that everything’s gone wrong/Since Canada came along,” and “With all their hockey hubbabbaloo/And that bitch Anne Murray, too.” The mothers stage a boycott of Canada that soon degenerates into full-scale war with our northern neighbors.
Now, in a great case of Hollywood irony, a song from a movie that’s essentially a satire on censorship may have to be censored.
“They use [the ‘F’ word], which is actually a problem, and also there is the line about going off to join the Klan. That’s not OK with standards and practices,” says Labonte. “And I’m not sure about the line about Anne Murray being a bitch.”
With the baggage that “Blame Canada” carries, it’s a wonder that the “South Park” folks didn’t submit one of the other numbers in the movie for Academy consideration. What about that cute little number, “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” in which the boys look to their god-like Olympic skater for inspiration to help them save the world? Or how about “Kyle’s Mom’s A B**ch”?
“It was a hard decision for them, but the main reason they chose ‘Blame Canada’ is that it’s a turning point in the film,” says Jennifer Howell, “South Park” associate producer. “It explains a huge amount of the story, it’s heavy in exposition. I don’t think there is another song you could pull out of the movie and have it make sense and truly show that this is a good musical.”
All right, then. But what about the dear, unmentionable “Uncle F***a?”
“That’s one of people’s favorite songs, but it doesn’t serve the film in the same way,” Howell says.
In addition to possible lyrical excisions, the “South Park” gang is also wrestling with another question: Who will perform the song at the Academy Awards?
One thing’s for certain — it won’t be actress Mary Kay Bergman, who performed the voices of three mothers in the movie (and in the TV show) and was the main vocalist in “Blame Canada.” Bergman committed suicide in November.
Officials with the Academy and at the “South Park” offices alike say this matter hasn’t been decided yet. The song could be performed by Trey Parker or by the “South Park” characters via an animated segment or by someone else altogether. (May we suggest Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand or, better yet, Britney Spears.)
It has been rumored that, in order to save time, this year’s Oscar-nominated songs won’t be performed in their entirety but rather excerpted in a medley. [The Academy declined comment.]
Still, a medley might make it easier for “Blame Canada” to avoid being hacked by the censors. “I assume that they [Parker and Shaiman] would not include those lyrics that are considered offensive, if they were only doing part of the song,” Howell says. Then again, knowing Parker, he’d probably make sure the most foul-mouthed stanzas are included, just to ruffle a few feathers.
“Trey being the twisted man he is, I would be very surprised to see him not give the song an odd twist at the Oscars instead of bleeping out the words to please the censors,” says Matt Godfroy, webmaster of Mr. Hat’s Hell Hole (www.thehellhole.com), an unofficial South Park Web site. “I’d expect you to see a video montage with a small tribute to Mary Kay Bergman. I wouldn’t rule out a ‘South Park‘ animated video to perform the song, made especially for the awards show.”
And perhaps the biggest question still looms: What if “Blame Canada” wins the Oscar? Who will walk up to the podium to accept? Will it be Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny? Their moms?
We have no bleepin’ idea.