South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been accused of transphobia after the show's most recent episode appeared to mock trans athletes.
In the seventh instalment of the animated series' 23rd season, one of the storylines centred on a character named Strong Woman, who is interviewed on camera ahead of taking part in a Strongwoman Competition.
During the chat, she tells the host that she feels "honoured" to be going up against the "first trans woman" to be entered into such a competition.
But things take a turn when the athlete in question, named Heather Swanson, joins in with the broadcast.
Bearing a resemblance to late wrestler Randy Savage, Heather – who supposedly started identifying as a woman "two weeks ago" – shouts: "I can't tell you how free I feel. Now that I can compete as female, I'm ready to smash the other girls.
"I’m not here to talk about my transition, I’m here to kick some f***ing ass."
Heather can then be seen excelling in several of the competitions rounds, including shot put throwing, weight lifting and tyre flipping.
Later, it is revealed that the character is actually Strong Woman's ex-boyfriend, who only entered the competition in an attempt to beat and humiliate her.
Canadian cycling champion and trans rights activist Rachel McKinnon branded the gags as "lazy", before pointing out that other shows like Futurama and The Simpsons have been making said 'jokes' for almost two decades.
"I'm not particularly mad about the South Park episode," she said on social media. "Yes it's transphobic. Yes it's lazy. Yes, it contributes to harm to trans women and girls. But they're lazy and increasingly irrelevant. F***, Futurama made the same stupid storyline in 2003. Transphobes don’t have new jokes."
She continued: "South Park has been deeply transphobic the *entire time*. This isn't their first explicitly transphobic story line. It won't be their last. Stone and Parker are transphobes. Write them off. Ignore their lazy show."
Okay southpark continually makes jokes about trans people and like yeah satire can be fun and all but when you’re consistently making trans people out to be gross/weird solely because of their gender identity it’s really just rude and hurtful and reinforces negative stigmas.— amelio (@EmilioEleccion) November 14, 2019
I want to like the most recent @SouthPark episode because the board games A story has some awesome moments but the B story with Strong Woman is just transphobic and sexist and entirely tonedeaf. Swing and a miss Trey and Matt, may have just lost this trans fan and many others— Z3RØ5um Official (@TheSinrgy) November 14, 2019
"Can't wait for a new wave of bull***t thanks to the new episode of South Park completely ignoring the fact that all athletic institutions (I know of) require at MINIMUM three years of HRT before allowing trans athletes to compete," another Twitter user added. "This is cruel and/or irresponsible."
"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***ing trans awareness week," a third chimed in.
But others viewers claimed that that those criticising the scene had jumped to conclusions and that storyline was more nuanced than that. They claimed that the storyline was actually calling out toxic masculinity rather than mocking trans athletes.
South Park: calls out a sexist cis man who says he's trans just so he show how superior he is to women in sports— 💫💛Sarah💛💫 (@AstroBabe97) November 14, 2019
Sensitive cry babies: TrAnSpHoBiC!!!!! Cancel South Park!!!
"Anyone else think that @SouthPark was actually making [fun] of people who think that’s what trans-athletes really are?" another argued. "I mean in reality, trans-people go through medical transitions, and don’t do it for easy wins."
South Park airs on Comedy Central and is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
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