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“South Park” Battles Scientology, Tom Cruise

12 years ago by Steve Taylor

South Park ScientologyWith the departure of Isaac Hayes from the hit Comedy Central series, South Park, it seemed fairly obvious that South Park and Scientology were destined to be at odds. In fact, South Park has initially put Scientology in its cross-hairs with the episode , “Trapped In the Closet”, which mocked both Scientology and Scientologists, in particular, Tom Cruise.

Scientology was one of the many religions which South Park has lampooned, with religious groups such as Jews, Christians, Mormons, Muslims and others, being the target of crude criticisms from South Park’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In the episode “Trapped in the Closet”, the children of South Park take a Scientology aptitude test. One of the four youngsters starring in the show, Stan Marsh, scores so highly on the test, Scientologists believe he is the re-incarnation of the religions founder, the late L. Ron Hubbard. Stan rejects the title, and when met by an animation of Tom Cruise, who like other Scientologists in the episode hail Stan to be their leader, Stan tells Tom Cruise that his acting sucks. The animated Cruise proceeds to run into a closet and hide, prompting calls from fans and friends for Tom Cruise to “come out of the closet.” At one point, fellow Scientologist John Travolta’s animated version enters the closet with Tom.

The real Tom Cruise has not been impressed by this episode, and had originally created a small fuss about it after “Trapped in the Closet” had aired. However, his reaction to the South Park episode never became a huge story. However, teamed up with the Isaac Hayes story, Tom Cruise’s battle now has mainstream attention. It has been reported that Tom Cruise threatened to stop doing any press or promotion of his summer blockbuster movie, Mission: Impossible 3, if Comedy Central ran the re-run of the episode. Mission: Impossible 3 is being made by Paramount Pictures, which is a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. Viacom also owns Comedy Central, which means they would have the power to withhold the re-run of the South Park show.

The re-run of this episode never made it to air, much to the chagrin of the creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In a statement put out in Friday’s Daily Variety, the creators made the following statement.

So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!” The statement had been signed by “Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu.”  The note is written in a form that seems to mock Scientology as being science fiction.

It has been denied by Tom Cruise that he made such threats against Paramount and Viacom, and Comedy Central says they didn’t air “Trapped in the Closet” so they could air two episodes featuring Chef, as a tribute to Isaac Hayes. The LA Times has gone so far as to dub the issue “Closetgate”, and speaking of its benefits to South Park’s Season 10 ratings. “If we weren’t looking forward to Season 10 of “South Park” before, we certainly are now. For Stone and Parker, Closetgate will be the gift that keeps on giving.”

Paramount is hoping Mission: Impossible 3 can triplicate the success of its predecessors, with Mission: Impossible grossing roughly $180 million at the box office and Mission: Impossible 2 pulling in around $215 million. Tom Cruise, who was married to Mimi Rogers (Lost in Space, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), then Nicole Kidman (The Interpreter, Cold Mountain) and is currently engaged to Katie Holmes (Thank You for Smoking, Batman Begins), joined the Church of Scientology in 1990 after renouncing his Catholic beliefs. Cruise’s lengthy résumé includes movies such as Top Gun, Rain Man, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, The Last Samurai and War of the Worlds.

South Park will head into its 10th season this fall, without Isaac Hayes as Chef. No word has been made for a replacement or a substitute. South Park follows the adventures of Stan Marsh, Kenny McCormick, Eric Cartman and Kyle Broflovski in their little mountain town of South Park, Colorado. South Park has a feature length movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut which grossed $52 million at the box office, back in 1999.

[Additional Sources: Variety, LA Times]

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Steve Taylor was a contributing news writer for The Deadbolt between 2005 and 2007.