PARKER & STONE

From the Nov. 28, 2008, Deseret News

To paraphrase the famous saying, hell hath no fury like a TV animator scorned. Specifically Trey Parker who can't seem to get over his first girlfriend.

Parker and Matt Stone have gone out of their way to lampoon the LDS Church in every artistic medium they've explored, from their student film in college to their huge success with the animated sitcom "South Park" to the just-announced "Mormon Musical" set for Broadway next year — all of which apparently stems from Parker having dated a Mormon girl in his youth.

Whenever interviewers ask why Parker and Stone repeatedly skewer The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Parker says that his first girlfriend was a Mormon and ever since he has had a fascination with the church.

When he discusses this, Parker can be quite complimentary to church members in general, referring to them as "the nicest people." And in truth, even his most mean-spirited gags often go all gooey by the end.

Of course, these guys aren't alone in their repeated use of Mormonism as a punchline, and they also aren't the nastiest. These days it's open season on the LDS faith and its members; Parker and Stone were just ahead of the curve.

So when I read about this new "Mormon Musical" it made me chuckle just because of their fixation on all things Mormon.

Their student film, "Cannibal! The Musical" (just re-released on DVD for its "13th Anniversary"), is an off-the-wall Western with over-the-top violence and gore — and songs — that features a Mormon character searching for gold who crosses himself in the Catholic manner. A mistake or an intentional goof? With these guys it's hard to tell.

Then came "Orgazmo," an NC-17 comedy about a Mormon missionary (played by Parker) who becomes a porn star. One could quibble about the great amount of misinformation here; the Mormon practices are way off base. But with a picture like this what's the point?

Even Parker and Stone's sports farce "BASEketball" has a veiled LDS Church gag in its opening sequence, as a solemn narrator says, "The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City where they don't allow music." (Researched by watching "Footloose," no doubt.)

And the long-running "South Park" has had several LDS gags. In a Fourth of July show, about a giant runaway fireworks "snake," there are young men in white shirts and ties performing baptisms in a Utah river with red-rock formations behind them and a gentle piano rendition of a Mormon hymn— until the snake swallows them up. The baptismal ritual is portrayed incorrectly, of course.

Another "South Park" episode has an orientation in hell with people who "picked the wrong religion." When they ask which was the correct religion, they are told, "I'm afraid it was the Mormons." (Sarcasm not withstanding, some church members have embraced this sequence, helping it fly through the internet.)

Then there was one episode devoted entirely to the LDS faith, with flashbacks to Joseph Smith and the roots of the church, belittling believers with a repeated musical chorus of "dumb, dumb, dumb." Although, in the end, the "niceness" of LDS families comes into play again … in "South Park's" own twisted way.

Whether these shows are taken as angry diatribes or pointed satire, and whether Mormons are offended or just laugh it off, the question remains — surely Parker's old girlfriend has moved on by now, so shouldn't he?