Content Warning: The following article contains discussions of homophobia, racism, and gun violence.South Park is a legendarily long-running animated series that began airing in 1997, and is still going more than a quarter of a century later. There’s been a total of 26 seasons, various specials, and of course one theatrically released movie back in 1999. And that’s not even going into all the other various South Park-related media out there, like video games and various one-off shorts and sketches.
One of the reasons South Park has endured for so long is because of its ability to discuss contemporary issues, thanks to episodes being written and made shortly before they air. Sometimes, the writers manage to not only satirize and critique current issues, but end up being surprisingly prophetic. What follows are some of the most interesting South Park moments that ended up becoming true, whether deliberately or by accident.
10 ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005)
Season 2, Episode 9 (1998)
One of many awkwardly-titled South Park episodes, “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” came out in the show’s early days, being the ninth episode of season 2, to be precise. The episode follows Chef trying to sell his titular recipe to visitors after a Los Angeles film festival comes to the town, which naturally disrupts the usual goings-on.
Naturally, there’s plenty of humor at the expense of film festivals and the kinds of movies that are shown within them. This includes the ever-dismissive and offensive Cartman commenting that independent movies are only about “gay cowboys eating pudding.” Granted, there’s no pudding in 2005’s acclaimed Brokeback Mountain, but it was a critically-acclaimed drama with a fairly low budget that was specifically about gay cowboys, for what that’s worth.
9 ‘The Interview’ (2014)
‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ (1999)
The South Park movie lives up to its title by indeed being bigger, longer, and more extreme with its humor than the show could be (it’s also a musical). It follows what once seemed like a ridiculous premise: the U.S. threatens to declare war on Canada because their raunchy, R-rated movies have allegedly corrupted America’s youth.
15 years later, a movie called The Interview was set to be released. It was a comedy with a plot involving two men getting wrapped up in a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un. It was controversial enough that violence was feared if The Interview got released, and so to reduce panic, it ended up having its premiere canceled and the scope of its release reduced. The whole situation – threats made because of a controversial movie – isn’t dissimilar between South Park and real life.
8 Ricky Martin Coming Out
Season 3, Episode 8 (1999)
The eighth episode of South Park’s third season has its main plot focusing on Stan being stuck at a party he doesn’t want to be at, and forced to interact with kids like Pip and Butters. The title is a reference to the B-plot, which sees Randy and another father, Gerald, having a “unique” experience while in a hot tub together.
Randy later hears two people speculating on someone’s sexuality, and though he thinks they’re gossiping about him, it turns out they were talking about Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin. More than 10 years after the episode aired, Ricky Martin did officially come out, confirming his sexuality publicly in 2010.
7 Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins Changes
Season 4, Episode (2000)
The main storyline of “Chef Goes Nanners” is a fairly serious one that’s since become more relevant in light of events that have happened in the 2020s. The storyline here involves a dispute around the town’s horribly racist flag, with some arguing it should be changed, and some claiming it should be preserved for historical reasons.
It’s obviously more extreme in South Park’s fourth season here than seen in similar discussions in real life, but the early 2020s saw an increased push to have certain sports teams change names and mascots that are now deemed insensitive. This included the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins changing their names to the Cleveland Guardians and the Washington Commanders respectively, somewhat similar to the changes made by the end of “Chef Goes Nanners.”
6 Warner Bros’ Strategy
Season 8, Episode 5 (2004)
Season 8’s “AWESOM-O” is often regarded as one of South Park’s best episodes, and certainly ranks among the best episodes that focus on Butters. The plot involves Cartman disguising himself as the titular robot, and at one stage, a movie studio uses him to generate ideas for films, thinking he’s an AI powerful enough to do that.
Fast-forward to 2020 and the idea of a movie studio using AI to make business decisions doesn’t seem so outlandish. This is because Warner Bros. announced it was planning to invest in an AI system that could reportedly estimate the box-office potential of certain movie ideas, with South Park inadvertently predicting this is something that movie studios would one day choose to do.
5 ‘Hello Kitty Online’ (2008)
Season 10, Episode 8 (2006)
Few South Park episodes are as iconic as “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” which is the eighth episode of the show’s 10th season. It follows the main characters all getting addicted to the MMORPG World of Warcraft, and doing all they can to defeat the game’s most powerful player, who’s now able to overpower the game’s developers.
There’s a throwaway line from Butters about how he doesn’t like World of Warcraft, and prefers to play a game called “Hello Kitty Island Adventure,” which wasn’t a real game at the time. By 2008, however, there was a comparable online game called Hello Kitty Online, and the game even referenced the (fictional) game Butters referred to with an April Fools’ Day announcement in its year of release.
Season 12, Episode 2 (2008)
“Britney’s New Look” is a 12th-season episode that satirizes the way the media hounded Britney Spears to a great extent, especially around 2007 and 2008. The show pushes the concept into absurd areas of course, but like many good South Park episodes, it has a good deal to say about its core premise.
The South Park version of Spears doesn’t survive the episode, and so by the end, the paparazzi mention that their new target (or sacrifice) might be Miley Cyrus. By 2013 and then throughout 2014, Cyrus did indeed end up being treated similarly by the media, with plenty of sensationalized articles and stories surrounding her, like what happened with Spears.
3 Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Season 14, Episode 3 (2010)
“Medicinal Fried Chicken” is a particularly bizarre episode of South Park, even by the show’s standards. Its central premise revolves around Cartman struggling to find a place that sells KFC, after new laws legalize recreational marijuana and criminalize KFC in certain locations, with Cartman’s local KFC getting replaced by a marijuana dispensary.
While recreational marijuana wasn’t legal in Colorado in 2010 – as depicted in the show – it was by 2012. This is one prediction that’s notable for coming true very close to the episode airing, with just two years separating fiction from fact in this particular instance.
2 Osama bin Laden’s Manner of Death
Season 14, Episode 9 (2010)
Admittedly, the season 14 episode “It’s a Jersey Thing” isn’t the only South Park episode to “predict” the way Osama bin Laden would die. And in addition, he’s not a huge part of this particular episode’s main plot, which centers on a collection of Jersey Shore-esque people invading the town of South Park and turning the whole place into a hilarious parody of the popular MTV reality show.
But this was the final episode to feature the running gag of Osama bin Laden being shot in the head, being another South Park character who could seemingly die and come back to life, like Kenny. The year after “It’s a Jersey Thing” aired, bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid on his compound, with the cause of death being a shot to the head.
1 ‘South Park: Phone Destroyer’ (2017)
Season 18, Episode 6 (2014)
“Freemium Isn’t Free” is the sixth episode of the show’s 18th season, and deals with “free-to-play” mobile games that get players addicted and spending money on various small in-game purchases that all add up. In the episode, this happens to Stan, with the other characters intervening to try and get him away from the mobile game.
Three years later, a game called South Park: Phone Destroyer was released, and it features the sorts of elements that are criticized within this 18th season episode. It’s certainly ironic that a freemium game with South Park’s name on it came out at all, but it goes to show that even if the truth isn’t always stranger than fiction, it can be equally surprising.
NEXT: Predictions From ‘The Simpsons’ That Came True