WARNING: The following article article contains major spoilers for Episode 2 of South Park Season 23, "Band in China."
Matt Stone and Trey Parker have incorporated their love of music into South Park, from the very beginning of the long-running animated series, with the band Primus composing and performing the theme, and Robert Smith of The Cure appearance as himself in a Season 1 episode. Since then, there have been cameos by everyone from Elton John and Korn to Brad Paisley and Sia.
Beyond that, however, the show has also depicted the boys -- Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny -- forming bands like Fingerbang and Moop (the latter never actually made music, as a stand against Napster). Then came the Christian rock group Faith + 1, founded by Cartman to release a platinum record and win a bet with Kyle. But in the second episode of Season 23, "Band in China," some of the other South Park kids start a band, not to make a statement about any genre, but to take a shot at China.
Stan has been upset that his family has moved to a farm for his father Randy's controversial marijuana business. He's emo, as his friends say, and he channels that into the new band Crimson Dawn.
When the group makes its debut at a local autumn festival, it appears Crimson Dawn will perform folk music, reflective of Stan's lighthearted disposition throughout the episode. However, when Stan, Kenny, Butters and Jimmy take the stage, they dumbfound the crowd by unleashing heavy metal. They cover songs like Dying Fetus' "Second Skin" and Death Decline's "Useless Sacrifice."
When they rehears later, the vent about the adults not taking them seriously. But when a studio approaches them, Stan thinks it's for a record deal, only to be told it's for a biopic, because that's what cool bands do, even before they're on the charts. It's silly, but as the biopic is filmed, South Park pokes fun at China's censorship, and how Hollywood caters to the nation. We also see companies like the NBA and Google bend the knee to China.
Crimson Dawn has to conform to Chinese standards because their producers want the biopic to air there. It's a cash cow, so Stan and his bandmates have their personalities, and their stories, altered to conform to China's standards. Even the military arrives to ensure they will pass muster, with the world power buying Stan's label and doctoring everything to fit their agenda. It continues South Park's love of taking jabs at China.
Disney also bows to China, the world's second-largest film market, to ensure there's no repeat of what happened with Christopher Robin. The Chinese oversee Stan's writing, take over the high school and more or less turn it into a commercial.
But while Mickey Mouse placates China, Stan rebels and gets the old gang back together to perform "Fingerbang" at Crimson Dawn's unveiling, which will surely bring about repercussions. Once China decides this isn't making bank, it could retaliate against Crimson Dawn, meaning Stan and his friends may have painted targets on their backs.
Starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park Season 23 airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/PT on Comedy Central.