LONDON, England (CNN) — The cartoon series “South Park” has never been shy of courting controversy, but its latest episode has caused outrage by featuring the recently deceased Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.
Swearing and random death and destruction are staples of the cartoon, which has been broadcast since 1997. Irwin, killed by a stingray’s barb while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in September is the latest celebrity to be lampooned by the show.
The episode, aired in the U.S. earlier this week, shows Satan preparing to host a Halloween fancy dress party. Other guests include Princess Diana, Hitler and rapper Notorious B.I.G. Critics have been appalled by the Irwin character’s depiction in a bloodstained shirt and with a stingray still attached to his chest.
John Beyer of UK TV watchdog Mediawatch said: “This is such bad taste and the makers of ‘South Park’ should review their decision to show it. Steve’s family are still grieving.
“To lampoon somebody’s death like that is unacceptable and so soon after the event is grossly insensitive.”
“South Park” maker Comedy Central defended the episode. A spokesperson for the company said: “It has offended people in the past and probably will again. Regular watchers would not be shocked.”
The show holds the record for the most swearwords spoken in one program, and regularly takes pot-shots at celebrities and makes fun of politics and religion.
Some tamer examples include George Clooney, mocked for his politically-motivated Oscar acceptance speech, and lampooning Tom Cruise and John Travolta for their belief in Scientology. One episode with a depiction of a bleeding Virgin Mary so upset the Catholic Church that it was pulled from repeats of the series.