|South Park character|
|First appearance||Jesus vs. Frosty (short)
"Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" (South Park)
|Created by||Matt Stone
|Portrayed by||Trey Parker
Brandon Hardesty (live action)
|Full name||Eric Theodore Cartman|
|Family||Liane Cartman (mother)
Jack Tenorman (deceased biological father)
Scott Tenorman (half-brother)
|Residence||South Park, Colorado|
Eric Theodore Cartman is a main character in the animated television series South Park, created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and voiced by Trey Parker. Cartman, generally referred to by his surname, is one of four central characters in South Park, in addition to Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, and Kenny McCormick. Cartman first appeared, originally named Kenny, in prototypical form in a 1992 animated short Jesus vs. Frosty, and a 1995 animated short Jesus vs. Santa, and first appeared on television in the pilot episode of South Park, "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe", on August 13, 1997.
Cartman is an elementary school student who lives with his mother in the fictional town of South Park, Colorado, where he routinely has extraordinary experiences atypical of a small town. Cartman has been portrayed as aggressive, prejudiced, arrogant, and narcissistic since his character's inception; Stone and Parker describe the character as "a little Archie Bunker". These traits are significantly augmented in later seasons as his character evolves, and he begins to exhibit psychopathic and extremely manipulative behavior, and also be depicted as highly intelligent, able to execute morally appalling plans and business ideas with success.
Cartman is considered to be the most popular character on South Park. Parker and Stone state that he is their favorite character, and the one with whom they most identify. South Park has received both praise and criticism for Cartman's politically incorrect behavior. Prominent publications and television channels have included Cartman on their lists as one of the most iconic television and cartoon characters of all time.
Role in South Park
Eric Cartman attends South Park Elementary as part of Mr. Garrison's class. During the show's first 58 episodes, Cartman and the other main characters are in the third grade, after which they move on to the fourth grade. He is an only child being raised by Liane Cartman, a promiscuous single mother. In "Cartman's Mom Is Still a Dirty Slut" (1998), Liane Cartman claims to be a hermaphrodite when she also claims to be the father of Cartman and that she did not know the woman who gave birth to Cartman. However, the season 14 (2010) episode "201" later reveals that Liane actually is his mother, and that his true biological father is Jack Tenorman, a fictional former player for the Denver Broncos whom Cartman arranged to be killed in the season five (2001) episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die," making Cartman and Scott Tenorman half-brothers and putting Liane's intersexual identity in question.
Among the show's main child characters, Cartman is distinguished as "the fat kid", and his obesity is a continuing subject of insults and ridicule from other characters throughout the show's run. Cartman is frequently portrayed as an antagonist or villain whose actions set in motion the events serving as the main plot of an episode. Other children and classmates are alienated by Cartman's insensitive, racist, xenophobic , anti-semitic, lazy, self-righteous behavior, but are occasionally influenced by his obtrusive, manipulative, and propagandist antics.
Kyle, who is Jewish, is often the target of Cartman's slander and anti-Semitic insults. The two have shared an enmity since the show's beginnings, and their rivalry has become significantly more pronounced as the series has progressed, with Cartman even routinely exposing Kyle to physical endangerment. Although, at other times, Kyle is an enthusiastic participant in Cartman's schemes and Cartman is sometimes seen actually being nice to Kyle in some instances. Parker and Stone have compared the relationship to the one shared by Archie Bunker and Michael "Meathead" Stivic on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family. Kyle has a tendency to make what he thinks are safe bets with Cartman, and often loses these bets when the improbable actions promised by Cartman are accomplished. Cartman's motivation in this regard is not merely monetary gain, but an obsession with scoring a victory over Kyle, a fixation that ultimately plays a major part in a subplot to the three-part episode "Imaginationland" (season 11, 2007). This obsession has also proven itself to actually trump other goals Cartman wishes to achieve, for instance, in "Christian Rock Hard" Cartman makes a bet with Kyle that he can make a platinum album before Kyle can. After recruiting Butters and Token, Cartman creates a Christian rock band called "Faith+1" and "writes" Christian songs by merely taking love songs and replacing words such as "baby" with "Jesus" (which humorously implicates sexual relations with Jesus). Against all odds, the band becomes largely successful, managing to sell over a million copies (and potentially gain millions of dollars). However, since Christian rock bands cannot truly get a platinum album (which is not true in real life), Cartman loses the bet. Despite having amassed a large fan base as well as a large, steady income, Cartman only becomes enraged since he was unable to win a bet with Kyle. Careless in his anger accepting the "Myrrh" album in front of a large Christian crowd, Cartman goes into an Anti-Christian rant which drives away all of the fans as well as profits. In "You're Getting Old," the final episode of the first half of South Park's 15th season, it is suggested that Kyle and Cartman may be developing a genuine friendship, possibly due to the void left by Stan's apparent departure. Cartman's resentment of Stan is usually reserved for when Cartman proudly proclaims his hatred for both Stan and Kyle as a duo, and his contempt for Stan as an individual is usually limited to his annoyance with Stan's sensitivity, affection for animals, and the relationship Stan shares with Wendy.
Despite being intolerant of other cultures, Cartman displays an aptitude for learning foreign languages. In the episode "My Future Self n' Me" when he starts "Parental Revenge Corp", he speaks Spanish to his Latino workers, though he may have learned the language merely from a practical standpoint in order to better exploit a labor pool. He also knows German, and once spoke a few phrases while dressed up as Adolf Hitler while promoting the extermination of Jews to an oblivious audience that did not speak German. Cartman can also be seen speaking broken German with an American accent in Season 15 Episode 2 "Funnybot". Conversely in one episode ("Major Boobage") Cartman acts as an Oskar Schindler character for the town's cats, a rare case of a subplot based on Cartman's altruism.
Cartman frequently teases Kenny for being poor, and derides Kenny's family for being on welfare. He will also use an awkward pause during a conversation as an opportunity to casually remind Kenny that he hates him. Cartman's mischievous treatment of Butters Stotch, and the relationship the duo shares has received significant focus in the more recent seasons of the series. This reflects Parker's interest; the scenes between the two are the ones he most enjoys writing.
Several episodes center around Cartman's greed and his get-rich-quick schemes, although his numerous attempts to attain wealth generally fail. His extreme disdain for hippies serves to satirize the counterculture of the 1960s and its influence in contemporary society, reflecting Parker's real-life antipathy towards hippies. Though the role is customarily taken by Stan or Kyle, Cartman will occasionally be the one to reflect on the lessons learned during the course of an episode with a speech that often begins with "You know, I've learned something today...".
Creation and design
A precursor to Cartman first appeared in the first The Spirit of Christmas short, dubbed Jesus vs. Frosty, created by Parker and Stone in 1992 while they were students at the University of Colorado. In the short, Cartman was actually named "Kenny", and the catchphrase "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" was exclaimed when the character representing Cartman was killed by an evil snowman. The character was composed of construction paper cutouts and animated through the use of stop motion. When commissioned three years later by friend Brian Graden to create another short as a video Christmas card that he could send to friends, Parker and Stone created another similarly-animated The Spirit of Christmas short, dubbed Jesus vs. Santa. In this short, his character first appears as he does in the series, and is given the name "Cartman", while the character of Kenny appears as the character is depicted today and given Cartman's moniker from the previous short. Cartman next appeared on August 13, 1997, when South Park debuted on Comedy Central with the episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe".
In keeping with the show's animation style, Cartman is composed of simple geometrical shapes and primary colors. He is not offered the same free range of motion associated with hand-drawn characters; his character is mostly shown from one direction, and his movements intentionally jerky. Ever since the show's second episode, "Weight Gain 4000" (season one, 1997), Cartman, like all other characters on the show, has been animated with computer software, though he is portrayed to give the impression that the show still utilizes its original technique.
Cartman is usually depicted wearing winter attire which consists of a red coat, brown pants, yellow gloves/mittens, and a yellow-brimmed turquoise knit cap tapered with a yellow pom-pom. He has parted brown hair, and he is seen without his hat more often than the other characters with distinctive headwear. As he is overweight, his body is wider, his hands noticeably larger and his head is a more elliptical shape in contrast to the circular heads of the other children. An additional curved line on his lower face represents a double chin.
Although he had originally voiced Cartman without any computer manipulation, Parker now does so by speaking within his normal vocal range with a childlike inflection. The recorded audio is then edited with Pro Tools, and the pitch is altered to make the voice sound like that of a fourth grader. Parker says to achieve the effect of Cartman's voice, he simply uses the same technique when voicing Stan while "adding a lot of fat to it".
Cartman is partially named after and based on Matt Karpman, a high school classmate of Parker who remains a friend of both Parker and Stone. Cartman is also inspired by All in the Family patriarch Archie Bunker, who is himself inspired by Alf Garnett from Till Death Us Do Part, the original British version of All in the Family. Parker and Stone are big fans of All in the Family. They state that creating Cartman as a "little eight-year-old fat kid" made it easier for the two to portray a Bunker-like character after the introduction of political correctness to late-20th century television. While developing the character, Parker noted that everyone either remembers "an annoying fat kid in their pasts", or "they were the annoying fat kid". Stone has observed that "kids are not nice, innocent, flower-loving little rainbow children [...] they don't have any kind of social tact or etiquette, they're just complete little raging bastards".
In the season five (2001) episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die", Cartman is tricked into buying the pubic hair of local eighth-grader named Scott Tenorman for $16.12. He then successfully executes an elaborate scheme to publicly humiliate Scott in front of his favorite band Radiohead, by getting Scott's parents killed and then tricking Scott into eating them. The show's writers debated during production of the episode whether or not the incident would be "a step too far, even for Cartman". Parker felt that the act could sufficiently be the culmination of Cartman's sociopathic behavior, and would "[set] a new bar" by portraying Cartman as being capable of performing anything short of murder. Fans reacted by ranking it as Cartman's "greatest moment" in a 2005 poll on Comedy Central's website. It is later revealed that Jack Tenorman, Scott's father, is Cartman's father as well, thus turning the murder into a patricide; this revelation represents a retcon (short for "retroactive continuity") of Professor Mephisto's statement that the hermaphroditic Mrs. Cartman is Eric's father.
Personality and traits
Cartman is foul-mouthed (as are his friends) as a means for Parker and Stone to portray how they believe young boys really talk when they are alone. According to Parker, Cartman does not possess the "underlying sweetness" of the show's other child characters. Cartman is shown at times to be completely amoral and remorseless. Cartman is amused by bodily functions and toilet humor, and his favorite television personalities are Terrance and Phillip, a Canadian duo whose comedy routines on their show-within-the-show revolve substantially around fart jokes.
Cartman is sensitive and in denial about his obesity. Often reasserting Liane's notion by exclaiming "I'm not fat, I'm big-boned!" and will just as often either threaten to bring harm to anyone who mocks his weight or curse them out in aggravation. He has also had people killed, such as when he drove his psychiatrist's wife to suicide after enduring a long tirade about his weight. He views himself as more mature than his fellow friends and classmates, and often grows impatient with their company; despite claiming to be more mature, he will often break down crying childishly and pathetically whenever he feels defeated. This often leads to loud arguments, which in earlier seasons typically end with Cartman peevishly saying "Screw you guys... I'm going home!" and then leaving. In an action King's College philosophy professor David Kyle Johnson describes as "directed either toward accomplishing his own happiness or the unhappiness of others", Cartman often feigns actual friendship with his classmates when needing a favor. The lack of a true father figure in his life, and Liane's promiscuity and drug use have caused repressed psychological hardship in Cartman's life. As a parent, Liane often spoils Cartman, and is largely ineffectual as a disciplinarian. Cartman sometimes commands his mom to do tasks for him, but more often resorts to pleading with her in an ingratiating tone. When neither method works, he resorts to excessive and indecipherable whining, to which Liane usually succumbs. Parker has noted that this is the primary cause for Cartman's behavior, stating that Cartman is "just a product of his environment".
We always had this thing where Cartman's mother was so sweet—she was always so sweet to him and giving him whatever he wanted. And I don't know if it's worse in L.A. than most places in the country—I hope so—but [we've met] so many parents who were just so desperately trying to be friends to their kids. And it was the thing we really picked up on. And it was just like, 'These [people] are making these really evil kids'.
– Trey Parker, discussing Liane's role in shaping Cartman's personality in an interview with NPR
Cartman thrives on achieving ascendancy over others, and exerts his will by demagogy and by demanding that others "Respect my authoritah!" Cartman has several times declared that his dream is getting "Ten million dollars". He has shown initiative in taking a businesslike approach to earning money, starting his own "hippie control" and "parental revenge" operations, as well as a Christian Rock and a boy band, a basketball team of crack babies (parody of the NCAA) and his own church.
Cartman's anti-Semitism, while mostly limited to mocking Kyle, culminates in the season eight (2004) episode "The Passion of the Jew". In the episode, Cartman, after watching The Passion of the Christ numerous times, deifies the film's director, Mel Gibson, and starts an official Gibson fan club, praising Gibson for "trying to express—through cinema—the horror and filthiness of the common Jew". Cartman's interpretation of the film influences him to dress up as Adolf Hitler and lead other fan club members (who are oblivious of Cartman's actual intentions) in a failed effort to engage in a systematic genocide of the Jews similar to that of the Final Solution. In the season 10 (2006) episode "Smug Alert!", Cartman anonymously saves Kyle's life in an effort to get him and his family to return to South Park from San Francisco, revealing that he craves the animosity shared between the two. And in "Coon vs. Coon and Friends" (season 14, 2010), Cartman directs the "evil god" Cthulhu to destroy "most of the synagogues". However, in the 16th season episode "Jewpacabra" Cartman revealed he had converted to Judaism after a hallucinogenic dream. As of season 17, it is unsure whether he has retained this trait or whether it was simply a plot point in that one episode.
Upon hearing his classmates tell him that they hold him in the lowest regard possible and that they could not possibly think any worse of him, a stubborn Cartman misinterprets this act as their attempt to make him feel better, and convinces himself that everyone thinks he is the "coolest kid in school". In the season 13 (2009) episode "Fishsticks", Cartman subconsciously believes that he helped in creating a joke that quickly becomes a nationwide sensation, despite the fact that the character Jimmy Valmer writes the joke without any assistance. Carlos Delgado of If Magazine noted this as "Cartman being so egotistical that he manipulates the past to serve his own purposes".
Little is shown concerning Cartman's romantic interests, as for the most part, his attitude towards females is sexist. However, at least in one episode ("Chef Goes Nanners"), Cartman develops an attraction to Wendy, which is apparent from the end of episode when Wendy describes her temporary infatuation towards Cartman as 'sexual tension' and even though Cartman agrees in front of Wendy, he sighs with sorrow at being alone again. During a period when he was physically unable to control his speech and he repeatedly blurted hidden feelings, he expressed a romantic interest in classmate Patty Nelson, a side character who has not been seen before or since.
Cartman is a South Park fan favorite, and is often described as the most famous character from the series. With a headline to their online written version of a radio report, NPR declared Cartman as "America's Favorite Little $@#&*%". "Respect my authoritah!" and "Screw you guys ...I'm going home!" became catchphrases and, during the show's earlier seasons, were highly popular in the lexicon of viewers. His eccentric enunciation of "Hey!" was included in the 2002 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of Catchphrases. Stone has said that when fans recognize him or Parker, the fans will usually do their imitation of Cartman, or, in Parker's case, request that he do Cartman's voice.
In 2005, Comedy Central ran a three-night marathon of episodes showcasing what voters had deemed to be his "25 greatest moments". A two-disc DVD collection entitled "The Cult of Cartman", which Comedy Central described as "12 classic episodes with Cartman at his very worst!", was released in 2008.
In a 1999 poll conducted by NatWest Bank, eight and nine-year-old children in the United Kingdom voted Cartman as their favorite personality. This drew the concern of several parent councils who were expecting a character from a television show aimed at children to top the list, to which Stone responded by claiming the results of the poll were "upsetting to people who have an idyllic vision of what kids are like". Parker and Stone have always asserted that due to Cartman's actions and dialogue, his appearances in South Park are not meant to be viewed by younger children, and they note that the show is certified with TV ratings that indicate its intention for mature audiences.
While some in the Jewish community have praised the show's depiction of Cartman holding an anti-Semitic attitude towards Kyle as a means of accurately portraying what it is like for a young Jew to have to endure prejudice, other Jews have blamed South Park and Cartman for having found themselves surrounded by "acceptable racism". On November 20, 2008, a Facebook group titled "National Kick a Ginger Day, are you going to do it?" surfaced, suggesting abuse towards redheads. Thousands of internet users signed up as a member of the group, and reports of a feared increase of bullying of red-headed students across Canada soon followed. The group's administrator, a 14-year-old from Vancouver Island, said the group was only intended as a joke, and apologized for the offense it caused. The group was inspired by the season nine (2005) episode "Ginger Kids", in which Cartman incites prejudice towards those with red hair, pale skin, and freckles, a group he calls "Gingers" and claims are inherently evil and without souls.
Other characters commonly express lessons learned from the antagonistic actions Cartman commonly provokes; this has resulted in these characters giving their opinions on issues such as hate crime legislation, civil liberties, excessive religious devotion, the stem cell controversy, anabolic steroid use, the "right to die" debate, and prejudice. In the season 10 (2006) episode "Cartoon Wars Part II", Cartman, planning to exploit the public's fear of terrorism, seeks to get the Fox television series Family Guy, a program he despises, permanently removed from the airwaves when Fox plans to air an episode despite its inclusion of a cartoon likeness of Muhammad. This leads Kyle to give a short speech about the ethics of censorship, which reiterates Parker and Stone's sentiments of "Either it's all okay, or none of it is" in regards to whether or not any subject should remain off-limits to satire. Both Cartman's commentary and the commentary resulting in response to his actions have been interpreted as statements Parker and Stone are attempting to make to the viewing public, and these opinions have been subject to much critical analysis in the media and literary world.
The book South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today includes an essay in which Johnson uses Cartman's actions and behavior as examples when discussing the logical problem of moral evil, and another essay by College of Staten Island professor Mark D. White cited the season two (1998) episode "Chickenlover", in which Cartman is temporarily granted law enforcement powers, in its discussion regarding the command theory of law and what obligates a citizen to obey the law. Essays in the books South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating, Blame Canada! South Park and Contemporary Culture, and Taking South Park Seriously have also analyzed Cartman's perspectives within the framework of popular philosophical, theological, political, and social concepts. Parker and Stone downplay the show's alignment with any particular political affiliation, and deny having a political agenda when creating an episode. In response to the focus on elements of satire in South Park, Parker has said that the main goal of the show is to portray Cartman and his friends as "kids just being kids" as a means of accurately showcasing "what it's like to be in [elementary school] in America".
TV Guide ranked Cartman at number 10 on their 2002 list of the "Top 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters", 24th on TV Guide's "25 Greatest TV Villains", 198th on VH1's "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons", and 19th on Bravo's "100 Greatest TV Characters" television special in 2004. When declaring him the second-scariest character on television (behind only Mr. Burns of The Simpsons) in 2005, MSNBC's Brian Bellmont described Cartman as a "bundle of pure, unadulterated evil all wrapped up in a fat—er, big-boned—cartoony package" who "takes a feral delight in his evildoing". In 2014, IGN ranked Cartman first place on their list of "The Top 25 South Park Characters", commenting that he was "the obvious choice" to number one and that "sometimes the obvious choice is also the right one." The website stated that despite Cartman being "one of the worst human beings in the history of fiction [...] he's the most loathsome character we've ever loved." IGN concluded by calling him "the biggest contribution to the world of animated characters that South Park has made – and that's saying something."
In other media
- Cartman has a major role in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the full-length film based on the series, and appeared on the film's soundtrack singing the same musical numbers performed in the movie. As a tribute to the Dead Parrot sketch, a short that features Cartman attempting to return a dead Kenny to a shop run by Kyle aired during a 1999 BBC television special commemorating the 30th anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cartman is also featured in the documentary film The Aristocrats, telling his version of the film's titular joke to Stan, Kyle, and Kenny, and in "The Gauntlet", a short spoofing both Gladiator and Battlefield Earth that aired during the 2000 MTV Movie Awards.
- For their 2007 Snakes & Arrows tour, the rock band Rush commissioned a short, video introduction for the song "Tom Sawyer". Cartman, dressed in a long wig to look like singer Geddy Lee, sings his own, personal, version of the song's lyrics prompting the usual outrage from Kyle. The video can be seen on the band's Snakes & Arrows concert video.
- In 2002, Cartman became the main protagonist of a series of promotional videos for the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, which are played on the big-screen TVs inside of Staples Center where the character ridicules the mascots of rival teams and reacts to various aspects of the game.
- Short clips of Cartman introducing the starting lineup for the University of Colorado football team were featured during ABC's coverage of the 2007 match-up between the University of Colorado and the University of Nebraska.
- In 2008, Parker, as Cartman, gave answers to a Proust Questionnaire conducted by Julie Rovner of NPR.
- Parker performs as Cartman on tracks for Chef Aid: The South Park Album and Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics. Cartman also appears in five South Park-related video games: In South Park, Cartman is controlled by the player through the first person shooter mode who attempts to ward off enemies from terrorizing the town of South Park. In South Park: Chef's Luv Shack, a user has the option of playing as Cartman when participating in the game's several "minigames" based on other popular arcade games. In the racing game South Park Rally, a user can race as Cartman against other users playing as other characters, while choosing to place him in any of a variety of vehicles. In South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!, Cartman can be selected as a playable character used to establish a tower defense against the game's antagonists. In South Park: The Stick of Truth, Cartman is the leader of one of two tribes in South Park, at war over the Stick of Truth. Cartman is later a selectable companion character in this JRPG-style game.
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