‘Respect My Authoritah’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘South Park’s Eric Cartman
Lovingly referred to by his creators as their “little Archie Bunker” and quite possibly the most torturous character in animation history, Eric Cartman is very much the center of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park universe — for all the wrong reasons. He’s the diabolical kid who once, deliberately, gave Kyle Broflovski HIV. He’s the not-so-little maniac who once made Scott Tenorman eat his own parents. He’s racist, sexist, ableist and every other negative -ist you can possibly think of, and he’s only really loved by his mother because that is her cross to bear.
But why is Cartman like this? Why, pray tell, is Cartman the way he is? Let’s dig a little deeper into the Machiavellian miscreant’s animated existence to see what we can learn…
Blame the Mother
If you ask Parker and Stone, they will tell you that Cartman’s mom, Liane, is the one to blame here. “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,” Parker told NPR. “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 with 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.’”
Parker then refers to the episode “Tsst” (see clip above), which sees Liane Cartman hiring Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, to get her son to behave. “It was really hard for her, but you started to see her do it, and you started to see him change,” Parker explains. “And there was just the hint of, he might come around; he might be all right. And then, of course, she decides at the very end (of the episode) that she has to have a friend, and you realize that it really is all the mother’s thing passed on to the child and that Cartman’s basically doomed.”
Voiced by a Woman
No, we’re not referring to the latest South Park special in which Cartman’s alternate universe version is a Black woman. We’re referring to voice actress Kimiko Saito, who does Cartman for the show’s Japanese dub and does him so incredibly well. Sure, Japanese Cartman is just as terrible as American Cartman — it’s just hard not to like Saito’s version.
His Criminal Record
From kidnapping a bunch of hippies to electrocuting Mexicans, Cartman’s criminal record is as ample as his waistline. A YouTuber and mega South Park fan named Blooms calculated that, under Colorado law and for all his crimes committed up until Season 24, Cartman would be sentenced to “three federal death penalties, two life sentences, 273 years in prison or jail, seven years of mandatory parole” and would have to register as a sex offender if found guilty of all his criminal charges. Truly, Cartman’s criminal existence is the stuff Netflix true-crime documentaries are made of.
No Distinction at First
When initially setting out to create the South Park boys, Parker and Stone didn’t have any fully formed characters in mind. In fact, the earliest versions of them — as seen in Parker and Stone’s 1992 animated short, “The Spirit of Christmas” — has Cartman go by the name of Kenny and be the one to die.
The creators told NPR that none of the main characters had any particular distinct personalities at first. Cartman, however, was quick to stand out as a little fireball of terror. “I’d say within the first season, we kind of realized Cartman’s like a little Archie Bunker,” Parker said. “And we were big fans of All in the Family, and we were going back and seeing some of those reruns, and we kind of realized what we had there.”
Being a Kid Is Easy
“And especially because he was eight years old, he was kind of free to say whatever he wanted,” Parker added. “He could dress up like Hitler, and he could do this because he’s eight. And he doesn’t really know what he’s doing; he doesn’t care. He’s just a product of his environment.”
The Lost Family
While Stan, Kyle and Kenny live with both their parents and have at least one sibling, Cartman lives alone with his mom; the absence of a father figure is quite stark. In the unaired pilot, however, there is a scene where Cartman has a dad and a sister sitting at the dinner table while Liane serves up turkey. These family members were ultimately cut, and we’re left wondering what could’ve been.
One fan has pointed out that, between Season One and Season Four, Cartman was mean but not yet the monster we have come to know over the years. Therefore, Redditor stabhamsters reasons, it was the town of South Park’s constant bullying and put-downs that turned Cartman into the narcissistic asshole he is today. Of course, that is not how narcissism works, and some folks will always blame everyone but the boy. Either way, Cartman’s cruelty has definitely gotten worse over the years.
He’s Not All Bad (Although He Is the Worst)
In fairness, Cartman has had some redeeming moments throughout the show — even if they didn’t last that long. He once saved all the town’s cats from the DEA. He once brokered peace between the town’s divided attitudes over the Iraq War. Many fans were devastated when, in the South Park COVID specials, Cartman went from being an actual decent adult (and rabbi, no less) to ending up a homeless drunk when his future got taken away from him. Somewhere inside that loathsome little turd are the seedlings of an okay human being. Too bad Cartman wakes up every day and choses to be his worst self.
’Shut Up, Cartman’
While still developing their soon-to-be hit, Parker and Stone attended a 1995 Super Bowl party where a “super obnoxious” guy named Matt Karpman was also in attendance. During the game, Karpman was trying to get some high-fives from everyone, but the party peeps weren’t feeling it, with one yelling, “Shut up, Karpman!” This led to Parker going, “Cartman! That’s the perfect name for the fat kid!”
He Does, In Fact, Enjoy a Lot of Authoritah
His plans might be pure evil in nature, but many of the townsfolk in South Park (and sometimes, beyond) tend to lean into Cartman’s shenanigans and allow his reign of terror. More often than not, it’s up to his peers to thwart his plans and make folks see the folly of their ways. Fact is, people love listening to Cartman.
Some in the Jewish community have accused South Park of promoting “acceptable racism” by having Cartman, a fan-favorite, constantly spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric. When Cartman claimed that red-haired kids have no souls and are sub-human, people from all over the world thought it good and proper to organize events in which they could showcase their prejudice toward redheads. His influence stretches beyond the show and speaks to some people’s worst instincts.
So, Is He a Psychopath?
It’s a question that many have asked throughout the years, and everyone seems to have a different take on it. Back in early 1998, a child psychologist told Spin that Cartman, much like Parker mentioned, was a product of his mother’s infantilization. She also said that he’s “cognitively a mess” and probably has Attention Deficit Disorder. This analysis diagnoses Cartman as a Social-Cognitive Sociopath. While terms like psychopath and sociopath cover a pretty broad spectrum of behavioral traits and possible afflictions, it’s probably safe to say that Cartman suffers from myriad mental health problems. Nevertheless, he tends to top numerous internet lists of the most psychopathic cartoon characters of all time.
We Know He’s Certifiably Obnoxious
This much has been proven — Parker even created Cartman’s voice while taunting his film professor in class at the University of Colorado.
His Darkest Timeline Begins
Of all the terrible things Cartman has done, the one where he feeds Scott Tenorman’s dead parents to the kid is so bad that even Stone and Parker went back and forth on whether they should do it. “We had that idea, and we thought it was really funny, but then we were like, ‘Well, we’re setting a new bar now,’” Parker explained to NPR, admitting that it was a pretty big deal among the writers and that everyone agreed to do it, as long as Cartman didn’t actually murder anyone. “But you could obviously see how if they were going to be dead, he could feed them (to his enemy, Scott),” Parker continued. “So we debated it for a long time, and then we did it.”
This would create the worst canon timeline Cartman could possibly ask for since we later find out that Scott’s dad, Jack Tenorman, was Cartman’s biological father. There’s just no coming back from that. That is how you get to Homeless Drunk Cartman.
Just a Kid
In many ways, it doesn’t really matter whether Cartman is a sociopath or a psychopath or suffers from severe rage issues because his mother wants to baby him forever. After all, he’s just a kid. Or as Parker once so eloquently put it: “Kids are not nice, innocent, flower-loving little rainbow children. Kids are all little bastards. They don’t have any kind of social tact or etiquette; they’re just complete little raging bastards.”