Although he was initially an ancillary character and the focus was more on Stan and Kyle, Eric Cartman quickly took the spotlight in South Park. He’s a prime example of a “breakout character,” the character who unexpectedly becomes the most popular member of a show’s ensemble. First conceived as an eight-year-old Archie Bunker, Cartman has since evolved into a little sociopath whose depravity has no limit.
Ever since he fed Scott Tenorman his own parents in a bowl of chili, Cartman has been characterized as the embodiment of pure evil. But, he’s also one of the show’s most lovable characters—in his own way, at least.
10 Christian Rock Hard
After making a bet with Kyle over whose band will be the first to go platinum, Cartman rushes to assemble a Christian rock band with Token and Butters. He replaces the subjects of regular love songs with “Jesus,” and they con their way into a headlining gig at a Christian music festival.
They quickly become the biggest Christian rock band in the world, but he can’t get a platinum record because Christian record companies award gold, frankincense, and myrrh records.
9 Le Petit Tourette
When he discovers that there’s a condition that makes people’s language uncontrollable, Cartman thinks he’s found a “golden ticket.” He pretends to have Tourette’s syndrome so he can swear in front of his teachers with impunity. Eventually, he really can’t control what he says and starts blurting out embarrassing secrets in public.
The episode has been praised by the Tourette Syndrome Association—since renamed the Tourette Association of America—for accurately educating the public about Tourette’s and highlighting some common misconceptions about the condition.
8 Cartman Sucks
Cartman has been inviting Butters around for sleepovers and then taking compromising pictures of him in his sleep in “Cartman Sucks.” One night, he puts Butters’ penis in his mouth as a prank. However, his friends tell him that makes him gay, and the only way to “reverse the gay polarity” is to get Butters to do the same to him.
However, Butters’ dad catches them in the act and sends him to gay conversion therapy. Then, Cartman can’t find the picture and becomes convinced that Kyle will show it at show-and-tell, so he decides to beat him to the punch.
When all the nanny reality shows fail to get Cartman’s behavior in check, in the episde “Tsst,” his mom brings in Cesar Millan from the Dog Whisperer show to use disciplinary techniques for dogs on her son. It’s surprisingly effective, as Cartman starts losing weight and working harder at school, but his relationship with his mom goes back to normal when Millan leaves.
6 The Death Of Eric Cartman
After he eats all the chicken skins from their KFC bucket, the boys decide to ignore Cartman. Everyone else in their class decides to do the same thing. This leads Cartman to believe that he’s dead and his lost soul is wandering the Earth.
He teams up with Butters, ostensibly the only person who can “see” him, to right the wrongs of his mortal existence so he can be taken to Heaven.
5 Ginger Kids
Cartman warns his classmates about the scourge of redheads in “Ginger Kids,” which brings out a widespread prejudice against “gingers.” To teach him a lesson, the boys dye his hair red in his sleep so that, when he wakes up, Cartman believes himself to be “ginger.”
In response to the bullying he faces for it, Cartman decides to switch sides and become the authoritarian leader of the redheads with a plan to eradicate all non-gingers.
4 Scott Tenorman Must Die
Season five’s “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is often named South Park’s greatest episode. It certainly marked a turning point for the series, as Cartman evolved from an eight-year-old Archie Bunker into the embodiment of pure evil. After Cartman fed a kid his own parents, there was no going back. The story is told perfectly, too, with Scott repeatedly outsmarting Cartman until he reaches his breaking point and unleashes a diabolical scheme.
3 Breast Cancer Show Ever
When Cartman laughs through Wendy’s presentation about breast cancer awareness, she challenges him to a fight after school. At first, he’s not worried, but he then realizes how serious she is about the fight and becomes concerned that he’ll get his ass kicked.
He does everything to avoid the fight, including taking a dump on Mr. Garrison’s desk to get last-minute detention and telling his mom, but, in the end, Principal Victoria, a breast cancer survivor, gives Wendy a free pass to beat him up: “when you have cancer, you fight, because it doesn’t matter if you beat it or not. You refuse to let that fat little lump make you feel powerless!”
Cartman pranks Butters by pretending to be a robot companion sent to him from Japan in “AWESOM-O.” But, when Butters reveals that he has a video of Cartman dancing with a cut-out of Justin Timberlake that he’s going to show the class the next time Cartman pranks him, he has to keep up the ruse until he can find the tape.
Eventually, Cartman is taken to L.A. when Butters goes to visit family and gets recruited by a movie studio to churn out ideas for high-concept Adam Sandler comedies.
1 Casa Bonita
When Kyle invites Butters to his birthday party at Cartman’s favorite Mexican restaurant, Cartman will do anything to take his place. He convinces Butters that a meteor has hit the Earth and everyone he loves is dead, then locks him in Jimbo’s bomb shelter. However, Butters’ distraught parents’ search for their son delays the party, and Cartman instead has Butters taken to the dump in a refrigerator.
Cartman’s deplorable actions finally catch up to him as he arrives at Casa Bonita and tries to have as much fun as possible before the cops take him in.
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