Eric Cartman is one of the most beloved icons of the small screen. He’s also one of the most controversial, as he and South Park as a whole have faced protests from concerned parents and Christian groups for the past 20 years. And looking at his love of Adolf Hitler and his casual racism, sexism, and above all, anti-Semitism, it’s easy to see why these protestors see a problem.
But the joke of the character is that he’s all those things, but he’s also eight years old. Trey Parker and Matt Stone set out to create an eight-year-old version of Archie Bunker. Over the years, Cartman has been responsible for some of the show’s darkest episodes. So, here are Cartman’s 10 Darkest Storylines.
10 Cartman’s Incredible Gift
In “Cartman’s Incredible Gift,” when Cartman decides to attempt to fly from his roof with some homemade wings, he quickly lands himself in the hospital. When he awakens from the resulting coma a few weeks later, some detectives are convinced by a couple of implausible coincidences that the coma gave Cartman psychic powers, so they ask him to use those “powers” to help them in the hunt for a serial killer.
Cartman’s “visions” consist of his usual thoughts – which, apparently, are junk food and clowns – so he gets the local KFC manager and ice cream man arrested. Then, the real serial killer abducts him for accrediting his work to someone else and he almost has to reveal that he isn’t actually a psychic, but the cops arrive just in time.
9 The Passion of the Jew
Trey Parker and Matt Stone were handed the perfect Cartman storyline on a silver platter when Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ became a box office smash. The movie was directed by a known anti-semite and it vilified the Jewish community.
Naturally, this led to Cartman’s hatred being empowered enough to start up a Passion of the Christ fan club that was essentially a neo-Nazi organization. Cartman’s (and America’s) love of the movie caused Kyle to have a crisis of faith – while Stan and Kenny demanded their money back – culminating in the movie and its director being dismissed.
8 Ginger Kids
This episode is a prime example of what an incredible character Cartman is. He starts off by giving a presentation to the class about the dangers of ginger kids. So, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny sneak into his bedroom and dye his hair red to teach him a lesson.
But then, he just switches sides and rallies the ginger kids against the hate that he instigated. He ends up inspiring the ginger kids at school to go out at night and kidnap every non-ginger kid from their homes, in order to sacrifice them into a pool of lava in the conference room at the local Hilton.
7 World War Zimmerman
In a pastiche of the Brad Pitt zombie movie World War Z and the George Zimmerman trial, South Park did an episode where Cartman fears that if Zimmerman is acquitted, the African-American population will rise up in the style of the zombies in the movie. As a result, he’s being extra nice to Token and writing poetry absolving himself of racial bias.
In the episode, Zimmerman is acquitted, as he was in real life, but when he shoots Cartman, a white kid, he’s promptly sentenced to the death penalty and brutally electrocuted in the kind of hilariously drawn-out sequence that only South Park can do.
6 Crack Baby Athletic Association
Cartman has been known to exploit people less advantaged than him for personal gain, but in the Emmy-nominated episode “Crack Baby Athletic Association,” he really takes the cake.
He and some of the other boys from school start up a sports league that employs infants suffering from prenatal cocaine exposure. In the subtext, the comment that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were making with this episode is that the NCAA is just as immoral for not paying its players, with Cartman even suggesting that those players are “slaves.” The episode’s absurdist icing on the cake is presenting Slash as a mythical Santa-like figure.
5 Cartman Sucks
Episodes about Cartman and Butters never fail to raise a bounty of laughs, because they play off each other perfectly. Butters represents pure childhood innocence and Cartman represents pure evil, so their interactions are always hysterical.
In “Cartman Sucks,” Cartman has been inviting Butters over for sleepovers and then taking embarrassing pictures of him while he’s asleep. But then, he takes a picture that he doesn’t realize is more embarrassing for him than it is for Butters until Kyle points it out to him. In the process of trying to rectify the situation, he gets Butters sent to a gay conversion camp and shows the picture to the whole class.
4 Breast Cancer Show Ever
Cartman has always been an uncaring jerk, but it’s never been clearer than in “Breast Cancer Show Ever.” In the episode, Wendy gives a presentation to the class about breast cancer awareness, and Cartman can’t help but joke through it. Despite everyone in the class groaning and Mr. Garrison begging him to stop, Cartman keeps joking until eventually, Wendy threatens to kick his ass.
As he begins to fear that she might be serious, Cartman tries to quietly get Wendy to call off the fight, even eating his underwear and bringing in his mom. But when Principal Victoria compares Eric himself to cancer, Wendy has a free pass to beat him up in a hysterical homage to Snatch.
3 Up the Down Steroid
The primary focus of “Up the Down Steroid” is on Jimmy’s use of steroids in the days leading up to the Special Olympics. However, the B-plot features Cartman committing one of his most deplorable acts: pretending to be disabled in order to compete.
He assumes he’s going to be better at all the events than the actually disabled kids and decides it’s an easy way to get at the prize money. Of course, he gets his comeuppance when the other kids turn out to be in much better shape than him, and he comes in last place in every event.
2 Casa Bonita
The classic episode “Casa Bonita” is named after a Mexican restaurant that Cartman really, really likes. He likes it so much that when Kyle announces that his birthday party will be taking place there and Cartman can’t come, he’ll do anything to get an invitation.
Butters gets the third invitation, so Cartman pretends to be nice to Kyle long enough to get a backup invite (if Butters can’t make it, Eric can come). So, he convinces Butters that an apocalyptic event has taken place and locks him in a bunker. However, Butters going missing postpones the party. So, Eric takes him out to a refrigerator in a junkyard and breaks off the handle. But he still gets found out.
1 Scott Tenorman Must Die
Cartman’s darkest episode is also lauded by fans and critics as possibly the greatest installment of the entire series, and when a show has more than 300 episodes, that’s quite high praise. It begins with an eighth-grader named Scott Tenorman tricking Cartman in buying some of his pubes.
As Cartman seeks revenge, Scott continues to thwart him. However, the episode concludes with Cartman carrying out a plan so diabolical that it defined the character as the manifestation of pure evil. He puts on a chili festival and leads Scott to believe he’s planning one thing before shocking everyone by feeding Scott his parents.