Eric Cartman

===Anthony Cassidy ----



Eric Theodore Cartman is a fictional cartoon character in the second longest running cartoon ever made; “South Park”. Eric is a cynical, overweight child that often assumes the position of antagonist in episodes, demonstrating that he will stop at no costs to get what he wants, even if it means intentionally harming his “friends”. Eric lives with his mother in South Park and has never had a relationship with his father or even met him. It was established in season two that Cartman’s mother, Liane was an intersexual who fathered as well as mothered Cartman, though recent episodes have suggested that this was a lie and that in upcoming episodes Cartman’s father would be identified. Cartman’s mother often spoils him, buying him whatever he wants and waiting on him constantly for food and anything else. If Liane does not immediately obey Eric’s demands then he begins to whine or scream until Liane succumbs to his request.
Eric attends Mr. Garrison’s class in the fourth grade with his friends, the other focus characters in South Park; Stan Marsh, Kenny McCormick, and Kyle Broflowski. Eric is known as “the fat one” in his group of friends though he consistently denies claims that he is overweight and insists that he’s “big boned”. Eric and Kyle have shown hostility towards one another since the shows beginning, with Cartman exposing Kyle to slander and anti-Semitic insults for being Jewish. In an episode following the release of “The Passion of the Christ”, Cartman begins a fan club for Mel Gibson which turns into an anti-Jewish group. He resembles Adolf Hitler the more the episode goes on and boasts of a “final solution” to problems. Eric and Kyle’s turmoil continue throughout episodes increasing in intensity, with Eric occasionally trying to kill Kyle merely because he is Jewish. In one episode though, it is shown that Eric has a chance to get rid of Kyle forever and chooses to save him instead. This suggests that Cartman’s hatred for Kyle is not a nuisance but rather something that Cartman seeks out for pleasure.

Behaviorist Perspective

Applying the Behaviorist perspective of personality to Cartman, one breeds an understanding regarding his learned helplessness. Eric’s continuous whining for whatever he desires is reinforced by his mother since minor whining and complaining do not get her attention all the time but after a consistent amount of whining Liane will always cave to his demands. This partial reinforcement after consecutive complaining and sympathetic “but mom’s” makes the frequency of those behaviors skyrocket. Upon Eric learning that he could override what his mother said by using verbal force, Liane becomes very unsuccessful at being a disciplinarian to her son. This “bullying” behavior Cartman uses with his mom also carries over to his behavior with classmates and peers as he often gets Butters to do what he wants by using verbal force and threats.
Cartman largely seeks out experiences where other people get hurt or another’s pain is evident. Seeing other people suffer, especially after they have wronged him is a major internal reinforcement for Cartman’s behavior and guides much of it. In a season five episode “Scott Tenorman Must Die” Cartman is cheated out of $16.12 by an older boy named Scott Tenorman and then repeatedly embarrassed by him. After consecutive failed attempts to try and get even with Scott Tenorman, Cartman finally executes a sadistic scheme. Upon realizing that the local farmer shoots any trespassers, Cartman lures Scott Tenorman’s parents to the farm where they are shot and killed by the farmer. Cartman then proceeds to make chili out of the remains of Scott’s parents and then feeds the boy a bowl at the Chili Carnival in town. This was considered the most extreme of Cartman’s behaviors executed out of spite for another character. Eric’s repeated attempts at unsuccessful behaviors again reflect Cartman’s “learning” through partial reinforcement by his mother. He has learned that not every behavioral attempt breeds a reward, but repeating the behavior or different variations of the behavior usually will lead to reward. This consistency or one-mindedness in a single behavior carries over into every aspect of Eric’s life as he becomes obsessed with one thing at a time. In a season ten episode “Go God Go”, Cartman becomes so anxious to get the new video game council the Nintendo Wii. Not being able to wait another two weeks, Cartman develops a plan to freeze himself and then have Butters unfreeze him in two weeks. After freezing, Cartman is lost and is awakened thousands of years in the future to a futuristic world and all sorts of problems. Stubborn Cartman still only wants to play the Wii despite the world being in extreme turmoil in the future. His attempts fail each time, though he is finally sent back to his own time only to realize that he was sent back three months away from the first day of the Wii sale instead of the original two weeks. Upon realizing this tragedy he once again resorts to freezing himself to pass the time instead of being safe and waiting the duration of time. This seemingly illogical decision making may represent a premature frontal lobe development affecting Cartman’s ability to make rational decisions.

Psychoanalytic Perspective

Eric can also be analyzed through Sigmund Freud’s psychology; the Psychoanalytic perspective. The Psychoanalytic perspective involves three “parts” of the brain; the ego, id, and superego. Behind each “part” there are working principles; the id controls pleasure drives and satisfying self needs, the superego controls the standard by which you make decisions or one’s moral compass, and finally the ego balances the two into a reality, taking both into account as well as what would be acceptable actions for oneself in public or society. Cartman’s actions and behaviors show that he is dominated by his id, acting solely on principles of pleasure and personal fulfillment. His ego does not show balance between the id and superego, but rather comes out just as the id. As a fourth grader it is somewhat normal for Eric to be dominated by his id, though not to the extent of which he is. Still under the watch and direct care from their parents, the superego “area” of the child’s mind is still mostly seen on their caregiver. Eric’s id is overwhelmingly dominate in this balance system, and may cause significant problems as he grows older and sexuality plays a dominate role in the behaviors of the id. As an only-child who is repeatedly spoiled, receiving anything he wants from his mom, one can get an idea of how such a dominant id was formed.
Cartman shows fixation at the oral stage of psychosexual development since he has a large concern with being mothered and taken care of. He is also preoccupied with keeping his mouth full of desired foods such as KFC, Cheesypoofs, and chicken pot pies. Cartman’s mother is a promiscuous single parent who has been known to take drugs for recreation. She attempts to make up for her shortcomings as a parent by spoiling him with food, television and video games.
Cartman demands authority over peers and others in general. In a season two episode __ Cartman becomes an honorary police officer and takes the job too seriously, arresting friend’s parents and beating innocent people with a wooden baton. Cartman’s need for a position of power could be explained by the psychoanalytic perspective as a defense mechanism to cope with the lack of power and respect he gets from his peers. The most reoccurring defense mechanism used by Cartman is his explanation for his size, claiming that he’s not fat but rather “big-boned”. For reassurance on the subject of his weight, Cartman asks his mother, who agrees with him regardless.


Eric Cartman has characteristics of an extreme personality disorder such as psychopathy or sociopathy. Eric’s treatment of peers and other members of society in South Park reflect an extreme lack of empathy towards others. This lack of empathy is combined with strong amoral conduct, or the fact that morality or a moral compass is something that rarely affects Cartman’s behavior. Cartman maintains a lot of characteristics associated with a sociopath or psychopath; using charisma, manipulation, intimidation, and violence as a means of controlling others and fulfilling one’s own needs. The following description of a psychopath fits Eric Cartman’s personality to exact specification; “Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”. Other children are alienated by Cartman’s racist, insensitive, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, lazy, misogynistic, self-righteous, and wildly insecure behavior. Sometimes though the other children are influenced by his manipulative, obtrusive, and propagandist behavior, joining him in whatever antics he may be getting into. Cartman shows a significant amount of personal greed as several episodes focus on get-rich-quick schemes where Eric tries to make a million dollars. Eric’s entire character is "directed either toward accomplishing his own happiness or the unhappiness of others", despite his aggression towards peers Cartman often feigns actual friendship with his fellow classmates when needing a favor. The lack of a true father figure in his life, and Liane’s promiscuity and drug use has caused repressed psychological hardship in Cartman's life. If not properly addressed and managed these hardships may lead to a life of criminal behavior and punishment.

All episodes are available at Seasons 1 through 14
Friedman,Howard S.. Personality. fourth ed. ed. 1, Maria S. Schustack. Boston: Pearson Higher ed., 2009.
Arp,Robert. South Park and Philosophy. 1 ed. You Know I Learned Something Herr Today. 1, Robert Arp. Malden: Blackwell Ltd, 2007.