Cartman has been anally probed by aliens, responsible for murdering the parents of one of his school rivals, not to mention kidnapping a fellow classmate to ensure his heirarchy at a birthday party.
By Felix Morrison
“South Park” is perhaps one of the few reservoirs of pure, constant genius in modern times. The episodes are filled with a clear understanding of trends in politics, fashion, culture and society.
This animated series managed to become not about one character, or about one family, but a whole town, a small slice of mankind as a whole. Using very extreme, sarcastic and dry humor, they are painfully accurate in calling out the two-faced reality of human nature.
Through humor and hyperbole the showrunners are able to point out aspects of human behaviour that we wouldn’t normally see. It’s hard to forget episode eight from season eight, “Douche and Turd” where the local high school is forced to vote for a new school mascot. The episode aired on October 27 the week before the 2004 elections between Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry.
In a series of articles we will bring a deeper analysis of “South Park.” Not just the content of the episodes but their meta content, and the way the show synthetize complex ideas in simple storylines.
We will trace how the show breaks the fourth wall on multiple occasions, create conclusions via Deus Ex Machina and masterfully uncovers deep unconscious roots that link synchronistic trends.
Let’s start by analyzing a true unique individual living in South Park: Eric Cartman.
This red-sweater, green-cap-wearing, big-boned-not-fat kid has been the center of much of the show’s conflicts. Cartman has been anally probed by aliens, responsible for murdering the parents of one of his school rivals, not to mention kidnapping a fellow classmate to ensure his hierarchy at a birthday party.
Schizoanalysis of “South Park”
Let’s get right into it. Eric Cartman is a vector of deterritorialization. This is definitely a big word for such a young boy, so let’s dissect this together.
Maverick philosopher Gilles Deleuze and rebel psychologist Felix Guattari created a discipline called schizoanalysis.
In Guattari’s words: “Rather than moving in the direction of reductionist modifications which simplify the complex, schizoanalysis will work towards its complexification, in short towards its ontological heterogeneity”
In layman terms what they tried to do was create a new way of analysing the unconscious, one that didn’t reduce our dreams, fantasies and desires to a psycho-sexual driven psychology.
Instead of trying to see our mind as a theater where the same Freudian complexes would play out, they saw it as a factory feeding from many different inputs. This is the essence of their heterogeneity concept, simply put, that our mind and selves are shaped and affected by much more than just our family and relation with our parents. To express this novel idea, their works are plagued with neologisms and concepts borrowed from quantum physics, anthropology, literature, music and much more.
Tying together all these different fluxes we find transversal markers, subtle invisible lines running through different registers making unexpected connections. It’s this process of bringing novelty and complexity through heterogeneous factors that constitutes what we call deterritorialization.
Getting back to “SouthPark,” Cartman is a perfect example of how comic book author Grant Morrison describes the Joker in his famous Arkham Asylum story.
Looking at the notes of the therapist treating the Joker we disern he’s “a brilliant new modification of human perception, more suited to urban life at the end of the twentieth century. He creates himself each day, He sees himself as the lord of misrule and the world as a theatre of the absurd.”
Using schizoanalysis terms, we could say Eric Cartman is a vector of deterritorialization. His super sanity allows him to move through social conventions in a very different way than his peers.
One of the best examples is when we see an eight-year-old Cartman, exploiting the need for foetuses in stem cell research for a quick buck, using the imminent death of his friend Kenny as an excuse to push Congress to pass a law approving such research. This is episode 13 of season five aptly titled “Kenny Dies.”
In yet another episode (season seven, episode 11, “Casa Bonita”) Cartman decides to lock his friend Butters in a bomb shelter for a whole week, convincing him there is a zombie apocalypse, just to fill in his place for an invitation to his friend Kyle’s birthday.
The fact is Cartman has no actual mother, and his father is his hermaphrodite mother. Combined with the influence of TV, culture in general and being the target of school bullying makes Cartman the perfect storm of factors for such a highly deterritorialized individual.
Having no ties to his family, friends, or any real chance with the opposite sex, and possessing an extraordinary intelligence for manipulating adults, Cartman’s able to push his desire through the highest levels of society, where as a true psychopath he understand and mimics human behaviour.
Using Deleuze’s and Guattari’s terms, we would say that the deterritorialization of Cartman has become negative and veers to absolute destruction. Cartman’s resentment and anger towards his peers has driven him to a point of no return where he has truly transformed into a new being.
Even more harrowing examples can be found in current history where a neo-Nazi mentality manifests in a new and effective way of spreading a message of hate and political propaganda.
“South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have been able to spot this unconscious process that can manipulate the masses to the depths of Hell and they carefully dissect it through humor and hyperbole.
And in this way we take a deeper look at ourselves.
“A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia” – Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari
“Arkham Asylum : A Serious House on Serious Earth” – Grant Morrison