Also notable for an odd compulsion: Whenever he hears any part of the song Come Sail Away by Styx, he has to finish it. Typically he tries to get this over with as quickly as possible, however it also became a track of South Park's Chef Aid album, where it's given that unique "Cartman" twist.

In all seriousness, Cartman is the classic "dirty little bastard" type (literally; his parentage is unknown, as it turns out his mother is actually his father and s/he doesn't remember who the mother is). Possibly the most beloved character in the series, but mostly because people just love to see him in pain (which happens quite frequently).

The dark side of Eric Cartman

Over the course of the six series of South Park that there have been so far, Eric Cartman's character, alongside the programme itself, has taken a darker turn, with Cartman progressing from merely obnoxious to downright amoral and unhinged.

In earlier shows, Cartman is a typical spoilt fat kid, bullying his mother for Cheesy Poofs and being mean to his cat Kitty. Although he takes out his insecurities on others, we see his sheltered side when the other kids observe him having a tea party with his toys, much to Kyle, Stan and Kenny's amusement. Only later are we to find out the sadistic depths to which Cartman can plunge.

In an unexpected conclusion to episode 501, Cartman reveals that he has had ninth grader Scott Tenorman's parents killed, and duped Scott into eating them. And in episode 513, Kenny Dies, Cartman feigns upset at his friend's terminal illness to convince congress to allow stem cell research from aborted foetuses to go ahead. Only at the end does Cartman admit it was all a plan to allow him to make a killing selling foetuses he recovered from a road tanker accident.

We are given one or two other hints at the character's disturbed side, as certain psychosexual issues are revealed. In episode 606, during which Cartman takes delight in finding out where veal comes from, Kyle and Stan attempt to wake him while he is sleeping. Before he wakes up, he rolls around shouting "No, Uncle Jesse, No!". Perhaps this goes some way to explaining his behaviour at the end of episode 602. Having impersonated Butters on the phone to his parents, Cartman sets up a chair outside the house with some popcorn, waiting for Butters' parents to come home so he can watch him get in trouble. From outside the house, we can hear the parents being physically violent to Butters. The eight year old Cartman says "oh man if I was older I would totally start jacking off right now".

By the stage we are at now, we know the following about Eric Cartman: He is eight years old, his mother is a hermaphrodite crack whore who is also his father, and has slept with the whole town. And his uncle Howard, in prison, is good friends with Charles Manson. Despite having a doting mother and grandmother, this background seems to have disturbed Eric a great deal. His number one hate is dirty hippies, and his number one dream is to be amongst a group of people who revere, indeed worship him (see episode 607). In his attempts to attain this dream he is revealed to be an extreme sadist, with psychological issues shocking in one of such a young age.

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