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Why South Park Fans Are Divided Over Adult Cartman

Fans finally got to see the "South Park" kids all grown up in the Paramount+ special episode, "South Park: Post Covid: The Return of Covid." Of course, it wasn't the first time viewers had a chance to see what the future might hold for Eric Cartman. In Season 6's "My Future Self 'n' Me," we see a version of Cartman travel to the past to tell younger Cartman how he grew up to be successful. Cartman fails to heed his words and proceeds to eat junk food, causing his future self to transform into a morbidly obese mechanic. 

But the Adult Cartman in "The Return of Covid" appears much more together. After years of mocking the Jewish faith, Cartman now practices the religion. He has a wife and children, and by all accounts, he seems like he's really turned his life around. However, the rest of the former South Park kids want to travel back in time to avoid their Covid-related fates. They are successful, but in the process, Adult Cartman loses his former life and instead becomes a homeless alcoholic. In a way, Cartman sacrificed his own happiness so that everyone else wouldn't be miserable, and fans don't really know how to take that.

Fans aren't sure if it all wasn't an elaborate bit

Cartman is one of the vilest characters put on television, but "The Return of Covid" actually turned him into a sympathetic character. A lot of fans felt bad that his happy life was taken away from him, even though it was a pretty common point of discussion that Cartman becoming a rabbi was an elaborate ploy to annoy Kyle. In one Reddit thread discussing the development, many people couldn't tell if Cartman's intentions were sincere, but u/wowhowbizarre had a nuanced take: "He genuinely [does] love his family and he probably even did it to begin with to f*** with Kyle but either way deep down he loves that it pissed Kyle off."

A lot of people believed Cartman began his journey to annoy Kyle, but over time, he actually came to love his wife and kids. While Cartman proved himself to be a nuisance throughout much of the show, fans came to adore the character in the special, with u/esmebow writing, "Honestly kid Cartman deserved that ending, but Rabbi Cartman didn't." The ending was especially poignant because everyone had a terrible life in the beginning except Cartman, but in the end, everyone's happy minus Cartman. 

With time-traveling shenanigans to fix the future, it's easy to compare "The Return of Covid" to "Avengers: Endgame," with Cartman serving as the de facto Tony Stark, who sacrificed himself for the betterment of everyone else. In the review for The A.V. Club, they even state, "In the end, someone's always going to get screwed. Here, it's the show's most unsympathetic character, and the fact that [Trey] Parker and [Matt] Stone actually make us feel bad for him is a truly impressive trick." Maybe one day, Cartman will get his happy ending.