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The absolute worst thing Cartman has ever done on South Park

For the two-plus decades that Comedy Central's beloved animated series South Park has been on the air, its gang of foul-mouthed children have found themselves in some of the most bizarre situations imaginable. Every tangle with Satan, trip to Imaginationland, and encounter with the Crab People sees the kids responding to developments with the blend of ironic detachment, skewed logic, and toilet humor which has become their trademark. But while Kenny, Stan, and Kyle seem to have undergone some semblance of personal growth over the series' 22 seasons, one thing has remained constant: the incorrigible nature of Eric Cartman.

Relentlessly self-absorbed, diabolically manipulative, and possessed of a towering ego, Cartman has done more truly terrible things than it might even be possible to put a number to. So many, in fact, that pinning down the absolute worst thing he's ever done is a Herculean task — and one that we here at Looper are so totally up for.

Before we get to the worst of the worst, let's take a look at some of the most worthy contenders for the title of Cartman's Worst Deed Ever. We begin with the season 11 episode "Le Petit Tourette," which begins with Cartman observing the behavior of a young boy in a toy store. The boy can't keep from blurting out curse words, but his mother declines to punish him; when it becomes clear that this is because the boy is afflicted with Tourette's syndrome, Cartman realizes that faking the disorder could be his "golden ticket" to saying whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

He goes public with his newfound (phony) diagnosis, and is hailed as a brave hero while wantonly slinging profane insults at his friends (and anti-Semitic slurs at Kyle's parents, for good measure). His scheme backfires when his lack of a filter actually does cause him to lose control over what's coming out of his mouth, and he starts spilling embarrassing personal secrets right before he's scheduled to make a triumphant appearance on NBC's Dateline. Unaware of Cartman's predicament, Kyle foils his plan to go on national television and smear every race and religion under the sun — only to be dismayed when Cartman profusely thanks Kyle for saving him from humiliation.

When it comes to exploiting disadvantaged groups, however, Cartman's scheme in the season 8 episode "Up the Down Steroid" is a cut above (or perhaps below). While the main plot focuses on Timmy, who sets his sights on winning the Special Olympics with the assistance of steroids, Cartman's B-storyline is simply jaw-dropping: he dons a bicycle helmet, screws up his face, and pretends to be mentally handicapped so that he can enter the Special Olympics and presumably destroy his competition. 

As his plans often do, this backfired as well, in hilarious fashion: it turns out that handicapped kids can be pretty good athletes, and despite his supposed "edge," the less-than-physically-fit Cartman comes in dead last in every event. 

Continuing this trend of involving the less-fortunate in his plans, consider a season 15 episode, the very title of which tells you just about all you need to know about the scheme Cartman gets up to therein: "Crack Baby Athletic Association." In the episode, Cartman volunteers at a hospital to help babies who were born addicted to crack — but of course, he has an ulterior motive. He, Clyde, and Butters form the titular organization, which pits babies against each other for balls filled with crack and streams the fights over the internet. 

Determined to make a killing from the supposedly non-profit organization, Cartman visits the University of Colorado to see how its football program manages to generate so much money without paying its athletes. He does this dressed up as a stereotypical Southern plantation owner, referring to CU's football players as "slaves" during his conversation with the shocked and offended University president.

That's… that's just horrible. It can't get much worse than that, can it?

It can, and it does. In the season 12 episode "Tonsil Trouble," it seems that Cartman has finally been handed down some measure of karmic justice when he is accidentally infected with HIV during a routine tonsil removal. Kyle, long the most consistent target of Cartman's harassment, simply can't help himself — he bursts out laughing when informed of the diagnosis, prompting Cartman to seek the most vicious revenge imaginable.

He fills a syringe with his own blood, and with the help of an unsuspecting Butters, he sneaks into Kyle's room and squirts it into his mouth, infecting him. Of course, the Kyle and Cartman — through a convoluted series of events involving NBA great Magic Johnson, who is still with us despite having contracted the disease in the early '90s — subsequently discover the cure for HIV, which is "about $180,000 dollars injected directly into the bloodstream." But it simply doesn't get any more diabolical than purposefully afflicting a friend with a deadly disease, right?

Wrong. All of the above-mentioned incidents are profoundly messed up, and there are a lot more where they came from: unleashing Chthulu on San Francisco, refusing to give Stan a kidney transplant unless he's paid ten million dollars, and leading a Neo-Nazi rally, to name just a few. But to single out the absolute worst thing Eric Cartman has ever done, we must go all the way back to South Park's fifth season, and the legendary episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die."

In the episode, Scott — an older boy — cons Cartman by selling him a handful of his own pubic hairs, convincing him that that is simply how boys "get pubes." Once made aware of the con, Cartman attempts to turn the tables with a prank on Scott, but is thwarted at every turn. Enraged, he tells his friends of a new plot: he intends to train a pony to… er… bite off Scott's private parts, and challenges Scott to a chili cook-off at which the gruesome event is to take place. 

Stan, Kyle, and Kenny, sick of Cartman's shenanigans, warn Scott about the plan. The older boy responds by collecting pubes from every teenage boy in South Park, which he adds to his chili, intending to serve it to Cartman at the cook-off as the ultimate humiliation (and just to ensure that Cartman's plan won't come to fruition, he convinces his parents to rescue the pony from the farm where it lives). When served Scott's dish, Cartman wolfs it down — and then reveals exactly the lengths to which he's willing to go when wronged.

Cartman had counted on his friends to betray him, he explains, and therefore had switched Scott's chili with a bowl cooked by Chef before the competition. Furthermore, the "trained pony" plan was just a ruse; knowing that Scott would send his parents to intervene, Cartman had warned the farmer of "violent pony killers" in the area, causing the man to shoot and kill Scott's parents for trespassing on his property.

Cartman had then managed to — brace yourself — swipe the corpses, chop them up, and cook them into the very chili which Scott was now eating. As the boy vomits and cries hysterically, Cartman licks the tears from his cheeks, rapturously commenting on how good they taste.

Just… wow. All that's left to be said here can be summed up by one of the episode's final lines, delivered by Kyle: "Dude," he says to Stan, "I think it might be best for us to never piss Cartman off again."