I’ve been a fan of the show ‘South Park’ since I was just a kid in middle school. Admittedly, my appreciation of the show’s ‘I don’t care’ attitude has diminished and my appreciation of its finer points has grown. But that can only be expected. As a child, an alien communicator being viciously housed in someone’s ass was utterly hilariously to me, but now it hardly elicits more than a chuckle. And as my tastes have changed, I’ve noticed things about the show that adds a certain nuance and even philosophy to the show’s appeal. But I’m not the only one who went through a transformation. Others grew up with the show. Myself, being a progressive, held true to the more progressive messages that would be expressed. But others, who are more conservative, walked away from ‘South Park’ picking up on other cues. They viewed Eric Cartman as more of a protagonist than a foil. And that is entirely understandable. One of the identifiers of post-modernism is to subvert the dynamic of protagonist and antagonist. Where previously the audience was meant to identify with the protaginist’s perspective, in post modernism, it is entirely possible to identify with the antagonist’s. ‘South Park’ is most certainly post modern and Eric Cartman would almost certainly be classified as the show’s primary antagonist. Thus, the South Park Republican or Cartman Republican was born.
South Park Republicans typically hold Eric Cartman in high esteem. While I am sure they would say they only admire his spirit and what they would describe as dedication to free speech, there is some indication what they truly admire about him is somewhat more sinister. No, I am not referring to Catrman’s racism, gluttony, or any number of the other sins around him. I am referring to Cartman’s firmly held belief that no matter what he says, believes, or does, that he is and should be immune from consequences for expressing and acting on those beliefs. Take Cartman’s blatant anti-Semitism, as an example. There is no denying that Cartman hates Jews. He frequently expresses common anti-Semetic stereotypes in his rants. And those beliefs often end up getting his friends into trouble. Cartman doesn’t seem to care that his rfiends suffer because of his faults. And it is that lack of concern for those around them that the South Park Republican admires. And while racism is a terrible thing, a fanatic belief that what you think is immutable and should have no consequences is entirely insidious to the world in general.
I am certain that if you have paid any attention to the news, you can see this mentality in the real world. Just the other day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at a restaurant. Immediately the right wing free speech warriors came to her defense. They believed she should be allowed to do things that are terrible and not face the consequences of being a public pariah for them. They feel it is an issue of free speech. Let’s be clear. The staff at the restaurant determining they don’t want to serve someone they find reprehensible is not a free speech issue. That is a group of private citizens making a statement about other private citizens. When the Department of Homeland Security intimidates reporters to hide the inhumane conditions they are holding children in, that is a free speech issue. But you rarely see the same people upset about that. And that is because, like Eric Cartman, South Park Republicans’ empathy only extends to themselves and those like them.
What is perhaps truly tragic is that they utterly fail to recognize that their entire philosophy is based on a show that portrays them as counter-productive to their own advancement. In the 16th episode of Season 6, the parents inn South Park hire actors to pretend to be time traveling versions of their future selves in an effort to show the kids how horrible their lives will be on drugs, scaring them into submission. Hilarity ensues. But the episode ends with Eric meeting his actual future self. After renouncing his callous ways, Eric is introduced to his very successful and happy future self. But Eric, thinking this is another actor, immeditaly renounces his renuncuation and returns to his horrible ways. His future self morphs into a short, fat, poor, and angry man. The message? Eric Cartman and his views on the world are self destructive. While yes, his views protect him from the immediate consequences of his actions and shields him from criticism and his own insecurity, it actually does him great harm in the long run. But unfortunately, South Park Republicans, much like Eric Cartman, have become so insular that they are unable to appreciate that lesson.