When Cartman cowers in horror as the boys smash his stuff to a techy pulp in South Park season 20’s second episode, “Skank Hunt,” it makes you question what exactly your online persona is worth to you. Cartman’s history with technology is one of obsession – he’s gotten in plenty of trouble with the likes of the Okama Gamesphere, PSP, World of Warcraft, and Nintendo Wii. More recently he’s taken it social, expressing his personality over Facebook, Twitter, Shitter, Cartman-Brah, and Yelp, before retreating into a Safe Space where he can post pictures of his totally sweet body for us to get stoked on.
The character has gone through an evolution from a greedy little boy to slightly less greedy, but a more conniving little boy, and a tech savvy one at that. Through the lens of technology, Cartman has never wanted to concede the perception of himself as a master of any domain he desires. Whether it’s a game system or popularity contest on Twitter, he needs to feel like he’s in control. The reality is, especially on social media, you’re dependent on variables much like you are in real life.
If you’re in search of virtual reassurance a post can go horribly in the wrong, viral direction. No one has to be stoked on your Instagram picture. In fact, they can be complete dicks about it for no reason at all. The idea comes forward in the episode that trolls are people who hide behind the screens and lead these miserable lives. As we see with Gerald, it’s merely an assumption; we’re just as clueless to the trolls’ situation as they are to how it affects the target of their scorn.
Last week in my review I called him a fat boy, which is mean and isn’t very kewl of me. Maybe he read it and the comment hurt his feelings. But still, even when Cartman is down on himself, he knows how to game the system. Last season he used a safe space to his advantage. So far this season, he’s allowed people to perceive him as SkankHunt42, knowing full well that someone else is doing his bidding.
In a way, it’s a Trump-esque move: Be upfront about how you hate someone or suspect something on them for years; blab on about it until only the lowest form of fear-mongering scum run with it; then when it’s convenient, act like you never started the problem in the first place and pretend like you came up with the solution.
It’s a long con, and Trump, excuse me, Cartman is pulling it off to perfection with his Token’s Life Matters shirt and women-can-be-funny attitude. The boys see through it, that Cartman’s always had it in for the girls, and now he can reap the reward of their collective displeasure without actively having to do anything. Cartman may have lost his stuff, two Christmases and a birthday’s worth, but he’s one step closer to winning his ideological war, even if he’s no longer the person pulling the strings.
That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. If I’m proved wrong and Cartman is truly a changed boy, then he’ll still be guilty by association for two decades of sin. In an episode that was light on laughs and spot on with its social commentary, Butters nails it: “That’s how the world works now. You get blamed for the group you’re apart of even if you didn’t do nothing.”
Super School News
I want to put this in writing: The username SkankHunt42 will have something to do with the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton.
Suggested reading: New York Times reporter Dave Itzkoff documented the making of “Member Berries” for a profile on Matt Stone and Trey Parker.