The Joys of Modern Life 60: ERIC CARTMAN

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The Independent Culture
ERIC CARTMAN has just been voted "favourite personality" by British children, ahead of wholesome role models such as footballer Michael Owen. Eight-year-old Cartman is a badly drawn cartoon character and star of South Park, the American adult television series, and a new spin-off film, South Park: Bigger, Longer

and Uncut.

Cartman says things like "shut up, dildo!" and "screw you, hippie!" His mantra is "I am not a fat-ass! I'm just big-boned!" He treats his single mother abominably, and scorns his classmates' environmental concerns. "Dude, dolphins are intelligent and friendly," says Stan. "Intelligent and friendly on rye bread with some mayonnaise," retorts Cartman.

Modern children don't want another Andy Pandy. They don't care about political correctness - they want to laugh at jokes about farts and bums, and Cartman is their man. The show is also a big hit among adult viewers, who sneak round the bigotry and vile language by claiming that it is knowing and satirical.

It would be hard to imagine a programme called "Laa-Laa Gets an Anal Probe" or "Postman Pat's Mom is a Dirty Slut", but this is everyday life for Cartman. The very first episode of the TV series sees him abducted by aliens. In another episode, "Weight Gain 4000", Cartman starts taking a dietary supplement that makes him so huge he can't get on the school bus: "Sweet. Check me out, I'm such a beefcake I can't even get through the door."

Rude, stupid, self-obsessed - no wonder children adore him. They even want to be him, and sales of Cartman's favourite snack, Cheesy Poofs, have soared by 40 per cent in the last year.

Admittedly, the show causes some commentators to froth at the mouth. Only this week, a school in Reigate, Surrey, renamed itself The Orchards, after deciding that "South Park Infants" was unsuitable. But the new film could hardly hope for better publicity.

And following the decline of competitive sports in schools, there is little incentive for children to do anything more vigorous than follow Cartman's example. What could be better than sitting on the sofa, eating Cheesy Poofs?