How Edward James Olmos and Bill Belichick Inspired Eric Cartman’s Most Altruistic Act on ‘South Park’

Cartman was at his most compassionate when teaching inner-city students how to ‘cheat like white people’
How Edward James Olmos and Bill Belichick Inspired Eric Cartman’s Most Altruistic Act on ‘South Park’

All those concerned, conservative parents who have been railing about South Park’s negative influence on children for the last quarter of a century clearly never saw what Eric Cartman could do with a classroom full of underprivileged keeds.

Of all the characters on South Park, the absolute last one who would be hit with labels like “giving,” “compassionate” or “selfless” is the kid who once harnessed the power of Cthulhu to kill hippies. In most episodes, Cartman is an agent of chaos typically driven by self-interest but often motivated by hatred as he concocts and executes the most outrageous schemes to the detriment of South Park, Colorado and the rest of the world. However, even a borderline psychopath who once made a kid eat his own parents and gave Kyle HIV has his bright spots. We hear he’s also a fan of kitties.

Over in the South Park subreddit, fans recently debated which rare instance of altruistic behavior was Cartman’s most positive moment, with the chief answer being his brief stint as a substitute teacher at the underfunded, underperforming Jim Davis High School. The haters would have you believe that Eric Cartman would never be willing or able to help marginalized youths and that a classroom full of roughnecks couldn’t ace the hardest placement test in public schools. But anything is possible through hard work, inspiration and cheating.

The Season 12 South Park episode “Eek! A Penis” is one of those entries where the B-story ends up becoming much more memorable — and infinitely more quotable — than the main plot line. The story starts with Mr. (Ms.?) Garrison being put on sabbatical after she realizes that her sex-change operation was a mistake, and she wants to return to being a man. She enlists the help of a biotech company that grows human body parts on lab mice to procure her a fresh penis, but the mouse bearing her member escapes, causing penis panic across South Park.

Meanwhile, Cartman is put in charge of leading the class, and, after every student under him aces an exam (using answers swiped from Mr. Garrison’s desk), he’s scouted to help an underperforming class at an inner-city high school make an academic turnaround. His storyline is, inexplicably, a 20-years-late parody of the popular drama film Stand and Deliver, which featured Edward James Olmos playing a fictionalized version of real-life math teacher Jaime Escalante as he tries to help a community of underserved students succeed.

While the students of Olmos and the real-life Escalante faced accusations of cheating when they suddenly started acing calculus tests, Cartman’s kids suffer no such allegations — because Cartman instructed them how to cheat like white people. Using the example of Bill Belichick and the then-topical Spygate scandal, Cartman taught a diverse group of inner-city students the power of Caucasian trickery and the importance of phrases like, “I misinterpreted the rules” on their way to academic success.

Despite his many misdeeds, Cartman found a classroom of underprivileged students bound for the gutter and turned them into college-bound cheaters who would make Felicity Huffman blush. What’s Kyle ever done for marginalized keeds?


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