This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the graduate students in my Psychopathology course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Mental Health.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular class of mental disorders.
Eric Cartman, the Conduct Disordered Cartoon by Davidson Munroe
We all faced that one kid in school growing up. The defiant child who fought hard against what they thought was a cruel and unpredictable world bringing terror in their wake. The bully whose violent lashing out affected anyone who crossed them. And even though at the time we didn’t like them, in retrospect we feel bad for them, that they were brought up in an environment that breeds disorder and chaos.
Conduct Disorder, a fairly well researched behavioral cluster in the DSM-5, is a childhood disorder in which individuals lash out against people around them in violent ways. In the DSM-5 conduct disorder is diagnosed when individuals display 3 out of a total of 15 maladaptive, violent, and socially unacceptable behaviors. It is broken up into four main categories of behaviors: aggression to people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violations of rules. As you can see from the four categories of symptomology this individual would not be a pleasure to be around. But we must ask what does this order look like when manifested? The answer can be found in an 8 year old boy who entertains us every weeknight, Eric Cartman.
When watching episodes of South Park we see many examples of conduct disorder displayed by Cartman. Just when you thought he couldn’t be anymore cruel he finds another way to terrorize the townspeople of South Park, in a way that shows the dangerous side of this maladaptive repertoire of behaviors.
In his purest essence, Cartman is aggressive and hateful. Many episodes exist which show the dark side of his nature and begin to mark him as an individual fitting the category of conduct disorder. Looking at his relationship with his friends, we see a long history of Cartman displaying bullying behaviors. From physical abuse to verbal degradation, Cartman antagonizes his friend Kyle on the basis of him belonging to the Jewish faith. He even goes so far as to burst out in spontaneous song and dance about Kyle’s mom to humiliate Kyle. In another instance Cartman adopts the role of Adolf Hitler and tries to restart the holocaust after watching The Passion of Christ, using its effect on people to build a following.
Another indicator of conduct disorder within the aggression category is physical cruelty to people or animals, with or without the use of a weapon. Cartman is a big child for his age and on occasion has been labeled the fattest kid in South Park. His size works to his advantage on the physical abuse he is able to deal out to all of those around him. In the episode where Cartman pretends to be a police officer, we see Cartman pull over and beat multiple adult figures with a billy club in order to enforce ‘his athuoritah’. But Cartman does not save his abuse for other humans. In many episodes Cartman has some kind of pet or animal he abuses such as his cat, his pig, and random animals in the rain forest. His record reflects that he has been in juvenile detention for a hate crime against token black when he assaulted him with a rock on the playground.
As if his aggressive tendencies weren’t enough Cartman also shows a tendency for the destruction of property. In the destruction of property subcategory for Conduct Disorder there are two main criteria: the use of fire and without the use of fire. Both of which he has done frequently. In the episode about Stan’s future self, Cartman opens a revenge business in which people pay him to ruin the home or office of someone they are mad at. His method? Spreading feces on the walls of the building of potential strangers. His disregard for anyone else allows him to profit off such a business.
Never feeling shameful, Cartman has often used deceit against others to get his way and is not fazed by having to lie, cheat, and/or steal to get what he wants. Nothing is too sacred to abuse for Cartman. In the episode, “Kenny Dies,” Cartman uses his friend Kenny’s terminal illness to remove the ban on stem cell research under the veil of helping his friend, when his true intention is actually cloning his very own Shakey’s pizza. Cartman once again uses Kenny’s life or death situation to his advantage. In the Terri Shivo episode, he tries to use his friendship with Kenny to have him killed in order to inherit his PSP that he wanted so desperately. Cartman truly has no shame when it comes to who he uses for his own gain.
For the last category, a serious violation of rules, it can be noted that instead of simply sneaking out to avoid parental rule Cartman did once get every child in South Park to lie and say their parents molested them. While it’s not really considered violating school or curfew rules he did it all to get rid of school and curfew, and thus could be considered an extreme form of truancy.
For a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder, Cartman exceeds the 3 minimum criteria from section A necessary. His behavior also satisfies the conditions for section B: causes significant impairment in social and academic functioning. When trying to get back Scott Tenormen for scamming him out of money he makes an elaborate scheme to try and humiliate Scott. He tells his friends of this plan and they immediately call Scott to warn him, telling him that they don’t like Cartman. Lastly, he meets the requirements of section C: the only thing separating Cartman from meeting the criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder is he is still a child and doesn’t meet the age marker of 18 years old to qualify.
Many of us love South Park, and more importantly, we love to hate Cartman. His profound behavior leaves the world around him in a wake of destruction. His foul actions make us slightly proud of ourselves for being above that standard. All in all Cartman is the poster child problem kid, and that kid’s problem now has a name, conduct disorder.