“WE’RE SORRY YOU’RE MOM’S A WHORE”
February 25, 1998
Eric Cartman goes on a quest to find out who his father was. But when he learns who his mother slept with matters get complicated… because she slept with everybody in town.
For the previous episode of South Park, I spent the entirety talking about whether Mecha-Streisand was misogynist or not (hint: it kinda is). So now we’ll have to discuss whether “Cartman’s Mom Is a Dirty Slut” is misogynist because, well, look at the title.
Luckily here, the comedy revolving around a woman in this episode is actually comedy, not just a grudge with whiffs of conservatism and homophobia. While Cartman’s mother, Liane, is promiscuous, all the town members are equally as DTF since Cartman’s search for his father reflects on the promiscuity of the entire town. However there is an origin of anger in Cartman’s mother and her “sluttiness” since apparently Trey Parker named the character after his cheating ex-fiancee (yikes).
It is a missed opportunity though that Cartman’s mother never gets to give her side of the story in a sympathetic way. She remains a fairly one-note character that we see as being a huge slut, but isn’t one merely because Cartman is around. Or is that true? I’m not sure because there’s not a ton of information on her. By no means does this lack of character destroy the episode, but Trey and Matt are such good writers, it’s a bummer not to see more depth for Mrs. Cartman at this point.
However what really makes the episode interesting is Cartman and his psychology. For as scant as Mrs. Cartman is, Cartman is given a lot of room as a character. Seasoned vets of South Park are very familiar with Cartman’s stuffed animals and the tea parties he holds. But this is their first appearance, showing that the supposedly wholly mischievous, deviant…has more feminine tea parties with his imaginary friends. While Cartman hasn’t reached the lows he will, it’d still be a shocking turn for first time viewers.
Cartman’s psychology is further revealed when he asks about his father and his mother offers the possibility of Chief Running Water and Chef. So to fit in with his father, he embarrassingly adopts stereotypically Native American clothes and speech mannerisms. Of course, it turns out everyone in town has done Mrs. Cartman, and we start to feel bad for the little stinker.
Tom Carson from Newsday elucidates the sadness here very well when he said “Cartman’s Mom” is “a really plaintive story about craving something, anything, to hold onto,” in describing Cartman’s desperate search for answers about his very identity and place.
One could point to Cartman’s lack of a father figure being a key source for his behavior, especially because his mother ends up enabling him.
On another note…Mr. Garrison is gay. While his effeminate ways perhaps hinted at something fruity before, it’s plainly revealed in this episode. Obviously much will be made of his sexual identity as the years go on, but in some ways, this is the beginning of a long thread (for good and bad).
While the title of this episode of South Park is attention grabbing and has whiffs of sexism, the tender, sad, psychological underpinning with Cartman grounds the episode.
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