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Not sure I mean "who" are the characters of South Park as much as I mean "what" are the characters of South Park. What they represent. They are extreme. The show is extreme. A bit of an exaggeration. But the characters embody what is American without pulling any punches.
It's what we know but sometimes bury deep down. We see it everyday and act like we don't see it. Or, maybe, we don't see it because we're doing it.
Let's find out what these characters, in fact, embody.
Eric is the worst of America: The bigotry, the selfishness, the lack of regard. The Ugly American. It's what America is famous for.
He doesn't care about anyone but himself and wants everything. He wants everything but doesn't want to give anything. He's all demands, no generosity or care.
He doesn't even mind ruining lives. Especially if he ruins the life of someone he has a particular prejudice against; that is, Kyle. Cartman doesn't think anything of attacking Kyle's Jewish heritage, stealing his girlfriend and spreading lies about him just to satisfy his own craving for pleasure and destruction.
He is, in a nutshell, horrible. Much of what is America but that America denies that it is.
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Kyle, on the other hand, is America's redemption. While Cartman has no redeeming qualities, and the gang is more or less completely horrible most of the time (with the exception of Butters), Kyle periodically has an epiphany that there is a better way; that sometimes he's wrong. He tries to do the right thing. And the actual right thing. Not the pretentious right thing and not the right thing that will keep him out of trouble, but the actual right thing. He questions things, wonders why things are the way they are. He is, sort of, that part of America that protests and questions its own horrors.
Stan is Everyman. He's probably the standard Colorado resident. While you might count the unusual Jewish guy like Kyle or the extreme backward bigot like Eric Cartman as exceptions, Stan is the typical. He's a good guy, but not exceptional. He's also caught up in all of the travesties and tribulations of the rest of America and his little gang.
Innocent. That would be one word to describe Butters. And Butters exists in real life like the rest of these characters. He is the one who sincerely cares and therefore gets dumped on. Not only does he not fit in, but he falls victim to all the predators that see his vulnerability. Worse yet, these are his friends preying on him. There is no better illustration of what America is than this.
Interestingly, his parents represent the ill effects and hypocrisy that is created by repression. They are self righteous America.
Character Study of Butters
Randy Marsh certainly is the pretentious liberal. Always think they are doing the good thing but really they're just thinking about themselves. He creates a business that is organic and politically correct but he does so to enrich himself and nothing more. He drives his family crazy with his greed and hypocrisy and selfishness but all the while believes himself to be a good man. Again, nothing embodies America better than this illustration. Absolutely brilliant.
The confused liberal, PC Principal, he's caught up in his own linguistics and ideology. He never makes sense he just falls in line with his agenda. He's a bro, a frat boy and a "progressive". I guess. He just wants to be right, no matter how confused his actions or how convoluted his thinking. As long as he follows his agenda, he thinks he's right but it's all pretense, no real care or feeling.
Mr. Garrison is the other side of the hypocrisy. He's Conservative but wants to be a woman, is maybe gay, but also is a lesbian. But he's also uptight, doesn't like anything that deviates from the norm. He's the flip side of Randy Marsh and PC Principal. And yes, all these guys exist in real life, I've met them all.
The Egotism of Cartman
South Park's creators and writers have incredible insights into American society. All of the panic and hypocrisy, the pretense and the agendas, it's all covered in this animated series. It's an incredible observation of a culture that is not self aware. A culture that is the characters the show makes fun of, so doesn't see itself. You have to be outside of the society to see it, which points to the exceptional and unusual perspective of the series' writers and creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.