It’s plainly obvious. Heiman is a toxic relationship.
Heidi and Cartman were built on false pretenses, and therefore doomed to fail. Cartman’s a bad boyfriend. He’s terrible to her. We all want it to end.
But I think in our rush to see this bad thing that made us all so uncomfortable be done with, for it all to just go away, we forget what this relationship was like before it all went sour.
In our need to see Cartman return to his normal self, we never really stopped to look at his relationship with Heidi. How it functioned. We all just said, “bad. fake.” and waited for it to end.
I don’t know HOW many times I’ve heard “Cartman is incapable of being in a relationship unless he’s controlling the person, and Heiman proves that.” And that just bugged me. And I realized why.
Because Cartman WAS in a good relationship. And to start off with, it was a shaky foundation, sure, but nonetheless, he proved that he CAN be a kind, supportive person.
In season 20 one of their biggest strengths as a couple was communication. They’d tell each other their plans, their hopes and dreams, even their worries. And it worked like a functional relationship. Cartman was relaxed. He hardly stressed out about anything. Hell, he didn’t even get mad when Kyle reminded him of the confrontation that alienated him from the group he was a part of. It was just so far out of his mind that he didn’t care. He was in a good place. And he would do anything to conserve that.
The Mars analogy in season 20 is symbolic of his relationship. A completely alien world to him, but one to make his own. He feels like he’s walking on air, and he’s mesmerized.
And it’s not as if this relationship only benefited Cartman. Heidi was encouraged to realize how smart she was.
Whenever she was discouraged, Cartman told her it was unwarranted. To “get over” herself, which is a perfectly sound piece of advice. Her doubt was the only thing standing in her way. In the end she realized she was so smart that she could help a fucking space program create a massive amount of energy.
It was a mutually beneficial relationship.
However, I do want to say that I personally believe this relationship was doomed to fail. simply because, as we see in Cartman’s Mars vision, Heidi is MILES away from Cartman. He doesn’t feel legitimately close to her, and that would’ve surfaced without anyone’s interference.
So let’s dive a little deeper in. Let’s ask the most obvious of questions.
What does Cartman think of relationships?
I’m sure most people would say “He thinks partners are supposed to be like Alexa.”
But the answer is actually directly given to us, way back in season 16.
Cartman tells cupid me that he believes in him, and that love can change everything. Very strong feelings about love.
A bit surprising from Cartman, huh? But before the naysayers start insisting that “Cartman Finds Love was out of character!!!” I should tell you that Cartman has consistently admired the concept of love throughout other episodes
In The Ring when Kenny gets with a girl named Tammy Warner, Cartman is invested in Kenny’s relationship and comments on how it’s “kind of beautiful.”
In Tweek x Craig he is so invested in their relationship that he fantasizes about assisting them when they need it.
In “Where My Country Gone?” he encourages Butters to pull a Lion King 2, while having an affectionate expression while Butters wooes Charlotte.
It’s entirely consistent that Cartman loves the concept of love and has specific ideals of what those should be. And it’s NOT an Alexa.
Ironically he does ask Alexa what love is, which is sad to say the least. But he does understand at the end of that episode that what he has with Heidi isn’t love.
But the point is, back when he thought he loved Heidi, he was pretty damn good at expressing it.
and most of all, communication.
If Cartman is so incapable of showing love to anything unless he has complete control over it, how and why did he do that FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON?
I mean seriously people. It’s not like he was possessed. He wasn’t being threatened. He genuinely believed he loved Heidi, and he had no problems spending time with her. Because he WANTED to.
And what he gave Heidi was probably one of the best relationships you can get as a 4th grader. I mean compare it to any other relationship we’ve seen on south park. Heiman – despite being obnoxious to those who know the “real Cartman,” – is easily the best a 4th grade boy has treated a 4th grade girl in this series. EASILY. It’s no wonder we see Heidi in the 21st season so desperately wanting her Cartman back.
That is – her reflection back.
Because as cupid me says, “People who are the same belong together,” right? So that’s what Cartman did. Cartman and Heidi were polar opposites. So in order for Heidi and Cartman to work, Cartman became like her.
Don’t get it twisted, this doesn’t mean he was lying about believing he liked her. It doesn’t mean he’s “faking” because he’s “manipulating her into liking him.” Everyone does this. Everyone in a relationship mimics their partner to some extent. Because the more we admire someone, the more we find ourselves taking on their qualities. Their laughs, their nervous habits, their interests, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Cartman’s reason for taking on her traits isn’t all involuntary though. You can see several times where Cartman gets shifty eyed, that he’s putting on a front. But the front is genuinely for the sake of conserving the relationship.
And, for the record, the fact that when talking to Butters Cartman continues to put on his soft-spoken, well-mannered demeanor that he finds it admirable in Heidi. Note the shift in his voice.
He wants that demeanor from Heidi because he believes it’s part of what makes her so likable.
In this relationship, Heidi is the one being imitated because she’s the one being admired. She is the one making actions, and Cartman is the making reactions.
And in turn, she is functionally the one in control. Cartman takes control and pushes her to do things, it’s just in his nature to be assertive, but he too understands that when it’s all said and done, her whims are the deciding factor in the relationship.
And, he understands that if he wanted any semblance of a shot with this likable person, he couldn’t act like himself. When Kyle talks about “the old Cartman,” Cartman fidgets and takes a sip of his drink, subtly hiding his anxiousness that Kyle would even mention that in front of Heidi. Then he continuously changes the subject to distract Kyle.
And this is where it all starts to go to shit.
Kyle is the first person to create/quicken the downfall of Cartman’s relationship (because of course he is.). When Kyle threatens to expose the meanest parts of Cartman’s personality, Cartman panics.
We know now that if Heidi did see those things Cartman said their relationship could have easily recovered. Her patience with him is unmatched. It’s interesting that Cartman placed Heidi in such high regard that he thought her knowing he criticized a group of women would fuck him over.
Shame is definitely not a new thing for Cartman, but shame towards his entire personality is. Cartman is so terrified of losing the relationship that he won’t risk being himself. He knows he’s lucky as fuck to have her, so much that he tries to go to a whole other god damn planet just to keep them together.
And what’s interesting about this is that the whole time, even though he’s lying, he still puts the care and effort into talking and expressing his feelings to Heidi. He doesn’t want her to worry, but to some extent, he can’t help but open up to her.
And this might seem like a minor thing, since he’s still lying to her and all, but it’s a polar opposite to his distance and refusal to communicate in season 21.
This is why I insist that the amount of heart that Cartman put into the relationship before shit hit the fan is praiseworthy. He’s putting effort and care into someone like he’s never done before. And it’s amazing.
And then Butters came along with a dialogue.
The truth is girls hate us, Eric. They’re sick of our shit. And one day, they plan to make us obsolete, stick us underground where we just get milked for our semen. Boys’ only hope is to start over on Mars.
Which matched Cartman’s initial dialogue.
The icing on the cake is, Butters also predicted that Heidi was doing all this to fuck him over.
That’s how it ends, Eric. Girls get you to feel for them, make you think they’re the best thing in the world, and then they leave, move on to the next thing; and you’re left there crying, with your heart covered in poop.
And for Cartman, who secretly glorifies and holds in such high regard – love – this resonates with him. Because his self-esteem is actually garbage. He knows he will never be with anyone, because he’s him.
In that sense, is it really so far fetched for Cartman to believe that Heidi was just playing an elaborate trick on him?
But Cartman, so genuinely enamored with Heidi, fights this initially.
That is Cartman’s test. In order to prove to everybody (to himself) that Heidi is in fact, not tricking him, she must be smart and funny, which he believes she is.
This of course, makes him nervous. He doesn’t want to believe that what he thinks about Heidi isn’t based in reality. Because to him, that would mean that Heidi is tricking him.
Cartman genuinely believes that Heidi is smart. You can see his two reactions here of what he thinks about both of those qualities in Heidi, respectively.
When Heidi asks if Cartman believes she’s smart, Cartman doesn’t need any time to think about it. But when she asks about being funny, you can see his brain working, trying to search his memories of when she was ever funny.
Because he’s so enamored with her, he laughs at whenever she says something mildly goofy. But when he looks back on it, it’s never funny. It’s so not funny that he can’t remember what the joke was.
But the concept of faulty memory is thrown out the window when he realizes that nothing she said would’ve been funny in real time.
He genuinely thought she was funny. He equated his smiles and laughs of joy to her being funny. But with the rose colored glasses off, his claim of her not manipulating him falls apart in his eyes.
So by the end of the season, when all is said and done, we of course are left with a bitter, cold Cartman, who wants nothing to do with Heidi.
In our first impression we might’ve said that he was buying into a conspiracy that Butters sold him, and is forcing the idea that she betrayed him because he wanted to believe the conspiracy.
But that’s not what this is.
This is Cartman convinced that no one would ever genuinely like him. That of course after all he’s done, the only reason anyone would ever be with him, under any circumstance, would be doing it simply to trick him. And everything that Heidi made him feel, like the idea that she could make him laugh by saying anything, even though it wasn’t funny, was all part of her plan to bring him high up and watch him crash to the ground.
Not because he actually believes that women want to milk men’s semen. The smart and funny test had nothing to do with that.
His actions now aren’t him mistreating Heidi because he just can’t help himself. He proved for an entire season that he can. His actions are out of resentment.
In s21e01 he’s simply non-confrontational. He tries to make it work at minimum capacity – minimal communication, spending very little time with her, but her nagging makes him resentful. And yes, he places himself as the victim in this situation. In his paranoid mind, he is being unresponsive to not give her the pain she wants. Because he still feels for her. (I think that’s why he can’t decide whether or not he wants to break up with her.)
But when she pushes, he lashes out. He hates talking about this relationship he once thought was great. But at the same time, he doesn’t want it to go away. Just the status of being in a relationship makes him feel good. He feels needed. He feels trapped, in that sense, and in turn even more angry that that “bitch” is trapping him.
But really it’s him struggling with his emotions, and she happens to be caught in the middle of it.
What Cartman does to Heidi is sad, and definitely sadistic. And to him it feels justified. But at the same time, I think he still believes the statement he blurted in the midst of his panic.
In his sadistic, projecting, paranoid little head, Heidi already accomplished what she sought out to do. Lift him up and knock him down.
For that brief moment in his life, he really experienced something beautiful.
And now it’s over.
Because he destroyed it.
I think, and I hope, for the development of his character, that he knows that.