“Scott Tenorman Must Die” was the 69th episode of South Park, and first aired on July 11, 2001. It contains nods to a number of classic cannibal narratives.
Eric Cartman’s cousin, 8th-grader Scott Tenorman, tricks Cartman out of $16.12 in return for some pubic hairs, the possession of which, he tells Cartman, means that he has reached puberty. Realizing that he has been tricked, Cartman swears revenge.
“Did you see that movie Hannibal? Where the deformed guy trained his pigs to eat his enemy alive? Well, if we find a pony, we can train it… to bite off Scott Tenorman’s wiener.”
The pony misunderstands the training.
Cartman’s schemes become more convoluted, involving a letter to the band Radiohead asking them to visit South Park, where Scott will be humiliated as his favourite group get to watch the pony mutilate his member.
Cartman arranges for Scott’s parents to be killed.
He steals the bodies and cooks them up for his “chili con-carnival.”
After Scott eats the chili, Cartman asks him:
“Do you like it, Scott? I call it Mr and Mrs Tenorman chili.
Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah – I made you eat your parents”.
Cartman enjoys licking up Scott’s tears.
We have here a passing reference to Hannibal again, in which Mason Verger collects the tears of orphans to make into his favourite cocktail.
But the main reference is to all revenge cannibalism narratives, from the Greek legend of Atreus and Thyestes to Titus Andronicus, to Liver-eating Johnson, John R. Weber and Omaima Nelson, and of course the Tim Burton version of Sweeney Todd.
Cartman is not a cannibal in this episode, but he facilitates an act of cannibalism as revenge, just as Sweeney Todd did. Eating a relative, as Scott Tenorman (and Thyestes) unwittingly did, is horrific not because of the flavour – they find the fare delicious. It’s because a life you cared about was snuffed out, not just extinguished, but totally annihilated by digestion, just as we do to those we eat every day, whose lives may have been just as precarious and precious – to someone.