- See also: Fanfiction involving Kyman
In several other television shows, "love-hate" relationships between couples are common, generally characterized by characters who disagree frequently, but with an air of unresolved sexual tension that reinforces the dramatic tension of their conflicts. The characters' desire for intimacy often causes them to act irrationally and therefore drives conflict.
While Kyle and Cartman have disagreed frequently since the first season, they were generally depicted as friendly otherwise in early seasons, and it was often Kenny that Cartman would single out for unprovoked prejudice in these instances. During the course of the fifth and sixth seasons, Cartman and Kyle's rivalry became more openly spiteful and direct provocation increased, even in episodes otherwise focused on other characters; transforming their overall relationship from frenemies to arch rivals.
The second run of the eleventh season came to emphasize their rivalry in particular, with "Le Petit Tourette" and "Imaginationland" (see below) hinging entire plot points on the characters' rivalry, with the latter being the show's first three-part continuous storyline. The latter episode, where Cartman sought to humiliate Kyle by forcing him to perform oral sex upon him (see below) was interpreted by many fans (even non-shippers) as sexual. Although stated by creators Matt and Trey that the act was purely for humiliation only, there is no denying the sexual undertone of such an action, be it pleasure derived from humiliation.
Since these episodes, their rivalry has remained a focus of the series and jumped up in a notch of intensity every consecutive season. Their relationship has often superseded other famous character relationships, platonic or otherwise, such as that between Stan and Wendy, Stan and Kyle, and possibly even Butters and Cartman.
Supporters of the pairing have pointed out a number of instances throughout the run of the series which, through images and dialogue, may imply that at least one of the two holds lust for the other.
- In "ManBearPig", when the boys are locked up in the cave, Cartman gets very close to Kyle's face while he is sleeping contemplating his hatred for the other, when Kyle wakes up. Cartman starts a simple chitchat to cover up, while remaining close to his face, moving away only when Kyle becomes uncomfortable and tells him off. Later, when the cave the boys are trapped in floods, Kyle tries to save Cartman. Although it would have guaranteed his own safety, he refuses to let go of Cartman, and he almost drowns because of it. This proves that despite all that Cartman has done, Kyle still sees a life worth saving.
- In "Crack Baby Athletic Association", Cartman is perfectly happy to have Kyle on his team, going so far as putting him in a high position and calling him brilliant on multiple occasions. (Although, this could also be simply because Cartman will put aside any differences if it means receiving money). Kyle in turn obeys Cartman's demands and defends him repeatedly to Stan. (Although this is more of trying to justify his actions for being morally in the wrong in order to continue making money.)
- In the episode "You're Getting Old", after Kyle doesn't want to be Stan's friend anymore, he and Cartman are shown at the end playing a video game together, before Kyle looks at Cartman and smiles at him. Cartman returns the smile, indicating a closer bond and friendship between the two that lasts until the very end of the following episode, where status quo is enforced and the two are enemies once more.
- In "Fun with Veal", Kyle almost kisses Cartman's ass in exchange for help rescuing baby calves, but Cartman farts on his face right before he does so.
- In "Cancelled," Kyle hesitantly and unwillingly sticks a finger up Cartman's ass to activate the anal probe, something Cartman is quite proud of. Furthermore, he claims that it was "one of the best times he has ever had." Although with context, this is only because he could humiliate Kyle by farting repeatedly onto him.
- In the episode "Fat-Butt and Pancake Head", Cartman kisses Kyle with his Jennifer Lopez hand puppet, and continually has the puppet call him attractive and handsome.
- At the end of "Smug Alert", Cartman goes to great lengths despite himself in order to save Kyle and his family from the San Francisco smug storm. Although context shows that Cartman only does as such because he would be bored beyond belief without the rush of a moral enemy. This is also backed up by the writers Matt and Trey as well, and enforced as Cartman states he isn't doing it for Kyle, but rather himself. This could be compared to the Joker/Batman dynamic; as the hatred between the two is so enjoyable for the former, he does everything in his power to keep the rivalry. As for saving Kyle's family, this could be to prevent him from being under foster care and possibly removed from South Park once more.
- In "Go God Go XII", when Cartman is stuck in the future, he calls Kyle (after himself and Butters) and when Kyle doesn't believe him and says "suck my balls fatass," Cartman responds with, "I will. I will suck your balls, Kyle. Just stop me from freezing myself, and I will get down on my knees and I will suck your balls. I will suck them dry, Kyle," and calls him the smartest guy he knows. Although context shows that Cartman does says such out of desperation and a desire to return home, it also foreshadows the following bet with Kyle a season later.
- In "Le Petit Tourette", Kyle strives to keep Cartman's show from airing, without knowing that Cartman also wants to get out of it. After Kyle succeeds, Cartman says, "I asked God to send someone to help me, and you came Kyle. I love you man," while hugging him. He then runs away singing, much to Kyle's dismay.
- In the "Imaginationland" trilogy, Cartman makes a bet with Kyle that if he could prove he saw a Leprechaun, Kyle would have to suck his balls. When they really do see the Leprechaun, Cartman throws an entire party for the "event". When Kyle is taken away by the government, Cartman spends the rest of the trilogy hunting down Kyle and trying to force him to uphold the bet, and his spark for showmanship (such as using a Priest's outfit and chocolate sundae as props) prevent him from collecting on the bet in multiple instances.
- The extended 'movie' version of the story arc has a scene where Cartman specifies to Jimmy that the act is about humiliating Kyle and isn't sexual at all, and Matt and Trey reiterate on the commentary track that Cartman is only interested in humiliating Kyle.
- In "Tonsil Trouble", Cartman infects Kyle with the HIV virus as revenge for making fun of him. It is also alluded to the Cartman sneaks into his enemies' room quite frequently. They are mistakenly referred to as "brave lovers" as they try to find a cure to the disease, due to Kyle's insistence that Cartman "gave him" AIDS, which was once notorious for sexual transmission.
- At the end "It's a Jersey Thing", Cartman pinches Kyle's cheek affectionately, saying "You're a monster, but you're my little monster" albeit teasingly, but seemingly affectionate nonetheless.
- In "Funnybot", when held hostage by the Germans, Cartman tries to offer Kyle to them in exchange for freedom. While rubbing Kyle's belly, he says calls Kyle "a handsome, soft Jew" and says that he is "fresh and beautiful".
- In "Cartman Finds Love", Cartman tells everyone he and Kyle are a gay couple in order to prevent Kyle from stepping in Token and Nichole's relationship.
- It was also shown that Cartman kept the blanket Kyle gave him in "Jewpacabra". Although Cartman didn't know Kyle in fact helped him that faithful night.
- In " PC Principal Final Justice", when Kyle was on his way to protect an ad named Leslie, Cartman stopped him and said, "Don't fall too hard, partner." After Kyle smiled and left, Cartman asked Butters if he looked "sweet," to which he responded yes. This may have been a way of feeding his ego of acting like various typical bad ass cops in the media, but nevertheless a rare time Cartman is remotely civil to Kyle without manipulation or a common goal to work under.
- In "Member Berries", Cartman was reading a book he wrote called Little Red Riding Kyle. The story consisted of mostly gay Kyle thinking about guys and was on his way to Grandma Token Black's house. While he was reading, Kyle interrupted and pulled him out of the class to confront him. Although this was very obviously another strategy of humiliating Kyle and bashing him in front of a group of children.
- In "Fort Collins," Cartman has a conversation with Heidi at McDonalds where Heidi indicates she is aware he often thinks about Kyle, and Cartman admits that Kyle isn't a bad person and was willing to visit him again. Although this is during the short period of time where Cartman had repented for his old self, and was abruptly changed back at the end of season 20.
- In the episode "Kenny Dies", when Cartman is very upset over the fact that Kenny is dying, Kyle gives him a comforting hug and holds him as Cartman cries into his shoulder.
- In, "It's a Jersey Thing", many boys were raped by Snooki, but the Jersey in Kyle only came out when Cartman was being raped. After Kyle goes into his Jersey form, he immediately runs to Cartman and says many insults to Snooki to intimidate her enough to stop her actions and turn her attention to Kyle. After many insults, Kyle finally punches Snooki in the face causing Snooki to flee out the window. Afterwards Cartman stands up still crying a bit and thanks Kyle.
- In "Jewpacabra", Kyle goes to Cartman, who is passed out in the park, and cuts him loose from the chains. He then wraps a blanket around Cartman and walks him home, where he puts him in his bed, throws the blanket over Cartman and then leaves.
- In "Weiners Out," Kyle seeks out Cartman's help dealing with Butters Stotch's misogyny and discovers his relationship with Heidi, and his negative reaction and shock at seeing the two together has been interpreted by many fans as jealousy. Although this could manly be the shock of seeing a boy such as Cartman have a girlfriend. Nonetheless, he is shocked. By the end of the episode, he seems to wish that Cartman would revert back to his old self in order to end Butter's movement and restore order for boys and girls once for all. In "Fort Collins", Kyle asks for Cartman's help to uncover the troll and reminds Cartman of his own stake in the TrollTrace program by threatening to expose to Heidi some negative comments he made. Again, this is interpreted by some fans as jealousy. Although this could be him being fed up with Cartman's condescending tone as he did nothing to uncover Heidi's past but simply Cartman's.
Although initially a pairing of relatively moderate popularity, as the variety of interactions between the characters increased focus in the eleventh season, such as the episodes "Le Petit Tourette" and the "Imaginationland" trilogy, as covered above, it has become one of the most popular pairings in the South Park fandom and community. Kyman has even received mainstream press attention in the wake of episodes; being poked fun at in "Cartman Finds Love" and "Tweek x Craig". The ladder episode in particular is often a center of debate regarding Cartman's sexuality. Cartman and "Cupid me" (a fictional Cupid version of Cartman) seem to have a growing attraction toward one another throughout the episode, even leading to an intimate ending in the bathroom. It is unclear whether this is a reveal to Cartman's attraction of men, or rather an attraction to himself; given his frequent displays of high strung narcissism.
There is much debate, including among other fans as well as Kyman shippers, as to whether the ship has a valid basis in canon or is otherwise intended by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in their writing for the show. Some fans choose to ship Kyman more out of an interest in the characters' on-screen chemistry while acknowledging this is not the writers' intention, while others believe that Cartman's fixation on Kyle is intended to be interpreted as sexual.
Detractors of the pairing have often highlighted how animated comedy programs often depict stereotypical homosexual and effeminate behavior in characters otherwise assumed to be heterosexual for purely comedic purposes. This argument has been supported more due to the twentieth season, as one of it's biggest plot devices featured Cartman in a heterosexual relationship. Of course, the twenty-first season directly contrasted this, showing just how unhappy Cartman was in regards to Heidi and their relationship. Overall, the debate is quite muddled.
While many fans will continue to ship the pairing regardless of the the creators' intentions, this debate nonetheless often frames the context in which even casual fans discuss the characters.
Kyman has often undergone criticism on websites such as Tumblr for being seen as fetishizing abusive relationships, as much of their chemistry comes from how often they argue with one another, and some episodes have depicted the characters expressing a desire to commit violence against each other. "Imaginationland" is often highlighted as Cartman openly describes his desire to humiliate Kyle and wears costumes that often emphasize dynamics where he is in a position of power, which many see as representative of Sexual Assault and controlling behavior, rather than showcasing sexual desire or lust.
Due to the size of the pairing's own subfandom, different fans ship Kyman different ways and respond differently to criticism. Many of these fans choose to focus on instances where the boys are shown to be civil or work together as evidence they could be in a healthy relationship, and that their aggression is only a product of sexual tension. Debators often refute this stance by stating this is both putting hatred aside for a common goal, for example popularity (something younger kids often blow out of proportion and deem important at that age). This is backed up by the fact that the two usually disband said partnership at the end of the episode, a result of the goal being completed and the need to spend time together is no longer necessary. In addition to cited abuse, some fans also suggest that as some of these scenes are to be taken in a comedic context, taking instances of violence as abusive may be hyperbolic. Some also believe that it's fictional and fan-based nature make it non-dangerous, and some also cite the ship as a way of coping with real-life abuse.
Veteran Kyman fans have generally exhibited a willingness to go out of their way to avoid, spread wareness of or eliminate Kyman content that fetishizes sexual assault or Cartman's Nazi obsession, but some novice fans often imitate these tropes in their fanfiction and fan art instead, creating an inconsistent portrayal of the ship to some outsiders.
- TheKymanCompany - Kyman Fanclub on DeviantART
- Kyman - Kyman Fanclub on Facebook
- Love/Hate: Kyle and Cartman - Kyman Community on FanFiction.net
- kyman - Kyman fanclub on Tumblr
- Kyman-fans - Kyman fanclub on DeviantART
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