To start off, Kyle’s role among the four boys is often said to be the voice of reason among them. He is very academically smart, but has been shown to have a short temper with things he disagrees with, like his constant arguments with Cartman. The problems start with Kyle never really developing much past this initial description, despite the 20 season run of South Park. Looking at the other boys they have all had a major breakout points for their characters. Cartman has Scott Tenorman Must Die, Stan has the You’re Getting Old two parter, and Kenny has the entire Mysterion saga for him. All of these episodes develop the characters further, and shows actual change and complexity within them, but Kyle has never had anything like this in the entire 20 season run. He doesn’t really develop much past his initial character, and therefore, becomes stagnant.
The number one thing the writers seems to love to do with this character is making him a foil for Cartman. Kyle and Cartman have the most screen time amongst the boys, so this is a rivalry that has been a huge part of the show. The problem comes with how done to death this concept has become over the years. There are more Kyle vs Cartman episodes then I can count, and there is only so much of the constant “jew” and “fat ass” banter I can take till I just don’t want to hear it anymore. The big difference between the two is that there is a lot that can be done with Cartman as there is just more to him than Kyle. He is shown to be able to play off a lot of the other major characters throughout the show; with Butters and Kenny being the two biggest examples. Kyle for the most part has been subjected to being the rival/punching bag of Cartman for what feels like forever and it really does make his character suffer. A major character like Kyle should not be as one-note and predictable as he is in a show as big as this. The only other major character that Kyle has major interactions with is Stan, and that brings us to the next point!
Stan and Kyle; the representations of Trey and Matt respectively, are supposed to have a strong friendship element to them, they play, laugh, and often get in trouble together and are often labeled as “Super Best Friends”. I certainly would buy this from Stan, as there are multiple episodes; the most notable being Cherokee Hair Tampons, where Stan goes out of his way to get Kyle a much needed kidney transplant that would save his life. This truly sells how much of a friend Stan is and how far he would go for Kyle. Yet, when we look at Kyle, he has never really gone to those same lengths despite the numerous amount of attempts he has had. In episodes like Raisins and You’re Getting Old when Stan is feeling depressed, Kyle gives up on him after very little effort. Kyle’s worst treatment of Stan is probably in the episode Douche and Turd where he pretty much causes the most misery for Stan in the episode by nearly getting him killed in the end, and literally spits in his face when Stan is being exiled from South Park for not wanting to vote. This is not just being a bad friend, but the act of a shallow scumbag in general, and from what I can tell, Kyle is not meant to be a sh*tty friend like Cartman is, so it comes off as a negative part of the character as a whole.
So we have covered the main problems with Kyle’s interactions with the other characters, now it’s time to go back to his overall character traits. Kyles short temper and preachiness comes off as annoying, and makes him feel like the stick in the mud of the group. I understand he is not meant to be the funniest character in the show, but you can make up for that by giving him a more likeable personality. Maybe he could show a softer side like he does in The Jeffersons; which is the most likeable he has been on the show, and have greater concern for his friends, but as discussed earlier with his relationship with Stan, isn’t really the case. Kyle is constantly whining and the comedy and character really suffer for it. The voice of reason trait isn’t even that special, since him and Stan often go back and forth as to who plays the role in certain episodes.
The last character I should bring up in this is Kyle’s younger brother Ike. There are a number touching sibling moments between the two, but these are shattered by things like “kick the baby”, which is meant to be played for laughs. The problems with this is that this isn’t typical sibling fighting or teasing, this is Kyle kicking his two or three year old brother through windows. This makes major inconsistency with how much Kyle cares about Ike, when he can range from a caring older brother, to treating his brother like a football, it makes me question how strong the relationship is and overall makes it fail due to inconsistencies. The final nail in the coffin is that the protective older brother trait is later picked up by Kenny in the season 15 finale The Poor Kid and to put it simply, he just sells it better.
Overall, Kyle is easily the worst character in South Park. Kyle is simply too under-developed for the amount of presence he has on the show, and his current character depicts him as this whiny, short-tempered kid with a huge stick up his ass, that goes to extreme lengths to prove his point. His roles with the other characters fall under the categories of being done to death, inconsistent, or just plain weak. There are positive traits to the character, but it doesn’t help the character that much, since they are all shared by other characters, leaving nothing unique about him. Like I said before, I know this character has a lot of fans, but I feel these flaws with the character need to be addressed, so that maybe, South Park can do better with the character, or use him less so some of the other characters who are better can have time to shine more often.
Kyle has been shown to have other attributes than being a nemesis to Cartman. Kyle is actually one of the most compassionate of the boys; going out of his way to save his little brother on multiple occasions, being the first to show kindness for blanket (The jeffersons) and even being caring at his own expense (You Havs Zero Friends). But of course, he isn't completely good or this would make him too perfect of a character. When pushed to his limits, both his neurotic and stubborn nature can make him do things that don't seem entirely...in character for a protagonist to do.
For example, South Park is Gay and The List show that when pushed far enough, he can be quite vengeful (something he may have inherited from his mother.) His competitiive spirit can lead him to do seemingly immoral deeds to supply a good outcome (Le Petit Tourette).
His outspokenness and rational can also lead him to be excluded in multiple occasions; whether it be from not getting or refusing to take part in popular fads or more recently- his speeches. This leads him to be rather isolated and him developing a degree of social insecurity.
Also, I see you've failed to mention all the times Stan has been cruel to Kyle- for example, South Park is Gay shows him abandoning Kyle over a fad- something way more pretentious and petty to end a friendship over than something more serious like depression or cynicism (which in real life, can break a friendship. Remember that these kids are only 10, so of course Kyle wouldn't be able to deal with it in the best way, or have the experience to comprehend it all yet.) He has also risked a LOT to save Stan- if Imaginationland rings any bells.
Another interesting aspect about Kyle (which is also a flaw, yet interesting nonetheless) is his martyr complex. This is shown several points throughout the series, during Margaritaville, Toilet Paper, and most especially Ginger Cow. As Butters points out himself during Going Native, Kyle sees himself morally superior than the rest. This is most likely a side affect which becomes more prominent during the course of the seasons due to being the voice of reason. I mean, being right about most situations and giving speeches to save the town from chaos is bound to get to your head a little bit. That in itself is character development.
But of course, despite these flaws, Kyle is a good person at heart. He tends to speak out against what he deems unfit- most times at the expense of himself.
This is what I see in Kyle which to me at least, makes him a great character.
When was the last episode you saw this happen?
Did Kyle not protect Ike from getting his bris when he thought it meant Ike losing his weewee?
Did Kyle not run off with Ike when he wanted to protect Ike and himself from his father Gerald?
I guess some people prefer Stan which is fair enough. But try not to hate on Kyle too much because Cartman wouldn't be as funny without him.
This is categorically false. Kyle has changed as a character in many ways; he just has never had an episode directly showcasing this change. I think the season 4 episodes "Cherokee Hair Tampons" and "The Wacky Molestation Adventure" bring us towards the Kyle we have today.The problems start with Kyle never really developing much past this initial description, despite the 20 season run of South Park.
During the first few seasons, Kyle is pretty unfamiliar with his Jewish faith completely, and seems to have little understanding of his family traditions. He also instigates much more often against others, such as kicking his brother, mooning the turkeys, accusing carnies, etc. He clearly looks up to his father, calling him "the smartest guy in the world", and upon his dad's references to poor people as being 'clods', it is Kyle who comes to the conclusion these people should be erased from society in a 'final solution'. He is insensitive to his friends, making fun of Cartman with no provocation, rolling his eyes at Stan's relationship with Wendy and being bullied by his sister. He's a little sh*t. Though he fights with Cartman, they are hardly nemeses, with Cartman often declaring his strongest hatred for Kenny, and lumping Stan and Kyle mostly together. He has little desire to do the right thing or take a moral stand when inconvenient.
It is season 4's "Cherokee Hair Tampons" that seems to set off the trend of Cartman and Kyle hating each other the most, something that we did see on occasion before but is now one of the show's central points. He is clearly suffering and Cartman is willing to withhold the cure and let him die... and it's in season 4's "The Wacky Molestation Adventure" that Kyle is willing to have his family taken away for purely selfish reasons and sees how society can fall into complete chaos without authority figures.
Now, let's look at how Kyle is today: he is familiar with Jewish teachings, citing them often in discussion with his parents and others, and even converting Mexican children this season and speaking Hebrew. He isn't seen breaking rules of instigating others, has a much warmer relationship with his brother ("kick the baby" has only been mentioned twice since the movie, I believe) and almost never becoming angry or conflicted with recurring characters besides Cartman and is often patient and understanding with others, even when Butters adopts some of Cartman's quirks. He no longer looks up to his father, solidified in the twentieth season when he finds out his dad is an internet troll who hates women. He is considerate of even Cartman's problems, such as in season 14's "201" and "Poor and Stupid", despite seeing him as a nemesis, and saving his life multiple times. He is usually trying to do the right thing, even when it's only himself.
There are four or five episodes in the last several years where he has been out of line, but generally since the fifth or sixth season, he is almost always the 'voice of reason' and Trey and Matt's positive mouthpiece in the same way that Cartman is their negative voice. He is crucial to the show in a way that very few characters can claim. There may be no big blip on the radar like the other kids, but he's absolutely changed and that still qualifies as character development.
...and Kyle has always been one of my least favorite major characters, lol
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