Even if you’ve never watched the show, it’s difficult to escape the phenomenon that is Rick and Morty. This wildly popular Cartoon Network series has inspired a vast fandom, and created much conversation on some very heady topics.
To be clear, Rick and Morty is absolutely profane. It delivers nearly a constant barrage of dick jokes and other similar humor. Once could certainly spend plenty of time enjoying the hedonistic pleasures of that kind of humor alone. This is because the writers deliver such humor brilliantly. It never comes off as dirty jokes for the sake of dirty jokes.
Still, if you dig a bit deeper there’s a lot more to Rick and Morty. The show digs deep into some pretty intense stuff. So much so that it’s gotten people thinking about and discussing topics they normally wouldn’t, and that’s how a show can have a societal impact.
Here are five ways in which the writers of Rick and Morty are creating new conversations.
They’ve Sparked Philosophical Conversations Like Never Before
It’s not unusual for cartoons to tackle some pretty deep dark stuff. Bojack Horseman, Family Guy, Steven Universe, Bob’s Burgers among many shows have dealt with infidelity, LGBTQ issues, politics, etc. Still, how many of them have evoked Nietzsche? How many deal with philosophical views including Nihilism and Existentialism? Rick and Morty expands the understanding of adult cartoon and raises the questions of the existence and futurism.
Rick and Morty explores these topics in every episode. The idea of Existentialism is played out in both the story lines and in the characters. The show features alternate reality on top of alternate reality with the same characters living very different existences due to a combination of their choices and factors outside of their control. The main characters decisions can save or harm other individuals or civilizations, sometimes before they even realize they exist. At the same time, they are often left in the precarious position of being the ones affected.
At the same time, Rick and Morty themselves stand as examples of these philosophies. At the most extreme is Rick. In many cases, his behavior indicates that he sees very little value in anything. His actions are often dangerous and self-serving. The show brings up the question, ‘Is Rick a nihilist?’ Smartly, it refuses to provide an answer to that. Morty is famous for saying, ‘Nobody exists on purpose’, a nod to existentialism.
Rick And Morty Has Made Adult Animation Interesting Again
There have been some pretty nifty things happening when it comes to children’s animations. Unfortunately, until very recently, that wasn’t the case when it came to cartoons geared towards adult audiences. Shows like Family Guy and Futurama made a splash a few years ago, but then came a dry spell. That’s now changed thanks to the emergence of shows like Rick and Morty, Archer, and others.
Not only is Rick and Morty visually intense and compelling, it explores and embraces the absurd. At the same time, it’s oddly relatable. The result is a show that holds attention, and sparks conversations.
The Show Has Upended The Idea of a Normal Life And The Good Guy
In other shows, Jerry who is Morty’s father and Rick’s son in law would be the good guy of the show. If not that, he would be the hapless, but well-intentioned goofball. After all, he’s unencumbered by alcoholism, a self destructive nature, or a resolute awareness that all is hopeless. Anywhere else, he would be a ‘nice guy’. Perhaps he would even be a victim of his circumstance.
But, things aren’t that simple on Rick and Morty. Nobody has pure motives. Jerry is often motivated by envy and self-centeredness. He’s like Neo, had Neo made a different choice, because that choice made him more comfortable. Jerry wants a normal life, but there’s no such thing. On one hand he craves that normalcy, on the other hand he’s envious of being left out by the members of his family that have long moved past the idea that normalcy exists.
There’s Been a Likely Unintended But Very Undeniable Impact on Marketing
On October 7th, 2017 people began swarming Mcdonald’s restaurants all over the United States. No, they weren’t giving away free food. Instead, they were offering Szechuan mcnugget sauce for one day early. What gives? The sauce, that was originally offered in 1998 as part of a promotion for the film, Mulan, had become a hot topic again. The reason for this was simply because it was mentioned on Rick and Morty.
Here’s the interesting part. Mcdonald’s and the show have no relationship. This was not an official promotion. Mcdonald’s corporate simply realized that Rick and Morty was a big thing, and they wanted to create a connection to that brand. They certainly are not alone.
It’s Got People Talking About Science And Cinema in New Ways
Rick and Morty is clearly influenced by and pays homage to a variety of movies and genres. Starting with the obvious. The show is clearly a twisted take on Back to The Future with Morty acting as a stand in for Marty and Rick playing a demented version of Doc. The show has also made sly references to Inception, Nightmare on Elmstreet, Lawnmower Man, Fantastic Voyage, Footloose, Raising Arizona, among others. A finisher of this cartoon is the fact that “Rick and Morty” is based on science and keep the things real.
Of course, Sci-fi fans are most enjoying the influence that H.P. Lovecraft books and the movies based on his books have on the show. The genre of cosmic horror is clearly a huge influence in nearly every episode of Rick and Morty. It’s a good fit, because the Lovecraft influenced animation and story lines tie directly back to the shows obsession with nihilism and existentialism.
The mad scientist with socially questionable behavior is nothing new. Screenwriters have been exploiting this kind of character for ages. The creators of Rick and Morty have taken things a step further. They’re actually using Rick’s character to explore scientific concepts. The show covers such topics as DNA, the uncertainty principle, even robot pregnancy.
Is This Cartoon Unique?
Popular television shows are a dime a dozen. So are cult favorites. Rick and Morty has somehow become both. It’s retained all of the elements that make it popular with its niche audience. On the other hand, it’s created an impact on on society as a whole. Even for those who have never watched the show, they’re going to bear witness to its influence.
About the author: I am Jessica Fender, professional writer, fatal nerd and dough lover. I work as a blogger and head of content at Online Writers Rating. I love Star Wars, the world of Adult Swim and DC comics (say not to marvel, they have not enough noir!).