Irreverent, esoteric, meta, deep, and just the right amount of low brow, “#Rick and Morty” is hands down one of the best adult cartoons of the decade. With season 3 officially airing on Sunday, July 30th at 11:30 PM EST, [VIDEO] the hype around the upcoming season is truly astronomical.

Despite the fact that the show is still relatively young, the audience for “Rick and Morty” has only steadily increased since its release which is in stark contrast to its competition. Shows such as “#The Simpsons,” “#Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and “South Park” for the most part have been on the decline since their debut on TV.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Although they’ve had far more seasons compared to “Rick and Morty.”

While “Rick and Morty” has yet to even come close to the amount of viewership those shows have generated, that’s a statistic that just might change. Adult Swim, a programming block on Cartoon Network, has become the most popular late night programming on TV right now, with Millennials making up the bulk of its audience. As it currently stands, “Rick and Morty” is the top ranked show on Adult Swim, averaging roughly 2 million viewers per episode with its last season.

With its meteoric rise to becoming one of the staples of pop culture, it begs to ask the question: what is the appeal of “Rick and Morty?"

Deconstructing a parody

Part of what made shows like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “King of the Hill,” etc. so brilliant was the fact that these shows were parodies of one of the most popular and overused genres in TV history; the nuclear family sitcom.

Advertisements

A husband, a wife, a few kids, and possibly a family pet has been the standard makeup of countless shows for decades. However, the irony of this is that when you consider the plethora of Simpsons-esque shows that have been released in the last 30 years, it’s become the very same tired formula that it was once mocking.

When it comes to “Rick and Morty,” it’s basically two shows mixed into one. Half of it is dedicated to Rick and Morty’s mind-bending sci-fi adventures, while the other half is spent essentially mocking the parody of the family unit. In fact, in the first episode of season 2, Rick basically references this by telling his grandchildren, Morty and Summer, that while they were busy fixing the space-time continuum, their parents were, “living it up in some pointless grounded story about their sh*t marriage.”

Characters like Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin are incomprehensibly stupid, yet seem to get away with all of their shenanigans completely unscathed. Despite how incredibly dysfunctional their marriages are, characters like Marge Simpson and Lois Griffin always choose to stay with their husbands in order to make sure that the status quo of these shows are maintained.

Advertisements

But what these shows lack that “Rick and Morty” has is the perspective of an outside observer which comes in the form of the main character, Rick Sanchez.

While “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” somewhat glorify stupidity, “Rick and Morty” tends to belittle idiocy. Rick openly mocks how stupid Jerry Smith, Morty’s father, is every chance he gets. The funny thing about this is that when compared to Homer and Peter, Jerry is actually relatively smart. But when he’s compared to Rick, he indeed seems hopelessly idiotic. But worst of all, Rick constantly makes his indifference towards Jerry and Beth’s marriage heard in which he tells them to either finally fix their marriage or just get a divorce already.

Compared to his contemporaries, Jerry’s life and marriage always seems to be hanging on by a thread and genuinely feels like it could completely fall apart at any moment. Since “Rick and Morty” is a show that isn’t afraid to significantly shake things up, this does finally come to fruition in the first episode of season 3 in which Beth divorces Jerry by the end of the episode, thanks in large part to Rick.

Even the tired Simpsons-esque trope of the stupid son is turned into a plot point. For the first few episodes of “Rick and Morty,” it was never made clear why exactly Rick needed Morty to come along for all of his adventures until the 10th episode of season 1. In the episode, Rick reveals to Morty that because he’s so stupid, his brainwaves essentially jams any sort of intergalactic radar equipment which allows Rick to go about his business undetected.

Thanks in large part to Adult Swim’s overall creative and facetious tone, the show can get away with this without worrying about outside tampering. Because of the freedom that Adult Swim grants them, “Rick and Morty” has elevated itself to something far beyond its peers.

Everything is nothing and nothing is everything

While there are plenty of shows out there that tackle challenging themes and questions about the human condition, “Rick and Morty” manages to successfully delve into perhaps the greatest question ever asked: what is the meaning of life?

The main protagonist Rick is the most intelligent being in not only our universe but in every conceivable reality. It’s because of this that Rick is essentially the closest thing to a god. He can travel through multi-verses, create black holes, freeze time, and destroy entire galaxies, just to name a few. Rick is capable of doing just about anything imaginable and more, yet he’s hopelessly depressed.

Through his own research, Rick understands more so than anyone else that there is no higher purpose to life. When compared to the vastness of the universe, and the infinite amount of multiverses, nothing we do really matters in the grand scheme of things. We’re just a single speck of dust among countless other specks of dust. Because of this, Rick, for the most part, doesn’t really see any point to his and everyone else’s existence.

There’s no doubt that an epiphany of that magnitude is a very tough pill to swallow. In fact, we see how a relatively average person reacts to such a dark realization in the 6th episode of season 1. After basically destroying the world and being unable to fix it, Rick looks for another timeline where not only does he actually fix the mess he made, but he along with Morty also die shortly afterward. Once they arrive, Morty sees his own corpse to which Rick acts very nonchalant about.

Morty is obviously traumatized by this experience, but as the episode goes on, the look on his face indicates something else. Not only did Morty just seamlessly slip into an alternate reality, but even his own family couldn’t tell that anything was different. The Morty of that reality had literally just died moments ago and life just continued without skipping a beat.. Because of this, the realization that he, along with everyone else, isn’t special hits him especially hard.

However, as time goes on, not only does Morty cope with this grand realization, but actually manages to find comfort in it. In episode 8 of season 1, Morty’s sister Summer finds out that she was the result of an unwanted pregnancy which causes her to lash out and plan to run away from her family. While she’s busy packing, Morty tries to convince her to not to go through with it which Summer is initially dismissive to. But after Morty tells her about his own traumatizing experience of burying his own body, he delivers a piece of advice that has arguably become the most memorable quote in the show's short history, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die, come watch TV.”

While this may sound pessimistic, it’s actually surprisingly uplifting. Much like Morty, the cognitive dissonance that Summer was going through after realizing that her existence was basically an accident was extremely difficult for her to deal with. When it’s ingrained into your head for essentially your entire life that you’re special and that there’s some greater purpose to your existence, finding out something counterintuitive to this is absolutely crushing. But at the same time, it can also be remarkably cathartic.

Because Rick, Morty, and Summer all understand the meaningless to life, in a sense, it liberates them and allows them to enjoy their immediate surroundings. Instead of trying to find some grand existential meaning to life, they try to find their own personal subjective meanings which can be as simple as watching TV with your friends and family. The show tries to convey the message that just getting the chance to participate in this fantasy we call life is meaningful in and of itself.

For the most part, life isn’t meant to be taken seriously, it’s meant to be enjoyed however you see fit. In fact, the only time Rick ever seems happy in the show is when he’s bonding with his family, whether it be by watching TV together or by going on adventures. It’s difficult to imagine that something so simple and insignificant can simultaneously hold so much value, but to Rick, Morty, and Summer, there’s truly nothing more substantial.

The concept that there is no meaning to existence is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can pull you farther and farther back from the immediate universe around you to the point where you no longer find enjoyment in anything. But on the other hand, it can also allow you to find more meaning in something as trivial as just spending time with your loved ones compared to anything else in the universe.