Rick and Morty explores the dark side of infinite life, but still has an ability to shed light on small victories in the here and now. The gory and funny Adult Swim series features an alcoholic mad scientist who happens to be able to control the universe, and his fourteen year old grandson that accompanies him in interdimensional space travel. The relationship between these two characters and their individual personalities are a central part of the underlying meaning of Rick and Morty.
In a 2017 Mashable article about the show, Rick and Morty, Rick’s existence is described as “[stemming] from the shared agony of being alive, and stumbling through the illogical reality of human existence.” Rick’s clear mental health struggles with no diagnoses are actually a catalyst of the show. Other than being an alcoholic, Rick expresses feelings of wanting to die and also being power-obsessed. He is constantly abandoning those who rely on him, like Morty, and yet he seems to still not care. This environment this created may sound hostile and unpleasant, but that’s the point. Although Morty lets Rick control his life, he still admires him because of his ability to create and destroy in a God-like way. Rick continually makes Morty’s life more difficult for his own profit, but also shows signs of real human emotion at times. This complex codependency that they possess is also the reason for their adventures which drives the plot of the show.
Rick and Morty is not about catharsis. It is certainly not intended to be uplifting all the time, or even act as a positive critique of society. Rather, it gives a place for the miserable. Rick and Morty is an imaginary world of endless possibilities. Some possibilities being good, like “Rixty Minutes” when Beth and Jerry realize that no matter how good their other selves in other universes are, they are still better together. Some possibilities are bad though. Such as “Look Who’s Purging Now,” when an entire planet becomes a bloodbath of revenge, and Morty’s innocence as a character is broken. Yet, as we watch, we may actually see ourselves in Rick. Through all his sabotaging, drunken slobbering, and metamorphosis into phallic symbols, Rick still has a good conscious.
Rick and Morty understands the human psyche. We can all make guesses about why we belong somewhere, or why we don’t. Or even why we exist. Rick and Morty mirrors these ideas in infinite worlds after they’ve been marinated in Rick’s alcoholism and mental illness. Because of Rick’s “rickness,” there is the underlying theme that nothing matters, nobody belongs anywhere, and everyone will eventually die. Although somewhat dark, there is actually emotional intelligence bedded in this. The most real thing about Rick in a show where everything is unreal, is that “there is a real heart in Mr. Poopy Butthole.” Which means, at the core of gore and depression, Rick has the ability to love his grandson.
Although he does not make it apparent because of his icy exterior, Rick does care about a few select things. Rick refuses to see this in himself, so the meaning of his actions speaks louder than his thoughts. Morty has saved Rick almost as many times as Rick has saved Morty. There is a mutually caring side to each of them that you might have to look closely to find. Their overall relationship is something many people can relate to. Whether you know a Rick and Morty, or you are a Rick and Morty with someone, the relationship dynamic can be seen in real life.
Sometimes our relatives or best friends don’t know how to tell us they love us, or we don’t have the words to tell them. Rick is continually caught tongue tied in these situations, which shows us that there is some human emotion inside his massive brain. Through his criticism and backwards compliments, Rick is able to express his love in a very unconventional way. The series is overall dark, but when the moments of positivism happen they shine through. Moments of extreme terror counteracted with moments of human kindness, balance the shows themes. Rick may be a grumpy old space scientist, but he still has a heart.