The Many Worlds of Rick and Morty

By Kai-Arne Zimny

pic­ture cred­it: The Car­toon Net­work, Inc. A Time Warn­er Company.

Imag­ine you get home and see a bunch of your friends, let’s say friends whose taste in films and shows you usu­al­ly trust, watch­ing a show. A real­ly weird car­toon show you can’t make any sense of, because, let’s say, one of the show’s con­stant­ly burp­ing char­ac­ters turned him­self into a talk­ing pick­le just to avoid a fam­i­ly coun­sel­ing ses­sion. And sud­den­ly the talk­ing pick­le calls itself “Pick­le Rick” and slaugh­ters giant rats in the sew­er. You see your friends’ faces, their eyes fixed on the screen. Heart­felt laugh­ter alter­nates with qui­et curios­i­ty. “In which world is this an actu­al show?!” you may ask your­self before you decide to sit down and give it a try… 

The very next day you’ve already man­aged to binge the first sea­son of Rick and Morty (2013 – present). You’ve wit­nessed a grumpy, drunk, strange­ly lik­able genius sci­en­tist and inven­tor named Rick Sanchez (voice by Justin Roi­land, showrun­ner and cre­ator of Rick and Morty, along­side Dan Har­mon) drag his social­ly awk­ward, anx­ious, good-natured grand­son Morty (voice by Justin Roi­land, too) into unlike­ly adven­tures, often­times explor­ing strange plan­ets filled with weird crea­tures, or alter­nate uni­vers­es pop­u­lat­ed by alter­nate ver­sions of the char­ac­ters. Even though the show is a stream of unpre­dictably crazy, ridicu­lous­ly unre­al events, places, and beings, it’s still sci­ence fic­tion. Some of the inven­tions and con­cepts have a con­nec­tion to real sci­ence; one of the show’s main plot devices is for exam­ple based on the Many-Worlds The­o­ry, pur­port­ed by numer­ous physi­cists, and occa­sion­al­ly neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic ideas are used to back bizarre plot­lines. How­ev­er, it’s not the kind of show kids should watch to learn some­thing about sci­ence. First of all, it’s remark­ably gory and vio­lent at times, so I could imag­ine young chil­dren – or just about any­one for that mat­ter – get­ting night­mares from weird­ness that is this show. Sec­ond­ly, any­thing this series bor­rows from real sci­ence is unblush­ing­ly and unre­lent­ing­ly exag­ger­at­ed and fic­tion­al­ized. Above all else – even above its night­mare-induc­ing qual­i­ties – Rick and Morty is incred­i­bly funny!

As ‘out there’ as the show’s premise seems, the many weird worlds of Rick and Morty are pop­u­lat­ed by char­ac­ters that feel remark­ably real, relat­able, and thought pro­vok­ing. Rick’s reck­less nihilism con­stant­ly chal­lenges any con­cept of a mean­ing of life, and Morty’s inse­cu­ri­ty is fun­da­men­tal­ly human. Addi­tion­al­ly, sup­port­ing char­ac­ters, such as Morty’s slight­ly old­er teenage sis­ter Sum­mer (voice by Spencer Gram­mer) as well as their mis­matched par­ents, con­tribute to a set of char­ac­ters that engage mind and heart – with­out ever com­ing close to any­thing that could be con­sid­ered kitsch. At the end of the day, the crazi­ness of Rick and Morty feels odd­ly hon­est and clever. After all, who of us hasn’t con­sid­ered turn­ing them­selves into a talk­ing pick­le to get out of an incon­ve­nient social oblig­a­tion at some point or another?

In Ger­many, you can vis­it the universe(s) of Rick and Morty on Net­flix and on the tele­vi­sion chan­nel TNT-com­e­dy, where it’s part of the [adult swim]-block.

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