September 24, 2015

TICE | Cartoons and Cereal: Rick and Morty

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Photo Courtesy of Adult Swim

What could be better than eating cereal while watching cartoons on a Sunday morning? Here’s what: Eating cereal on a Sunday morning while watching a cartoon that directly references/totally comedically annihilates the very cereal you are eating. This, girls and squirrels, is Adult Swim’sRick and Morty. Created by the duo who brought you NBC’s Community and loosely based off ofBack to the Future, Rick and Morty takes sci-fi adventure along with absurdity, cynicism and comedy and rolls them into one lolz-inducing burrito of subtle/meta social commentary.

The essential bit of the show is that Morty, a twiggy pubescent kid, and Rick, his formerly estranged grandfather/mad scientist (think Back to the Future’s “Doc” as an animated alcoholic), travel across the universe in which infinite other planets, possibilities and lifeforms cause them all kinds trouble. The show utilizes a common technique among cartoons — that of the “starts out simple and then escalates into absurdity” narrative which can be seen in anything from Adventure Time to Family Guy. What Rick and Morty is particularly good at is making increasingly absurd lists. By this I mean scenes in which a plot line allows for the spouting off of continuously ridiculous made-up words, characters or situations. They take a joke too far, and then they take it even further. For example, season one’s “Rixty Minutes” episode features a multi-dimensional TV cable box that allows Rick and Morty to watch channels from infinite dimensions. This involves a succession of nonsensical commercials and shows such as Hamster In-Butt World, a preview forAlien Invasion Tomato Monster Mexican Armada Brothers Who Are Just Regular Brothers Running in a Van from in an Asteroid and All Sorts of Things The Movie and appliance salesman Ants-in-My-Eyes Johnson. The list goes on and the scenes are comedic in their use of utter nonsense, but at some point, one might start to wonder whether the show ever had a script or if some parts are simply improvised and later animated.

I have not yet come across any other show that can so avidly and successfully get away with illogical absurdity of this level. You might ask, What is the point of watching something that makes little to no sense with dialogue composed of at least 30 percent gibberish? Rick and Morty defies conventions of every kind, providing a change from the heavily produced and structured worlds we are so used to viewing on cable television. Why not indulge in a total detachment from the repetitive, systematic, institutionalized and quite often serious nature of daily life? The show’s lackadaisical structure and departure from the dominant causal narratives of broadcast television presents us with, admittedly, a silly and chaotic form, but a form that is developing a new direction and pushing against the established etiquette of animated television.