Even Pickle Rick was flawed and broken

Some people don’t get it. They watch Goodfellas and want to grow up to be Henry Hill. They read Lolita and think Humbert Humbert was unjustly condemned. They watch Breaking Bad and believe that Walter White, especially in his Heisenberg persona, was awesome. Isn’t anyone familiar with the concept of the anti-hero anymore?

Here’s another one: people who watch Rick and Morty and come away from it wanting to be just like Rick. I love that show, but jebus…no one in their right mind should admire Rick. He’s the most brilliant scientist in the multiverse, but he’s also a totally messed-up, broken dude, and everyone in his family is damaged, and every week, the show goes out of its way to highlight that fact.

If we’re to believe Rick is admirable for being a cold, misanthropic know-it-all, the show doesn’t do a very good job of selling it. He’s too rich in his emotions, too human in his failings; the show repeatedly finds him dealing with moments of vague tenderness and regret that he then undermines, contributing to the overall tragic arc of his character. Harmon’s much-scrutinized writing ethos involves richly drawn emotional journeys for every character, and as he said, in the recent response to Entertainment Weekly, “I don’t want the show to have a political stance.” It doesn’t. Rick And Morty’s concern is ambiguous, flawed, relatable characters, slowly changing and slowly staying the same. To assume that Rick—or any of them—represents Harmon’s idea of some ethos to aspire to is to misread his intent.

You can only admire Rick if you ignore all the two-by-fours the show repeatedly slams into your face.

However, it’s absurd to claim the show has no political stance. Writing about “ambiguous, flawed, relatable characters, slowly changing and slowly staying the same” at a time when way too many people are latching onto imaginary paragons (even the show’s oblivious fans!) is a political stance. It’s hard to argue against the idea that everything is political.


  1. emergence says

    You know “death of the author”? There should also be a principle of “death of the fan base”. In some cases, it’s impossible to ignore the unpleasantness of the creator of a work when that unpleasantness seeps into the work itself. It’s a lot easier to enjoy a work of fiction in spite of it having horrible fans. It helps that Harmon made it clear he thinks these gatekeeping “true fans” suck.

  2. Alverant says

    Rick reminds me of Trump. Both say and do what they want and don’t care about how other people feel unless it involves them directly. Both lack self-awareness of their own actions and own hypocrisy. The difference is that Rick isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and since he’s a fictional character can be written to grow and change.

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Re @2
    I don’t remember Rick lying, where uh ~45 ubiquitously lies.
    Rick spotlights his egotism to highlight how only he thinks it works while being totally disastrous.

    Re antihero @OP:
    True we need to remember the distinction between “protagonist” and “hero”. The latter being a role model while the former, not necessarily.

  4. Alverant says

    Tove. Rick doesn’t lie. He says what he feels at the time. Trump says what he feels at the time but doesn’t remember how he felt in the past. That’s the trick, Trump retcons more than any comic book company but won’t admit it and he may not even be aware of it himself. He ego won’t allow him to be wrong so if something does prove him wrong he must have said something else or it’s a conspiracy or the media “misrepresented” him. It’s never his fault.

  5. Zeckenschwarm says

    I have to disagree with the people claiming Rick doesn’t lie, he lies all the time to get stuff he wants and to avoid things he doesn’t want to do.

    Two recent examples I can think of is when he lied to the inhabitants of the Micro(Mini?)-Verse about being a god so he could steal their electricity, and when, in “Pickle Rick”, he lied about forgetting about family therapy and not being able to turn himself back into human form.

  6. pacal says

    “Some people don’t get it. They watch Goodfellas and want to grow up to be Henry Hill. They read Lolita and think Humbert Humbert was unjustly condemned. They watch Breaking Bad and believe that Walter White, especially in his Heisenberg persona, was awesome. Isn’t anyone familiar with the concept of the anti-hero anymore?”

    Yeah a lot of people just don’t get it. I remember when so many people thought of Tony Soprano has a Hero when he was shown explicitly to be a sociopathic mass murderer in the show.

  7. says

    The most recent episode I watched has Rick lying at the very end about Morty being influenced by the Purge drug in Morty’s candy; it was the chemical-free version, and all the murderous rage came from Morty himself. Good lie, bad lie? I dunno, but definitely a lie.

  8. gijoel says

    I only made half way through the first season of Breaking Bad. It was pretty clear to me that Walter was determined to take the path of evil and to do so because of his pride and ego. I found that too depressing to watch.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says

    “And well—well, he’s not a villain, Summer, but he shouldn’t be your hero. He’s more like a demon or a super fucked-up God.”

    “The Rickshank Redemption”

  10. andyo says

    I just got into this show a couple months ago, after hearing so much about it over the years and I love it. I also just encountered its fan base via some articles and posts on Reddit that Google Feed now puts in my phone. There’s a copypasta meme that cropped up relatively recently (before these articles criticizing this fanbase) that the first time I saw I was Poe’d by, and suggests at least that even within the fanbase at least some people have been aware of these douches for some time.

  11. andyo says

    #10 John,

    The way she saved R&M by resetting their memories so nonchalantly last episode was hilarious and then she has to deal with their crap.

    Also I keep hoping there’s an episode where that scene from the intro that shows 2 Summers apparently teaming up to fight some aliens comes from.

  12. Alverant says

    Don’t forget the pilot where he lied to his own daughter about teaching Morty so he can go on adventures. Earlier in that episode he assured the insectoid guards at the checkpoint were robots when Morty found out they were sentient Rick said, “They’re bureaucrats, same thing!” I forgot all the lies, big and small, Rick has told to further his own ends.

  13. emergence says

    Regardless of Rick’s capacity for lying, I still think he’s a better person than Trump. For one thing, Rick actually is as smart as he thinks he is. He also has at least some moments where he shows that he cares about other people, and tries to be a hero. Rick also has some level of self-awareness about his personal failings.

  14. methuseus says

    Part of the problem with respect to some of the shows like Breaking Bad is that the fans love the show so much, and the producers want to keep the show going forever, so they essentially don’t write any real, lasting consequences into the shows until the very last episode. For example, Walter’s wife at one point is furious with him about his meth-making. The fanbase overwhelmingly thought she was just a shrewish bitch who needed to shut up. Never mind that she was right and her husband was breaking the law and killing people.

    I have to admit that one of my friends was obsessed with how “cool” the Sopranos was, and how he genuinely loved the idea of the crime family. I just could never get into the show the same way he did; the premise was just a bit odd to me. That was the beginning of the end of our friendship, it turned out.

  15. gijoel says

    I think Rick’s greatest fear is being average. Which is probably why he goes out of his way to antagonize people, and rub his intellect in everyone’s face.

  16. Callinectes says

    I hear what you’re saying, but I have an opening for “personal hero who is also a pickle” and there’s only one legitimate contender at the moment. Don’t blame me, blame the outrageous dearth of pickle role models in modern media.