'Rick and Morty': The Comedy of Existential Nihilism
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'Rick and Morty': The Comedy of Existential Nihilism

'Rick and Morty' is a show capable of being extremely funny and psychologically dark at the same time, which makes it extremely relatable to me.

'Rick and Morty': The Comedy of Existential Nihilism

We live in a great time when it comes to animated television shows. These shows boast beautiful and detailed artwork; but they are also well written, following interesting characters and discussing fascinating topics. "Steven Universe" is a colorful kids show that discusses themes such as loss, depression, and even sexual identity. "Gravity Falls" is a show that deals with bizarrely lovable characters who try to solve an elaborate and interwoven mystery. However, the new show that has personally grabbed my attention is the Adult Swim cartoon "Rick and Morty". "Rick and Morty" is a show that dabbles in both lowbrow humor and deep existential questions that are capable of keeping some people from sleeping at night.

The show follows the many crazy adventures of mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his awkward grandson Morty Smith. Their relationship is similar to that of Doc Brown and Marty McFly from the film "Back to the Future", except if Doc was and alcoholic jerk and Marty was a hyper stressed out, awkwardly prepubescent boy. The show often deals with the relation ship between the two and between their larger relatively dysfunctional family. However the aspects of the show that had me fascinated from day one were the existential ideas the show loves to play around with. Throughout the series, the show displays a very bleak view of our existence in the universe, but rather than feel depressed, it wants us to embrace it and see the comedy that comes from it.

According to the show, the universe we live in is cold and devoid of meaning. We humans hold up various things in life to be sacred or true; such as religion, the value of life, the value of human life over other forms of life on Earth, and the idea of a grand purpose for each and every one of us. The show upends these ideas by displaying, through almost real scientific theories and pure science fiction, that the universe is meaningless and indifferent to those that dwell within it. For example, in the season one episode titled "Rick Potion #9" Rick makes a love potion to help Morty attract a girl at school. However, the potion ends up mutating the entire human race into horrible monsters. Rick sees that he is unable to fix the problem; so he simply takes Morty with him to an alternate reality where he cured the world, but his and Morty's alternate selves die in an accident. Rick and Morty bury their dead selves and go on living their lives in this alternate reality.

This episode deals with the idea of the multiverse, where there are an infinite amount of alternate universes and an infinite amount of our alternate selves. This episode specifically lays the existential nihilism on thick. With an infinite amount of Ricks and Mortys that exist in the multiverse, what significant meaning, if any, does the Rick and Morty we follow through the show have? How important are individual human beings when you can just move to another reality that has the same people in it. We see this idea presented again in the episode "Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind" where hundreds of alternate Ricks are killed and hundreds of alternate Mortys are taken and used by an evil Rick (well... eviler) to mask his brainwaves from being detected by the authorities. In the episode "Get Schwifty", a giant head in space comes to Earth and transports it to his home world. There, him and the other heads hold several planets hostage. Each of the planets must create a catchy song or else their world will be destroyed in a twisted cosmic version of "American Idol".

To the giant heads Earth, humans, and other aliens are nothing more than play things. To them, the human race has the same level of meaning and significance to that of a child playing with ants in an ant farm. In the episode "The Ricks Must Be Crazy", Rick creates an entire universe within a small box were sentient life forms evolved and he uses the power from their civilization to power his flying car. Rick created an entire universe and inhabited it with life to be used as a car battery. Not exactly the answer one hopes to hear when they search for the meaning of life. To Rick, that's all the people of this universe he created are, a means to an end for a trivial task. That renders all their lives trivial in the process and opens the possibility to the trivial meaning of human life as well. What if God just created our universe and us to simple power his microwave. It's terrifying and hilarious.

This all sounds terrifying and bleak, but the show wants us to embrace this perceived meaninglessness and have a good laugh at it. It wants us to laugh at the things that would come from this nihilism such as the giant heads. The idea of giant heads holding a giant musical contest with the survival of the human race at stake is both terrifying and ridiculously hilarious. The idea of burying your own dead body is depressing yet weirdly entertaining. I love "Rick and Morty" because it shows that comedy and tragedy can be one in the same, or as the great film comedian Mel Brooks put it, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die".

Comedy can often come from mocking that which is seen as sacred. Watching a powerful king fall down the stairs isn't as comedic as watching a starving, poor man fall down the stairs. "Rick and Morty" does the same thing with our very ideals surrounding the meaningfulness of humanity. In the vastness of the universe humans are as meaningful as ants are to us. The show wants us to look at that and laugh at it, similar to the king, because we are mocking the sacred. We should embrace the nihilism that comes with our understanding of the rational universe and use comedy to come to terms with it or as Mel Brooks put it, "Humor is just another defense against the universe".

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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