Rick and Morty: The ABC's of Beth
September 25, 2017 12:16 AM - Season 3, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Different people react to breakups in different ways; Jerry learns to look past surface differences in the delicate and intimate dance that is human and/or humanoid dating, while Beth retreats to a fantasy land of her own (father's) devising.
posted by sebastienbailard (60 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really enjoyed this episode. I think offering Beth the clone option is intriguing on multiple levels. One is he's offering her the option to spare her children the hurt she felt being abandoned by her father. In doing this he offers Beth the option to CHOOSE her children as opposed to feeling like she has to deal with them out of obligation. One of the recurrent issues is that Beth feels trapped by the fact she got pregnant at 17. The clone is a way for her to have the time to figure out who she is on her own so if she wants, she can leave her family altogether or she make the informed choice to be a mother (and perhaps wife).

But this option is presented after the Froopyland reveal. Rick thought THAT was childproof, but Beth inadvertently caused, uh, well incestuous cannibalism and the near execution of an innocent man. I mean, given that Rick's suggestion that the clone option will be without consequences seems unbelievable. HE thinks it will be without consequence just like he believed Froopyland would be. There is not only collateral damage, but Beth isn't really able to "make things right."
posted by miss-lapin at 2:36 AM on September 25 [9 favorites]


Nonsense, between the portal gun and the memory technology Rick can guarantee Beth can come back to family members with no issues with clone Beth.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:21 AM on September 25


All Beth says is "OK. I know what I wanna do." As if the shot of her looking at the kids' pictures with the sentimental music could be interpreted to say she chose the kids or to say she was saying goodbye to them, but we don't know for sure.
posted by yoHighness at 4:23 AM on September 25 [4 favorites]


but Beth inadvertently caused, uh, well incestuous cannibalism and the near execution of an innocent man.

Still not sold on 'inadvertently' due to the reveal about torturing animals, etc...
posted by mikelieman at 4:23 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Look at some of the shit you were asking me to make you as a kid. Rayguns. A whip that forces people to like you. Invisibility cuffs. A parent trap.* A lightning gun. A teddy bear with anatomically correct innards. Night vision googly-eye glasses. Sound erasing sneakers. False fingerprints. Fall-asleep darts. A lie-detecting doll. An indestructible baseball bat. A taser shaped like a ladybug. A fake police badge. Location tracking stickers. Rainbow colored duct tape. Mind control hairclips. Poison gum. A pink, sentient switchblade.

* This is a delightful remake of the Hayley Mills classic. Lohan is utterly adorable and does a masterful job of creating two separate characters, each of whom spends a large part of the movie impersonating the other. But divorced parents should make sure that their children have no illusions of a reconciliation, and all parents should make sure that while it may be charming for the children in the movie to manipulate their parents, it isn't appropriate for real life. [...] A few scenes with mean-sprited teasing ...
posted by yoHighness at 4:35 AM on September 25 [11 favorites]


All Beth says is "OK. I know what I wanna do." As if the shot of her looking at the kids' pictures with the sentimental music could be interpreted to say she chose the kids or to say she was saying goodbye to them, but we don't know for sure.

Yeah, I think we've got Schroedinger's Beth here.
posted by entropone at 7:04 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Ugh. Being smart does not make you evil. Fuck the writers for that.
posted by codacorolla at 8:01 AM on September 25 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think we've got Schroedinger's Beth here.

I got the idea that this is CloneBeth from the way she was reacting with the kids, but it's anyone's guess.
posted by corb at 8:48 AM on September 25


Beth episodes are the best.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:03 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Being smart does not make you evil. Fuck the writers for that.

I don't think the writers are saying that. Being smart is worse than being evil because if you're evil you don't have to care about the universe but if you're smart you know you're eventually going to fail.
posted by Pendragon at 10:01 AM on September 25 [16 favorites]


Beth: "I was traumatized!"
Summer (bored, looking through phone): "Bitch, my generation gets traumatized for breakfast"


TOO REAL, R&M, TOO REAL.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 10:41 AM on September 25 [14 favorites]


Rick: bad with people, the best with science.

Conclusion: inter-personal relationships are an art.


Or perhaps a science in which Rick does not excel.



Or does not care to excel.

[This show is good, mostly]
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on September 25


Ugh. Being smart does not make you evil. Fuck the writers for that.

They didn't say that though - like Pendragon points out, they said it was worse.

Speaking as someone who's used to being the smartest guy in any given room, (Metafilter is a rare and welcome exception to that trend, which is part of why I love this place so much), I... actually think that too, because being smart means possessing power that other people don't have. Rick and Morty comic-book-izes that into super science, but the gap exists IRL too: it means being able to talk circles around them, see two or three steps ahead and plan accordingly, use resources better.

Being smart means possessing privilege in ways dumb people flatly don't even really understand, (witness many of them assuming smart folks are 'just like on The Big Bang Theory,' or whatever else helps them through the day).

Unearned power is a temptation, and being surrounded by dumb people makes it tempting to use that power as a bludgeon because when you're smart, you are better than them in a quantifiable, observable way and it's easy to mistake that for being more deserving.

I actually think this was a pretty insightful episode, no mean feat for a story that included a line about 'raping Muppets' without irony - IMO, it's a pretty good followup to Pickle Rick, which still may be the show's high point for me.

Also: Froopyland made me think of Whimsyshire.
posted by mordax at 11:56 AM on September 25 [5 favorites]


Wait --- Were you saying "Fuck the writers" on behalf of smart people, or on behalf of evil people?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:10 PM on September 25 [10 favorites]


Could we please proceed as though mordax might or might not actually be as smart as he thinks he is, rather than just assuming that anyone who says something like that is automatically a poser? He probably knows that posers say things like that, but he chose to say it anyway, just in case there was some more interesting back-and-forth to be had than various people trying to prove he's not as smart as he thinks he is.

So...Did Rick actually create Froopyland to protect Beth or to protect her friends and teachers? Did he only want to protect those other people in order to protect Beth's future self from guilt?

Alternatively, was this episode better than Pickle Rick? I thought it was more interesting, for sure, but I'd say it was about equally gross/shocking (but only because they went to such pains to make those rats un-cute, and because we didn't actually see any cannibalism).
posted by amtho at 2:13 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


he made Froopyland to protect Beth from himself, of course, but it was a wrong and ineffective way of doing that, and it failed, but he's not going to acknowledge that under normal circumstances, so he's just kind of making up some self-justifying bullshit after the fact and making her feel like she's at fault. as smart people do
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:20 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


I feel like all little kids are sociopaths, the only thing that made Beth different is that Rick apparently enabled her with future-tech. Sort of a ring of Gyges situation, except that the recipient has never even had a chance to develop a conscience. I don't think there was any need to protect Beth's friends or teachers so long as she was as limited and controlled as a normal kid would be. And if you look at Beth's later behavior, she is not at all a Dexter type character or a murderer or anything like that. Well, except for the odd hoof-sculpture. So Froopyland was just another mistake meant to contain/limit Rick's earlier mistakes in child-raising.
posted by Balna Watya at 2:35 PM on September 25 [11 favorites]


Wait --- Were you saying "Fuck the writers" on behalf of smart people, or on behalf of evil people?

Humanity in general.
posted by codacorolla at 2:36 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting that while Rick and Morty and the family know that they're not each other's original versions, they instinctively treat each other like they are. Most shows would make that plot point stretch for half a season, but not this show, because it assumes, I believe rightly, that even if you knowingly get thrown into another universe, replaces your version of that universe, and the other version of everyone you know are still the same, your emotions would override and you'd fit right in. And the knowledge can come up in conversation but I think for even people like Rick you can't help but feel the same.


"Come on, I put real elbow grease into this place."
"well, you're supposed to put elbow grease into your daughter!"
"Gross"

"Wow, dad. Your place looks way less like a crackhouse."
"It's actually clean. like a cocaine house."

"ok, ok, Beth, I'm sorry... you think you deserve an apology."
[later]
"Tommy, I'm sorry you think you deserve an apology. oh my god. I'm my father."

"socio-path"

"a pink, sentient switchblade"
"hi Beth! you've gotten taller! shall we resume stabbing?"
[later]
"born to stab!"

"whatever you say, Stone Cold Steve Austin."

"Oh do I get to have that? Is my reality like a little side of fries... a little Kwanzaa you're willing to slide my way?"

"Ha! You heard your daddy, Morty. You have to leave school! Wait, what are my values?"

"When you know nothing matters, the universe is yours. And I've never met a universe that was into it."

"Dad, you just got handed an Ex Machina. You're taking it."

the song during Tommy's cloning scenes:
I got a doo-doo in my butt
And I don't know what to do
With the doo-doo in my butt
But I know that a father should say to you
That he's proud of you

Every daughter is a doo-doo from a father's butt
Biologically speaking, the butt is a nut
And every father fathers wrong
And there isn't a song that can change that
posted by numaner at 3:52 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


oh yeah i love that little bit at the end about how it wasn't time travel, like a direct statement to the fans.
posted by numaner at 3:56 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


I liked the "antique phone store" lampshading in the stinger.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


oh yeah that was great!
posted by numaner at 4:12 PM on September 25


Every daughter is a doo-doo from a father's butt
Biologically speaking, the butt is a nut
And every father fathers wrong
And there isn't a song that can change that

I think the use of this as the soundtrack of the Tommy-cloning scene serves not only a comedic purpose but also supports it thematically. The imagery of the creation of new life is depicted as pretty visceral and grotesque, and repellent both in its Cronenbergian body-horror physicality but also in psychological/existential horror: Clone-Tommy forms into adulthood screaming in unknowing suffering.

The song helps to inform the scene as a pretty solid work of antinatalist-absurdism. Every child is a doo-doo from its parents' butt, and every father fathers wrong, as Rick to Beth and (effectively alongside Beth) to Clone-Tommy.

I'd like to take us now to the wafers that Rick reaches for immediately after ducking out from Tommy's demonstration and portaling back to the house. It's only his second action after reaching for a beer, demonstrating a clear need on Rick's part, second only than his need for alcohol, and I think the reason is clear: those are Simple Rick wafers, with the color somehow disguised to prevent prying questions from the rest of the house. Rick was deeply affected by Froopy-Tommy or, more likely, by the associated thoughts and memories of the rearing of Beth and his early family life. He wants to come home to the impossible flavor of his own completion.
posted by Rust Moranis at 6:26 PM on September 25 [13 favorites]


Thank you for the analysis of the song because it was one part of the ep I didn't like, but I see it now. If we're talking about fatherhood, don't leave out King Tommy's incestuous cannibalism-I mean that's about as literally fathering wrong as one can get.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:57 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


They've gotta be on Beth #5 at least.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:51 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Wow. Sounds like I missed a shitshow.

Okay, so stepping away after this, but I'd like to make sure what I had to say was clear, since it seemed to get buried by some people with very poor intentions.

Going one more time:

Rick's position here seems to be that smarts are power, with all that implies. It's the central conceit of the show IMO, which is laid out explicitly in Vindicators: Rick describes his powers as 'being able to do anything, but only when he wants to.' Being smart separates him from other people, and makes him able to do things they can't.

My earlier argument frames it more as privilege: smarts are like being white or male. They're something you're born with that give you power other people don't have, which you didn't earn, but that some people definitely take to mean they're inherently superior or more deserving.

That doesn't make smart people assholes all by itself, any more than all white people are bad, or all men are bad, or whatever other category you can think of. Choice is involved. Rick chooses to be Rick. However, it's definitely a temptation. When you're smart, it's easy to say 'I know better than other people, so I should make their decisions for them.'

That's the big theme this episode: Beth is smarter than Tommy. She is more powerful than he is. Rather than respecting his right to self determination, she goes to his kingdom armed to the teeth. She kills muppets, she maims Tommy and she is, generally, the villain of the whole Froopyland story. It's true she saves his dad, but it's also true she's the one who got him in trouble in the first place. She was able to do this because she had advantages Tommy couldn't even comprehend, and she took that to mean she should use them. She shouldn't have. But it's really hard to have power and not use it.

Rick's the same: instead of figuring out what was wrong with Beth as a child, he just fed her darker impulses because it was easier to make a sentient switchblade than talk, and he never even bothered to check Froopyland in all those years. He was lazy and arrogant. He also thinks he can mitigate any harm no matter how many times he fails because he, personally, always gets away clean. His suggestion of Clone Beth specifically denies Morty and Summer a chance to have an honest relationship with their mother - if it all works out, it still adds a huge lie to things - and it could go wrong a million ways and seriously hurt them. But he offers anyway because he thinks he can get away with it, and it's easier (for him) than just going to therapy.

tl;dr: smarts is power, power corrupts.

We can all have a more nuanced discussion of it here because we are (mostly?) not drunken maladjusted cartoon characters, but Rick doesn't really do nuance. Also, all of this is a logical extension of the therapist's takedown of him in Pickle Rick, where his intellect is described as both his power and his curse, and how he'd rather use it for everything than pull his head out of his ass.

He could've phrased it better, but he wouldn't have been the Rickest Rick if he had, basically. One of the things I like about this show is that it gives no fucks if we get it or like it. (I felt similarly about Preacher.)

Anyway, definitely done with this thread, maybe catch anybody another time.
posted by mordax at 8:13 PM on September 25 [11 favorites]


When you’re smart, it's easy to say ‘I know better than other people, so I should make their decisions for them.’

To be fair, many dumb people have also said this, under the assumption that they knew best. Indeed, I would argue that Rick’s assumption that cloning his daughter is an adequate solution actually makes him an idiot. But then, it’s going to be Pickle Rick all season long for this family.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:09 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


1. if you're smart you know you're eventually going to fail.

2. When you’re smart, it's easy to say ‘I know better than other people, so I should make their decisions for them.’

Boy, some people have really weird ideas about what "being smart" entails. (Hobbes remarks early on in Leviathan that you can tell that intelligence is more or less equally distributed because everyone thinks he's got enough, and we might add that that the "enough" that everyone thinks he has is: enough to tell other people what to do. Even very stupid people think that!) Isn't the true mark of intelligence the difficulty you have saying "I know better than other people, so I should make their decisions for them"? And isn't there a big disconnect between "I know better than other people" and "so I should make their decisions for them"?

Beth is smarter than Tommy. She is more powerful than he is.

Beth would be smarter than anyone who lived without human society from early youth on for however long Tommy's supposed to have been in there, since any such person would have missed out on, well, everything. Education, society, learning how to think, how to be with others, whatever you say. We have no textual basis for believing that, if you wish to grant the existence of such a thing as a capacity to develop one's intelligence, Beth has that it to a greater degree than Tommy; all we can say is that whatever capacity he has hasn't been developed at all, whereas Beth's has been, at least to some extent.

It's true that she's also more powerful than he is, but there's no reason to think that has anything to do with his intelligence, or hers. It has everything to do with the armaments available to her and to him. She doesn't outwit him, for God's sake.
posted by kenko at 11:01 PM on September 25 [10 favorites]


Most RPG's have an intelligence stat AND a wisdom stat for a reason.
posted by Pendragon at 11:46 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


[Just as a super quick "clearing possible confusion" thing, there haven't been a bunch of deletions or conversation removed. A couple of weird terse off-topic/personal comments were deleted, but the entire discussion is intact. Everything is fine, you guys are fine, carry on.]
posted by taz at 12:58 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


Putting aside the evil stuff, I strongly disagree with the claim that being smart results in being a nihilist. This (and the evil thing) are both parallels of what theists claim about atheists.

And that's not my experience -- of myself, or of most other notably "smart" people I've known.

That said, I think what this is really about is temperament and environment and a pretty common pathology (which I think it is, though that's quite debatable). Rick is misanthropic, narcissistic, and self-destructive. Very often, people like that blame their unhappiness on being smart because they believe they're special, their intelligence is what makes them special, so it's a sort of cross to carry.

I can't deny that I've struggled with some of this myself, especially as an adolescent. If we agree (though it's questionable) that general intelligence exists, then being highly intelligent is isolating, which is some of what mordax was getting at. I've never been either misanthropic nor nihilistic, but I've always struggled with what it means to be noticeably different in this way. I think that if I had any temperamental disposition toward misanthropy, I'd have been a lot more like Rick.

But I firmly believe that Rick is just as much an example of self-criticism as Jerry is. It's two sides of the same coin. So I don't think we ought to see Rick's words as the writers' beliefs, but rather a pointed criticism of the implications of what it means to be like Rick.

And it really doesn't matter that Rick is, in the show's universe, smarter than everyone else, including other versions of himself, because I believe the criticism of the pathologies in Rick's personality apply even if he is as superior as he believes himself to be. He could be just as smart and live a happier, better life -- he is choosing to be this person. Which I think the show has made clear many times in the past.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:20 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


I don't think "fuck the writers" is a sensible reaction to Rick specifically claiming that being smart is worse than being evil. And I'm not sure that in-depth examinations of the relationship between intelligence and evil, or between intelligence and nihilism, are appropriate, either. This is the same show that had a therapist call that belief out for the toxic misdirection that it is:

"Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, uses intelligence to justify sickness. You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it's because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it's your mind, within your control."

Rick may believe, or really want to believe, that his smarts are both a justification for any decision he wants to make, and an excuse for any failing that he wants to disown, but that doesn't mean he's right. The actual reasons that people behave that way apply just as much to utterly average people as they do to sci-fi super genius scientists, and "evil" is as good a label as any, although maybe a bit old-fashioned.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:01 AM on September 26 [11 favorites]


I too, would like to speculate about what it's like to be smart, but then, there's a chance I just may not have the lived experience to do so without sounding woefully ignorant, so I will instead suggest that Rick is talking from his own experience, and that experience is hard to grok unless you've lived it and analyzed it extensively yourself for many, many years.
posted by some loser at 5:23 AM on September 26


that experience is hard to grok unless you've lived it and analyzed it extensively yourself for many, many years.

We've had two episodes in this season that said explicitly that Rick's self-analysis powers ain't that great.
posted by Etrigan at 5:43 AM on September 26 [7 favorites]


Another question: why is Rick even saying that Beth is smart? Earlier he called her a sociopath and listed the tons of crazy shit she wanted him to make. She went to med (or vet, whatever) school, but I mean—have you seen doctors? Rick's got instrumental reason down cold, but we don't ever see Beth exhibiting a like capacity.

Beth and Rick are sociopathic assholes who tell themselves they're smart and it's because they're smart that they don't give a shit to comfort themselves.
posted by kenko at 7:36 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


I can't deny that I've struggled with some of this myself, especially as an adolescent

ding ding ding, the show's conception of intelligence and what it means is at the level of a fourteen-year-old's.

(I feel comfortable calling it "the show's" and not just "Rick's" because Morty's big speech about watching TV in the first episode also strikes me as being at about that level, and everyone seems to take it as more than just his take. The picture also lines up with things Harmon and Roiland have explicitly said in propria persona.)
posted by kenko at 7:38 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


This (and the evil thing) are both parallels of what theists claim about atheists.

Not all theists. Not all atheists.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:31 AM on September 26


ding ding ding, the show's conception of intelligence and what it means is at the level of a fourteen-year-old's.

The show is a cartoon, and and not simply animated. Characters are well defined by lists of simple terms, and the universe had no space to acknowledge that every term can have nuance.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:35 AM on September 26


This cartoon is a lot better when it's the Twilight Zone with farts and blood, and a lot less good when the burping mad scientist character is giving deep lectures about the horrible pain of being brilliant.
posted by codacorolla at 8:41 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


Is there any analysis more tired than one that is predicated on the assumption that one (or many or all) of the characters is speaking the full and exact mind of the creator(s)? I've yet to find it, though I lack a portal gun.
posted by phearlez at 11:53 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


Is there any analysis more tired than one that is predicated on the assumption that one (or many or all) of the characters is speaking the full and exact mind of the creator(s)? I've yet to find it, though I lack a portal gun.

The analysis is tired because it's easy and often correct, though.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:11 PM on September 26


I assert it is lazy and usually not.
posted by phearlez at 12:19 PM on September 26 [7 favorites]


I assert it is lazy and usually not.

Well, there you have it, then!

But wait—I assert that it actually isn't that rare for cultural works to have characters that serve as mouthpieces, maybe not directly but by and large, for the authors. Sometimes you can even find statements from the authors speaking in propria persona that mirror the words that the suspected mouthpiece character speaks, and that tends to make the identification a little more plausible. Sometimes, though, you don't need to do that, and you can just judge that the work consistently puts forward the relevant character as authoritative, even if he or she is occasionally undermined. The tenor of the work is largely consistent with the viewpoint there expressed, and so you identify it with the viewpoint of the postulated author. After all, these things can escape their creators' intentions.

Anyway, what I really came here to say was—you know the bit in The Third Man where Orson Welles' character and what's his face are on the Ferris wheel, and the former tells him to look down at all the people down on the ground—so small—like an ant—would you really care that much if one of those ants stopped moving, especially at £20,000 a pop (and free of income tax, old man!)? You'd think that the explanation Beth thinks Rick is offering (that she's one of innumerable of practically identical Beths he could see, if he wanted to) offers a better explanation for his callousness than some basically childish conception of "smartness" and its putatively accompanying nihilism—these people don't matter to him because they're all replaceable, they're nothings. This Beth isn't even his original daughter!
posted by kenko at 1:30 PM on September 26 [3 favorites]


Jesse Schedeen's take
Rick's closing monologue summed up both their relationship and the show's general philosophy about as eloquently as anything we've seen on the show. It was both sad and poignant to hear Rick wax on about how being smart makes the universe your personal amusement park, but in the end there's only one way to stop the ride. It's not so much that Rick and Beth are evil people as that they're both weighed down by the emptiness of the world around them. Not that this in any way excuses their actions. Despite what some misguided fans seem to think, this show has never really condoned Rick's destructive, selfish behavior. [emphasis added]
I hadn't heard of it, but there's an anthology horror movie from 2012, The ABC's of Death. Wikipedia's C is for Cycle synopsis:
Bruno sees a puddle of blood in his backyard, but ignores it. At night he hears a noise and checks on it, but finds nothing. In the morning, his wife Alicia disappears and he finds a hole in the bushes. He is sucked in and finds out he has been sent back in time to the night he heard the sound, he was the one who made it. In the morning, he sees himself getting sucked into the bushes and is killed by another Bruno, making the puddle of blood seen at the beginning.
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 3:54 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]


"Don't jump a gift shark in the mouth"
posted by torisaur at 4:08 PM on September 26 [4 favorites]


You'd think that the explanation Beth thinks Rick is offering (that she's one of innumerable of practically identical Beths he could see, if he wanted to) offers a better explanation for his callousness than some basically childish conception of "smartness" and its putatively accompanying nihilism.

I see these things as pretty tightly bound together for Rick, because he is superpower smart, that's his thing - nearly omnipotent, and uniquely able to process at the cosmic scale exactly how little it all matters. What comes off strangely about that speech is that it doesn't really make the same sense for any of us actual humans, no matter how smart we are individually. Perhaps one could shape it into something a little sharper, philosophically, by applying it to the human intelligence in general, or the collective intelligence of our societies or something like that. But that's not exactly how it's presented in the episode.

Or maybe it's just meant as a character-level thing, since there is some implication in the episode that Beth is capable of being a "Rick" if she chooses to be. That could be interesting, it's just not relatable.
posted by atoxyl at 4:16 PM on September 26 [3 favorites]


I assert it is lazy and usually not.

Well, there you have it, then!


Absent a statement from the creator that a character fully and exactly speaks the creator's own position, both assertions are unprovable.

The problem with this belief that the characters in Rick and Morty specifically represent an accurate portrayal of the creators' positions is actually undermined by something you said earlier:

The picture also lines up with things Harmon and Roiland have explicitly said in propria persona.

If you want (as much as can be provided) proof that the philosophy put forth by the characters isn't a mouthpiece for the complete positions of the creators, one of Harmon's personal statements as compared to Rick in this episode does it. Harmon has talked about the vastness of the universe and the randomness of it all and how it means that nothing matters, just as Rick does here. But Harmon goes on to say that therefore everything does. Emphasis mine.

Rick says some of this, and seems to be on the edge of saying this in the same sequence where he'll eventually offer Beth a clone replacement. But he doesn't get there; he, at best, waffles about how maybe his affection is because of that. But the degree to which he is cavalier about killing pretty clearly shows he has not extrapolated out to decide life and love and mind must be important if there's nothing past this life. If he merely seemed unconcerned by mass death you could possibly write it off as an acquired and perhaps necessary callousness from his awareness of the scope of the uncaring multiverse. But if he really thought that the uncaring world meant that this is all we get and therefor it's precious to us then we'd presumably see it in his personal actions ... if it actually reflected the things Harmon has said personally.

For further refutation that the creators embrace this worldview we have the actions of purified Rick and his refusal to turn his back on the toxic aspects of themselves. This high-mindedness and acceptance of the value of all minds represents his mental ideal, but one he's unable to normally achieve because of the toxic parts of himself. The toxic/pure dichotomy is purely self-assessed, but it's a position that Rick sees as holding him back from the best version of himself. His intelligence may lead him to this complete nihilism but his whole theory of mind rejects the extent we get from him in this episode.

Given that, the best you can claim is that his personal whims aren't based on intelligence and logic and he's only rejecting them as the best way to be out of emotion. But I don't see how you resolve even that with this idea that the show embraces a childish idea of intelligence.
posted by phearlez at 5:14 PM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Absent a statement from the creator that a character fully and exactly speaks the creator's own position, both assertions are unprovable.

What I really think, and what was obscured by my earlier invocation of Harmon/Roiland speaking in propria persona, but which I tried to at least suggest above, is that the postulated author is a more interesting figure than the actual empirical author(s): when I say "the writers seem to really think $THING", what I mean is: on the basis of what I see, it seems reasonable to me to ascribe $THING as the position of "the show". The attitude I infer behind the phenomenon is one that supports $THING.

After all, the creators can try to put $THING_1 into the show, but because they aren't perfect, actually create a show which espouses $THING_2.
posted by kenko at 7:10 PM on September 26


So, some hypothetical writer (other than the actual writers) might be imagined to have attitudes that you imagine being embedded in the text of the show, except for on those occasions when the show actually contradicts those attitudes? And those contradictions are actually errors on the part of these real, and therefore inferior to your hypothetically imagined, writers, and you can somehow discern that erroneous status, and make judgments on the characters and beliefs of the real writers based on that perception?

I'm not sure this is all that compelling of an argument.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:11 PM on September 26 [2 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that the assertion that [an argument from authorial intent is fallacious] is most useful as a caution. It seems silly to me to disallow all discussions of authorial intent because, clearly, both creators and audience think it matters to some degree. But the fallacy thing is a good caution against leaning too hard on such arguments because, when you dig down into them, it all gets very ambiguous and confused and the whole idea may not be either very meaningful or useful.

Which is to say, I think this argument is an illustration of this. I think we all have a sense that the show reflects the showrunners' views, and we have some ideas of what they might be. However, quite often works develop their own perspective, in some sense independent of the creator, not unlike how writers talk about characters developing a seeming will of their own. I think that's sort of what kenko is talking about.

Personally, I have quite a strong sense that much of the show is in essence a kind of self-critical autobiography but also that it's taken on a life of its own, that it is self-critical in ways the showrunners don't knowingly intend. It's an exploration. I don't think it is presenting a particular worldview as being best or even valid; rather, it's examining a particular kind of unhappy pathology in a way that is more like a dissection than an argument.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:11 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


I think we all have a sense that the show reflects the showrunners' views, and we have some ideas of what they might be. However, quite often works develop their own perspective, in some sense independent of the creator, not unlike how writers talk about characters developing a seeming will of their own.

Of course. We all have our own biases and various societal and conditional programming and sometimes that comes through in our writing and creation. If someone wants to assert that the actual effect of R&M's philosophy is fully nihilistic and actually back that up with things in the show that's completely reasonable. Bradbury notoriously insists that Fahrenheit 451 is not about censorship but is instead about the threat of television.
Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands.
First, I think most of us can agree with "the fuck it's not about censorship." We can accept the statement that it's not a response to McCarthyism on its face though we might want to question whether there's a subconscious effect. Bradbury may not have intended to make a work about censorship but he's pretty much the only person who doesn't see it in there.

So that's a case where authorial intent is subverted, and we can point to actual content. I don't think R&M contains material that supports the claim that the show actually takes a firmly nihilistic outlook with regards to saying that if you're sufficiently powerful it's okay to do whatever you want. There are many circumstances where we can point to things that clearly intend to make us feel horrified and which succeed. The Ricks Must Be Crazy does this in both and A and B plot. What happens to both individuals (by the car's actions) and entire societies (in the microverses) is sobering. In the end the car actually goes for an extremely complicated solution - far more difficult than the simple kill/maim solutions that Summer forbids it - and brings peace to that world without harming a single additional person. Other than the family, whose ice cream excursion is spoiled for the sake of a laugh.

I think that's the far more prevalent message in R&M: intelligence can do great things, but it needs guidance from more than just smarts.

I'm happy to entertain the counter-argument, but I'm not going to consider it worthwhile if it's just a single quote from the material and assertions of what the author - postulated or empirical - may have said without any citation. If we're going to say the material says something regardless of what the author intended, let's talk about what is actually in the material.

I think that's sort of what kenko is talking about.

Kenko asserts "the show's conception of intelligence and what it means is at the level of a fourteen-year-old's" and leans on nothing more than Morty's statement to Summer at the end of Interdimensional cable (with the claim that other characters seem to accept it) and some things that Harmon & Rouland have purportedly said. To keep with the theme, kenko may be trying to say one thing but the provided text fails to make that actual case and instead the author is simply hand-waving at what supposedly is contained/intended but is not at all visible in the work.
posted by phearlez at 8:33 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who's used to being the smartest guy in any given room, (Metafilter is a rare and welcome exception to that trend, which is part of why I love this place so much)

I've always thought of Rick's attitude mostly as, "I don't have time for your mundane bullshit." Round here, even bean-plating has style.
posted by mikelieman at 1:00 PM on September 27


We've had two episodes in this season that said explicitly that Rick's self-analysis powers ain't that great.

Chronic alcoholism?
posted by mikelieman at 1:01 PM on September 27


Authorial voice-wise, I think the show tends to hold up Beth and Summer's aspirational values as the desirable ones.

In the Morty's Mind Blowers episode, Summer, who has to do the emotional labor and be the decent person, is much more the person to empathize with than are Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty aren't held up as examples to emulate.

Similarly, Pickle Rick's message is not "Aspire to Rick's nihilism and emotional immaturity".
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:44 PM on September 27 [4 favorites]


But Harmon goes on to say that therefore everything [matters]. Emphasis mine.

A philosophy of “nothing matters, therefore everything does” is not, at some functional level, essentially different from nihilism. Similarly, there’s room within the moments that are perceived as “nihilistic” in the show to perfectly capture this range.

Morty’s spech in the fist interdimensional cable episode, for instance, can be perceived as nihilistic or as espousing do what matters - watch TV, yes, but do it because you want to watch TV. Indeed, the speech itself is his reach out to Summer because, hey, in this world where nothing matters maybe she does. Similarly, Beth’s option to leave her family and look out for herself is a chance to prioritize - to decide what actually matters in a meaningless world.

But the degree to which he is cavalier about killing pretty clearly shows he has not extrapolated out to decide life and love and mind must be important if there's nothing past this life.

Why? Plenty of people in this world seem to have decided that life, love, and mind are important but still do terrible things, often cavalierly. Life and love and mind might be important to Rick but not more important than looking out for number one.

All of which is to say that it still seems reasonable to read the show’s monologue speeches as generally blunt statement’s of the creators’ views, albeit filtered through the windows of the different characters and consequently rendered subjectively interpretable. Those views exist in conflict, but they still belong to the same owners. The writers contain multitudes.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:28 PM on September 27


So I've been thinking about the mechanics of Rick's clone offer to Beth. Didn't he replace Morty and Summer with robots last time? And wasn't there an episode where Rick discovered a clone wasn't really a viable option? Is it possible that, instead of cloning Beth, he took a Beth from another dimension. (say, one where Rick, Summer and Morty are dead) Is it possible that Rick's "clone-Beth" is really a case of inter-dimensional kidnapping?
posted by Start with Dessert at 12:28 AM on September 28


And wasn't there an episode where Rick discovered a clone wasn't really a viable option?

He learned from the Tiny Rick episode that younger clones don't work for him because of hormones and impulses and stuff, but he's got cloning and mind-transfer technology.

Didn't he replace Morty and Summer with robots last time?

Cloning Morty and Summer would have resulted in an extra Morty and Summer when they got back, and it would be nuisance doing a diff and merging them.

instead of cloning Beth, he took a Beth from another dimension

Then he still has an extra Beth when old Beth gets back from her adventures.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:44 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Being smart does not make you evil.

I think Rick believes that. But he's a self loathing yet narcissistic monster person. Wouldn't it be great if you could blame your lack of moral compass on your amazing genius? wouldn't that be convenient?
posted by French Fry at 8:29 AM on September 28


A philosophy of “nothing matters, therefore everything does” is not, at some functional level, essentially different from nihilism

in fact, it's called optimistic nihilism
posted by numaner at 12:18 PM on September 28


Speaking as someone who's used to being the smartest guy in any given room

I've been fortunate enough to get to know some really intelligent people, and the thing is, none of them have been lonely.

I've also known plenty of anti-social people and plenty of them are lonely.

I think there's a more straight forward correlation here between the kind of person Rick is and his loneliness than the conclusion you're trying to draw from it.
posted by andrewdoull at 2:55 AM on October 9


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